20 Nineteen: A year in review

Thanks for coming on the 2019 journey with us – we can’t wait to have a beer with you 2020.

20 Nineteen, a year of creative disruption, the emergence of iconic breweries, sell-outs galore and, for Newstead, galvanisation of our commitment to Community and Quality.

To begin, I would just like to say thank you. To everyone who came into the pubs, anyone who cracked a Newstead, even those who just drank cider, we really do appreciate your support. You guys, your enjoyment and experience are what gets us out of bed in the morning. Thanks for coming on the 2019 journey with us – we can’t wait to have a beer with you 2020.

It was not the four new core range additions, instigation of two entirely novel beer series, 41 completely new beers, nor the gold medals at the AIBAs and Indies that were the highlights for Newstead in 2019, but being able to put our literal money where our proverbial mouth is for community. Beyond the 20-odd collaborative brews we were a part of in 2019, we helped raise $6K in a karma keg series for Orange Sky, art shows for Sodamouf, well over $10K for Surf Life Saving QLD, more than that again for Brisbane Powerhouse, charity partnerships with Hummingbird House, Movember and the Mater Hospital. And it’s not just the financial investment that helps to promote these fantastic institutions, but the awareness investment as well. Hummingbird House, for example, is an exceptionally necessary organisation, bringing care and comfort to the end of life for families of children with a life-limiting conditions. If you can spend more than a few minutes reading their stories without being glassy-eyed, you’re of stronger constitution than I. So, I implore you, if you are reading this, stop wasting your time, and look-up Hummingbird House instead.

Our commitment to quality is harder to define. 2019 saw us scoop more awards consistently than any other year, a year where every single core range scored a silver medal or higher. Our barrel program continued with two Zoo launches, the start of our blending program “[working title]” and our Parti-gyle Tequila Barrel-aged releases; Jack of all Trades and Taylor Made. What I have loved so much about Newstead, is that while we do have this ironic perception of being “commercial”, we buck fiercely against trends. When everyone is launching their next New England beer soup, we made some ancient Belgium goodness with a modern twist, and a beer made entirely with synthetic hops and beers with veggies grown 30km away. While our 2019 releases were fairly ad-hoc, in keeping with previous years, our goal is to find balance between experimentation and execution. The brewing hivemind at Newstead has spent the last month considering what is to come in 2020, with more focus and harmony with our core messages.

For all the runs on the board for 2019, it was not without its challenges. We experienced first-hand the strong-arm tactics of the major breweries. For the last two years we were privileged to be the Official Craft Beer Sponsor of QLD Rugby. QLD Rugby have made the disappointing decision to discontinue our partnership for 2020, as they were offered an enormous increase in their support from Lion, to be the sole beverage partner. And fair dues to QLD Rugby, we are all aware of the state of Rugby in Australia, and I am personally very happy for anything that will boost the game in QLD, even to Newstead’s detriment. The experience did, however, solidify the reason I am so passionate about Newstead, where not every decision needs to be a commercial one.

It would be an oversight not to review 2019 without a look at the broader industry. More and more breweries open every year and 2019 was certainly no exception. And the vast majority, like Felons, the soon to be opened Stomping Ground airport venue, or Moondog World have completely changed the beer landscape, for the better, reaching further into the mainstream drinking base than ever before. The industry is healthy and growing, if not quite yet at the point on Boxing Day where you realise you have eaten your weight in ham (or TSP if that’s your thing) in 24 hours. And of course, it was another year of some pretty enormous buyouts. It’s a curious spin that describes the “buyout” of local, independent breweries. As if the transaction was enforced, a necessary concession of the reticent independent. Curious, because selling-out was surely the intent, not an eschewed pathway of chance. And when the exit strategy is short-term unsustainability for making bank, it only disadvantages other independent breweries who are honestly trying to corral the broader culture of our community, long-term. Competition is great, don’t get me wrong, but selling your products at cost price to harbour tap points is anti-competitive insanity.

One hundred years ago a cultural revival ignited throughout the Western World, kicking off the roaring-20s. Hopefully the twenty-20s will be similarly regarded as a catalyst of cultural, scientific and technological breakthrough. But I guess there is only one way to find out…

Dr Mark Howes, CEO
Newstead Brewing Co