Feral comes of age

November 2, 2020
By Ioni Doherty

Last Monday during Coca-Cola Amatil’s Trading Update – and announcement of the proposed merger with Coca-Cola European Partners, Chief Financial Officer – Greg Barnes announced that for the last quarter, sales of beer and cider were up by 2.8%. His presentation pointed to a notably strong performance from Western Australia’s Feral Brewing Co which celebrated its 18th year of trading in October.

It has been a busy 18 years for the Feral Brewing Company, established by Brendan Varis in the Swan Valley with the business lead by General Manager, Robert Brajkovich, a long time friend of Brendan’s. Rob has spent the past decade working across all aspects of the alcohol industry from sales, management, and marketing. He’s now taking Feral Brewing Co from strength to strength and working on a capital expenditure program which will see the capabilities of the brewhouse double in the next two years.

“Our vision has always been to brew beers with unique flavours and innovative style, beers unlike anything available on the domestic market. By definition, Feral. Hop Hog was the first beer ever in Australia to be dry hopped with hop pellets.

“People told Brendan that this would be too polarising and advanced for the Aussie market but it went on to win Most Popular Beer of the Year (GABS Hottest 100) three years in a row and is still one of the biggest sellers in our core range to this day,” said Brajkovich.

Coca-Cola Amatil acquired Feral Brewing Co in December 2017. It was a pivotal moment for Feral and three years on, has proved a great partnership. Amatil’s extensive distribution network and team has allowed Feral to leverage and build on its core strengths, ultimately getting more great liquid into more consumers’ hands right around the country, and supporting Feral’s growth as leaders of the craft movement in Western Australia.

“Amatil have given Feral the freedom and flexibility to continue to build our brand and brew our beers exactly how we want to. They purchased one of the oldest craft breweries in Australia for a reason, and they understand how important our unique character is. They are backing our team in Western Australia 100 per cent to grow the business and keep the Feral culture alive and thriving,” said Brajkovich.

To mark the occasion of its 18th birthday, Feral Brewing Co is releasing a limited-edition West Coast IIPA with a celebratory can design that takes fans through the 18-year journey of this much-loved beer brand. The design pays homage to all that helped build the brand including the original ute used to deliver the kegs, the geese at the brewpub, the first ever beer Feral White, and many old logos and taglines. As Marketing and Events Coordinator, Bronte O’Donoghue said, “You only turn 18 once!”

Feral 18th birthday artwork

To the 18th birthday brew itself, Feral partnered with the leading hop growers in Australia, Hop Products Australia, to gain access to an experimental hop variety, currently labelled experimental HPA016. The hop is grown in Bright, Victoria and Feral are the first brewery in the world to use it in a canned release.

The beer is an Imperial (or Double) IPA: it is similar to a traditional West Coast IPA- Varis’s inspiration for the Birthday IIPA –  but with more hops and malt to ramp up the flavour profile and an increased alcohol content of 9% ABV.

The Feral team are hosting 18 events across 18 days in Western Australia, as well as rolling out other pop up events nationwide. The cans are on sale around the country now.

To the year that has been, Brajkovich is proud of the pace, flexibility and determination of his team. When Western Australia shut down, anticipating that it would last far longer than it did, Feral supported its customers with 100 per cent keg returns and credits.

He said, “We went from thinking we would be shut down in WA for six months to open again, at stage 4 by June 26… it was the ability of the team to move quickly, shuffle liquid, and do the extra hours that meant we had fresh kegs ready to get customers re-stocked and pouring Feral beers for opening.

“I am proud to say that during this entire period we have maintained all of our employees, re-deployed them where we could. We had chefs helping deliver beer, and front of house staff supporting with kegging or warehousing.

“The dominant craft brand in WA shows no sign of slowing down with substantial capex projects planned for next year to improve, quality, capability and capacity for the brewery to meet the current growing demand,” said Brajkovich.

It seems that the future of craft brewing in WA will remain, for the time being at least, very Feral. The Feral Brewing Co has well and truly come of age.

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