In the 2022 National Liquor News Industry Leaders Forum, Paul Bowker, Brick Lane Brewing Community’s Managing Director, explained how last year changed everything for the company.
While many businesses in the drinks industry sought to hunker down and ride out the difficulties of the last year, Brick Lane Brewing Community went in the opposite direction, undertaking a major expansion of its brewery and releasing a raft of new beers.
“We relaunched our Queen Victoria Markets hospitality site, and expanded our staff and contractors to around 100 people,” said Managing Director, Paul Bowker.
“The biggest highlight was being able to keep all of our team together, safe and fully employed throughout a very difficult and emotional time.”
Brick Lane’s new brewery was commissioned back in 2018, as part of a long-held plan to create ‘the leading independent brewing facility in Australia.’
“The recent expansion was all part of the initial planning and we’re pleased that despite challenges in 2021 across shipping, supply chain and personnel, we were able to deliver the project on time and on budget,” says Bowker.
Brick Lane has seen an increase in sales of their mid-strength and no and low alcohol beers during the pandemic, as drinkers reassess their lifestyle choices.
This shifting attitude has perhaps also led consumers to the ‘drink less, drink better’ mantra, as Bowker explained: “At the other end, when consumers want something special, they really want something special, so we are seeing strong traction in speciality beers, such as barrel staged stouts.”
With the COVID-19 crisis now entering its third year, Bowker states the pandemic experience has reaffirmed the vital nature of maintaining connections with stakeholders in the drinks business.
“A key take out for us is the importance of having a holistic and balanced approach across relationships with retailers and the on-premise,” he said.
Indeed, these relationships have proven so strong that they are affecting not only the sale, but the creation of Brick Lane’s products.
“Our relationships with retailers have moved to the next level, and it is now part of our process to involve retailers in the product development cycle, including exclusive beers, ranges and packaging formats,” Bowker said.
“The pandemic showed how important a long term relationship and planning cycle is in the retail space, particularly in regards to bringing new products to market.”
The ‘grey space’ between categories
“Traditional beer, wine and spirit brands will all continue to move fluidly across categories and look for grey space,” Bowker says.
Brick Lane has capitalised on some of these opportunities with its three biggest launches of 2021:
- Sidewinder plays in the expanding ‘better for you’ category with a range of no and low alcohol beers.
- Sunsetter Ginger Beer is all about “pure refreshment and naturally sourced ingredients.”
- Backyarder is a crisp lager that plays directly in the contemporary lager space but “introduces full flavour along with refreshment.”
Bowker also expects innovations from outside the drinks category to impact the industry, citing CBD oils as potential ingredients of the future.