(Athens, GA) – Back in May, Terrapin Beer Co. reported that one of its co-founders, Brian “Spike” Buckowski, would travel to New Zealand where he’d stay for a month as a “resident” brewer.
The Boundary Road Brewery was established in 1987 and is located in the foothills of the Hunua ranges of Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand. Boundary Road scoured the globe in search of a skilled brewer to travel there on a month-long sabbatical to create an all new craft beer range. Spike’s wealth of craft beer experience, outsider knowledge and credentials were cited as reasons for his selection to the post.
On Tuesday, one of New Zealand’s largest news publishers, Stuff, pointed out Boundary Road’s connection to global brewer, Asahi Breweries, as part of an article titled, “Big brewers muscle in on craft beer market.” Indeed, it’s transparent right on Boundary Road’s website.
The Boundary Road Brewery was bought in 2011 by Asahi, one of the world’s greatest brewers. [...] The brewery has world class facilities with the stamp of approval from global brands Carlsberg, Tuborg and Kingfisher that are brewed under licence.
Back to Jason Krupp’s article for Stuff, he investigates the same David vs. Goliath-style story arc that is part of the every day dialogue in U.S. beer circles.
‘The threat to [the majors] is that consumers at pubs, who are otherwise told what they can drink, see that alternatives are out there and start demanding choice,’ said Dominic Kelly, co-owner of Hashigo Zake, a craft beer bar and distributor.
‘[The majors'] preferred approach has been to muddy the water by presenting a brand of their own as ‘craft’ or buying someone out.
“The threat presented by small brewers is as great to them as it’s ever been so rumours are rife of a buyout of a New Zealand craft brewer.’
…some obvious parallels to life for craft brewers in the U.S..
The interesting wrinkle in this story is Buckowski’s loose connection to Asahi’s bitter rival, SABMiller. MillerCoors, a joint venture of SABMiller and Molson Coors, took an equity stake in Terrapin Beer Co. last fall. SABMiller and Asahi battled in a bid for Foster’s with SABMiller eventually winning the bid right around the same time. Asahi later ended the contract brewing arrangement it had with now SABMiller-owned Foster’s.
MillerCoors execs won’t lose any sleep over Buckowski’s brief journey to the other side. Anyone would take such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, no?
Still, the story provides an interesting glimpse into the seemingly complex politics of craft beer Down Under…and the sometimes murky relationships between large brewers, small brewers and consumers that may or may not care to know the difference.