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Your BeerBud in the beer boom

Australia is in the midst of a craft beer boom, with over a million people switching from mainstream brands, and three former bankers are at the forefront of the trend. The brainchild of Andy Williamson and his friends Alex Gale and Mark Woollcott, who all came from careers in finance with firms such as Macquarie Capital and CMB Capital, BeerBud.com.au is a new one-stop-shop for discovering and buying Australia’s best craft beer.

According to new research by Roy Morgan, the number of Australian adults consuming craft beer in an average four-week period has increased to more than one million for the first time, defying the downward trend of local mainstream beers.

But despite its growing popularity, the best craft beers have to date been largely unavailable in bottle shops, and only 3.3% of the $6.7 billion annual beer market in Australia belongs to craft beer, according to IBISWorld. For the first time, the best beers are now available at the click of a mouse at one convenient ordering platform and can be delivered to your doorstep anywhere in Australia.

BeerBud offers over 100 craft beers, mixed cases and exclusive limited edition releases from more than 30 of Australia’s best craft breweries, and this number is growing by the day. If you need a hand, there’s expert advice, tasting notes, member ratings and background on the breweries. Or if you’d prefer to leave it all to the experts, their beer club offers monthly and quarterly subscriptions to a hand-selected mixed case from their brewery of the month.

“I’ll have your finest fruity IPA, my good man.”

Williamson believes that at the heart of the global craft beer explosion is a shift in consumer preferences from drinking a particular brand of beer to a particular style, like wine. “Consumers are no longer wanting to drink their favourite brands like VB or Tooheys.

They’re wanting to sample a variety of different pale ales, IPA’s or Stouts for example. But the move towards better-tasting and locally produced beer also involves consumers’ identification with their beer.

Williamson explained, “It also comes from a consumer drive to be connected to the origins of their products. We’ve seen similar things occur in the Australian bread, wine and coffee industries where consumers are demanding choice from a variety of local boutique producer who have a greater focus on quality and only use all natural ingredients. A key part of the craft beer movement is educating the public and allowing these breweries to tell their stories. Unlike the large multinational corporations who essentially run a production line, the personal touch and involvement is the reason these breweries are crafting better beer!”

Williamson is also quick to point out that in terms of quality, craft beer easily trumps its more mainstream competitors.

“Most importantly, it’s just better beer. The traditional mainstream brewers are the first to admit that they’ve purposely designed their beers to be bland and flavourless in order to ensure their mass appeal. Craft breweries, on the other hand, are creating a diverse range of styles and flavours like you’ve come to expect from wine or coffee, with a truckload of ingredients and flavour,” he said.

Craft Beer vs. The Beer-glomerations

But doesn’t craft beer stand to lose its independence if the bigger fish have the financial clout to buy them up and water down their product?

“We believe craft will absolutely maintain its independence. The thing about craft being small independent producers means that anytime a craft brewery is acquired by a large multinational corporation, they’re instantly no longer craft by definition. Our view is further evidenced by the US where the craft beer market is highly fragmented across thousands of independent breweries,” continued Williamson.

Even then, craft beer must cope with challenges the bigger manufacturers don’t need to worry about.

“Craft breweries are small to medium sized businesses and tend to be in regional areas. So, the big issues confronting these breweries and their major impediments to growth are distribution and consumer awareness,” he said.

And, this is where BeerBud comes in.

“We have created an online marketplace that aggregates up a number of suppliers to achieve the required scale. BeerBud offers these breweries Australia-wide distribution and a channel to engage consumers outside of their hyper-regionalised local market,” Williamson said.

Playing it by Beer

With so many people wanting good beer these days, it might seem the market is ripe for ambitious brewers, and Williamson has good advice for those thinking of getting on the wagon (while helping others to fall off).

“Our advice to entrepreneurs entering the craft beer market is that you have to be doing it for the right reasons. Successful craft brewers are people that are completely dedicated to their craft and do it for the love of beer, rather than any monetary reward that may come. Consumers want to closely identify with a craft brewery and the background and influences of the people involved are key to shaping that brand. If you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, people will see through that and your brand won’t stand for anything meaningful,” he said.

Is it Beer-o’clock already?

And Williamson’s recommendations for a cold pint from BeerBud?

“Two Birds Taco (a limited release) using all of the fresh flavours of The Two Bird’s favourite food, tacos. This hoppy wheat ale, brewed with the addition of corn, coriander leaf and fresh lime peel, produces a beer like no other and is fresh, fruity and zesty! Or if you’re feeling more feral, try the Feral Hop Hog, voted the best Australian beer for the last 5 years by almost every critic,” offered Williamson.