Wicked Elf Beer to close

Wicked Elf cans

Port Macquarie’s Wicked Elf Beer is the latest brewery to succumb to increasingly difficult market conditions, announcing that it will soon be shutting its doors permanently.

The brewery took to Facebook over the weekend to announce the upcoming closure.

“With sadness we inform you that the Wicked Elf will be closing permanently in the near future. The last day the taproom and kitchen will open is Saturday the 24th June,” the post read.

“We will continue to supply wholesale beer until we run out. All contract brews will be completed prior to the closure.

“We would like to thank those who have supported us over the many years we have been open.

“Drop in, say good bye and grab some beers before we close!”

Wicked Elf was previously known as Little Brewing Company, before that business went into administration in 2017, being purchased by local hospitality and tourism operators who hoped to turn the company’s fortunes around.

Restauranter Luigi Perri was originally part of the team behind its 2017 resurrection, though ASIC records show that he ceased to be a director in 2020, with local doctor Steven Chung assuming full ownership of the brewery.

Dr Chung told Brews News today that he’d had to make the decision after successive challenges since taking over the brewery.

“We had the bushfires, then we had COVID and since then we have had all sorts of staffing issues, as did everyone else,” he said.

“It’s just getting hospitality stuff to work the front of house, that was was a real sort of trauma for us, so it’s just been a real tough slog.

“And then when things finally seems to be settling down, then we’ve got, inflation and everything going up.

“So yeah, it’s just been too hard.”

He said that despite these challenges, and now inflation, beer pricing hasn’t been able to move.

“Everything’s gone up, costs, all the materials, everything’s gone up, it’s really hard. ” he said.

“I’m sure you hear this from all the other breweries, but it’s actually really hard to increase the price of your beer because people don’t expect to pay more for it, even though everything else has gone up.”

At the same time, Dr Chung confirmed multiple industry reports that wholesale sales generally have crashed as consumer spending dries up and bottleshops are taking less stock.

“Things have definitely slowed up,” he said.

“In the last couple of months, wholesale was dismal and didn’t even pay the wage of our sales rep.

“So things have definitely slowed down.”

Dr Chung who also owns the nearby Long Point Winery and Art Gallery, which is unaffected by the decision to close the brewery, said that the wine industry hasn’t been hit as hard as brewing.

“We do have the same pressures there but not on the same scale,” he explained.

“The winery itself, once you’ve made your product, it’s there for a whole year. Inflation doesn’t hurt you as much.

“Power bills are nowhere near as much as well so it’s on a much smaller scale.

“A brewery is materials intensive, labour intensive, power intensive, so we really feel it, as soon as it happens, you feel it but, as I said, you can’t really increase your prices.”

Chung, who was an investor in the original Little Brewing Company, told Brews News in 2017 that he acquired the business because he wanted to see the brewery survive.

“I think their beers are a hell of a lot better than most of the other craft beers I drink,” he said at the time.

Dr Chung said that he was open to selling the business brand and recipes, otherwise he would just sell the equipment.

“It’d be great if someone with industry experience, and deep pockets, actually just bought it and took it over. And if they wanted to keep the name going that’s, that’s great.”

“If they didn’t just want to start a new venture, that’d be fine as well.

“But in the worst case scenario, we’ll just list it with an auction house and sell the equipment.”

Little Brewing Company was founded in 2008 by husband and wife team Warwick and Kylie Little. The brewery was highly regarded for producing to-style beers under the Wicked Elf brand, as well as a range of classic Belgian styles under the Mad Abbot range.

Wicked Elf Brewing is the latest brewery to succumb to the changing market conditions that industry experts have tipped will see no growth as becoming normal market conditions.

Anyone wishing to get in touch about the business or equipment can contact brewer@wickedelf.com.au.

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