Lion boosts its share of craft brewing

Chris Shanahan
Australian Brewery Extra Hoppy Ale and Weihenstephaner Pilsner.
Australian Brewery Extra Hoppy Ale and Weihenstephaner Pilsner. 

In December, Lion, owned by Japan's Kirin, opened its $60 million Little Creatures brewery in Geelong. The facility incorporates a historic building, the 1920s art deco-style former Valley Worsted Mill.

The hospitality centre emulates Little Creatures' highly successful brewery-bar-restaurant facility in Fremantle, Western Australia - making it a must-visit for anyone heading down Geelong way during the holiday period.

Lion plans to brew about 1.25 million cases of beer there, principally for east coast markets.

While craft beer accounts for a little over 3 per cent of Australia's beer market, the category is growing at 13 per cent a year. Industry sources put Lion's share of the market at 50 per cent, mainly through its James Squire and Little Creatures brands. Now that's a lion's share, and I reckon they won't let go of it.

Australian Brewery Extra Hoppy Ale
355ml can 4-pack $15

This American-inspired beer - packed in an elegant, slimline can - combines masses of hops aromas, flavours and bitterness with opulent, sweet malt and 5.8 per cent alcohol. It won't appeal to those seeking a cold drink on a hot day. But it'll fascinate the hop-obsessed, though the malt-hops harmony needs some work.

Weihenstephaner Pilsner
500ml $5-$6

In a world where pilsner means a thousand different things, Bavaria's Weihenstephaner remains the standout - complex and subtle, featuring lovely hops aroma and flavour, smooth, rich malt and a lingering, dry, perfectly balanced bitter finish. We abstained from it for most of 2013, but recently returned. Perfection is hard to beat.