‘Big beer brands are bland.’ Brewer’s pitch to secure independence

November 9, 2023
By Melissa Parker

Philter Brewing is now in the last 12 hours of its Birchal raise equity crowd fund and has secured over $2 million to remain Aussie-owned and independent.

Today, Newtown Rugby League Football Club became a shareholder of Philter via its equity crowd-fund.

Club president Barry Cotter said, “Philter came on board in 2021 as an official club beer sponsor, and we have been thrilled with their support. From brewing our very own beer – the Henson Draught – to all the hands on deck at the grounds on game days – we feel the love! This investment is an indication of the belief we have in Philter, what they do and where they are headed. We’re proud to be involved.”

‘Since our campaign launched a few weeks ago, we have been blown away by the support of our community, and this investment by The Jets is a beautiful example of that. Philter and the Jets are a match made in heaven – we’re stoked to be able to support them long-term and are humbled by their show of love today,’ says Mick Neil, Managing Director at Philter Brewing.

Thanks to more than 1100 investors, Philter has raised more than $2m since October 24. Today is the last chance to be involved, with the offer closing at 10 p.m. AEST.

Philter Brewing, awarded Champion NSW Brewery, is joining the fight against what it says is apparent heavy-handed anti-competition tactics employed by beer giants to muscle out Australia’s independently owned craft beers from pubs.

According to Philter, thousands of industry jobs are under threat by the homogenisation of our much-loved beer culture. 

Indie breweries employ more than half of Australia’s brewing jobs even though they only account for 7% of the nation’s annual sales.

It’s this statistic that propelled Philter to launch a campaign to stay Australian-owned. The company says it is using its respected industry position to shine a spotlight on ‘tap contracts’ that limit the presence of craft beers in pubs while also exposing the beer giants for their mass production of beers designed to look like craft beers – thereby hoodwinking consumers.

Stef Constantoulas, co-founder of Philter Brewing, explains why it’s crucial to maintain Australian ownership within the independent beer landscape.

“Before I co-founded Philter with Mick Neil, I worked for one of the beer giants that currently have a duopoly over the Australian marketplace. If we were in any other country, these tactics would be considered anti-competition, and the government would stamp it out with appropriate legislation. Together, Carlton United Breweries, which is owned by Japan’s Asahi, and Lion Nathan, owned by another Japanese powerhouse, Kirin,  account for approximately 80-85%% of sales in Australia – For decades, these guys have been locking in long-term exclusive contracts with pubs inhibiting independent beer from having a fair go. These beers are bland in comparison, and it’s their customers who are being short-changed.

“Australia’s beer culture has evolved greatly over the past 10 years with the vibrancy of craft beers, and that has got the big boys worried. When CUB and Lion Nathan buy out the independents, not only will jobs vanish, but profits will also be siphoned off overseas, rather than being spent in Australia.”

Constantoulas explains how this stranglehold on the market leads to conformity and bland-tasting beer, “Diversity is important because these beer giants influence what you will be drinking – beers produced conform to their shareholder wishes, not to the wishes of the punters who want diversity and flavour. There are also a number of imitation craft beers available, which creates confusion for consumers and clouds the concept of independence in the industry.

According to cofounder Mick Neil, now is the time to draw attention to these issues, given that there is current discussion at a government level. “We just want a level playing field to continue doing what we love. Since we launched in 2017, Philter has been growing 43% year on year and has cracked $30m in sales revenue. We are bolstering our war chest so we can double our capacity and take the duopoly head-on. That’s why we want our loyal supporters to become part owners in Philter– we are proudly Australian-owned, and we want to stay that way. The Birchal equity crowdfunding raise means we can stay Aussie-owned rather than sell off to a foreign-owned beer giant in order to grow, which would sadly affect the taste of our beer. And taste is what our customers value most.”

Philter was born out of a backyard chat between Marrickville mates and neighbours Mick Neil and Stef Constantoulas. Between them, they had the business, marketing and trade know-how to build a bold presence in the ever-expanding craft brewing sector.

“We busted onto the Sydney beer scene with the release of our XPA in 2017, which won  Australian champion pale ale in our first year,” said Mick Neil. “We quickly set ourselves apart with a look that nods to the aesthetic of iconic 1980s Australiana, and now we boast arguably the most recognisable branding on the shelf or tap bank and have gone on to become one of the most awarded craft breweries in Australia”.

As a proud participant in the Certified Independent Seal initiative, Philter Brewing aligns itself with breweries championing independence. To display the seal, the brewery needs to be an IBA member, which means it has less than 20% foreign ownership and produces fewer than 40 million litres of beer each year. It’s a great way to identify Australian breweries that support jobs and a diverse marketplace. While independent beer has less than 10% of the total market share of beer in this country, it employs 51% of the industry as it is more labour-intensive – it takes time to add all that love! On top of that, indie breweries provide over 26,000 jobs in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and logistics and contribute approximately $1.93 billion to the nation’s economy every year. There are currently over 600 independent breweries in Australia.

Philter Brewing’s says its equity crowdfunding campaign serves as a call to arms for Australians who seek variety and local economic support through their beer choices. They want consumers to rally behind Philter Brewing and support the independent beer culture.

Head to https://www.birchal.com/company/philterbrewing for more information on how to get in on it. Investment packages start at $250.

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