By James Atkinson
Coopers Brewery sowed the seeds of the Australian craft beer movement, according to Matilda Bay and Little Creatures co-founder Phil Sexton, who has some pragmatic advice for the craft brewers of today.
Sexton told brewers at this week's Australian Craft Beer Conference that there had been two waves of craft beer in Australia.
"The first wave failed dismally and ended up in a lot of wreckage," he said in his keynote address.
"The second wave – which you guys are driving – looks to me like it's really doing great."
Sexton said Matilda Bay's success was largely due being in the right place at the right time, and it was the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in the UK and Coopers in Australia that played the crucial roles in fostering an uprising against mainstream beer. [continues below]
Phil Sexton explains the genesis of Australian craft beer
"I really want to acknowledge the role and importance of Coopers in the Australian brewing industry and particularly their relevance to all of us here and the craft industry that has grown from that time," he said.
"They provided a platform of awareness about different beers and an interest in traditional-style beers that survived through what were very dark years of brewing in Australia."
"They well and truly deserve their success and status as the fathers of Australian craft and specialty beer."
Keep it simple
Sexton advised the brewers to focus on making their businesses financially sustainable and above all, to "keep it simple".
"Drill back to what you do really well, and just keep doing it better and better," he said.
"Without the resources of a large corporation, you just can't spread your time and attention and your money across multiple products, multiple pack formats and even multiple markets."
"I'm the guiltiest person in the world for keeping it complicated… You end up very quickly going to multiple product lines, and you find that your attention and your ability to deliver one well just dilutes the more you do it."
"Keeping it simple is… what makes you guys different from the big guys. You've just got to keep reminding yourself, 'I'm strong because I'm doing it simply'."
"They can't compete with that. They are complicated," Sexton said.