Independent beer brewers are lobbying to be supported in the same way by the state government as the wine industry.
"We strongly believe indie brewing is the next wine industry for Australia," said Peter Philip, founder of Wayward Brewing Company in Camperdown and board director of the Independent Brewers Association (IBA), the peak national body representing Australia's 604 independent brewers.
"The IBA is seeking a partnership with the NSW government that will boost the economic benefits offered by the independent brewing industry," said Mr Philip. "The industry is growing at a profound rate and offers diverse employment and tourism opportunities in both urban and regional areas – it's where the wine industry was 30 years ago."
According to the Australian Craft Beer Brewery List (compiled by the Craft Beer Reviewer website), a new craft beer brewery is opening every six days in Australia. NSW has 165 craft breweries and the fastest growing independent brewing industry in the country, claiming 28 of the 83 breweries that opened in 2018.
NSW government data shows wine production contributes an estimated $1.6 billion per year to the state economy. Based on 2016 research commissioned by the IBA, NSW independent brewers are estimated to make an annual economic contribution of $222 million, however with the large number of new breweries, this figure is likely to have risen considerably.
In the context of this growth, the IBA will be seeking a memorandum of understanding with the Berejiklian Coalition government, if it is re-elected. The proposed MOU would lead to the creation and implementation of a NSW Independent Brewing Industry Strategy.
"If re-elected, we'll do as much as we can to support this growing and unique industry in NSW," said Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair. "Who doesn't love beer?"
In a written response to the IBA on Friday, Mr Blair said a NSW Liberals and Nationals government will task the Department of Industry to work with the brewing association to "develop a targeted suite of initiatives support the growth of the independent brewing industry in NSW".
An MOU already exists between the NSW government and NSW Wine Industry Association to support a growing wine industry through actions such as the promotion of cellar door tourism.
"American tourists visit our Camperdown brewery all the time," said Mr Philip. "They've researched Sydney breweries and put us on their list. Destination NSW isn't pushing this, it's individual efforts. If beer tourism was promoted more then it could really thrive."
Founder of Marrickville's Sauce Brewing Co, Mike Clarke, agrees.
"On an average weekend, half of our customers in the tap room are locals and the other half are tourists," said Mr Clarke. "There's five or six other breweries within walking distance from us so we self-funded an inner west brewery map for tourists. It's just like a wine trail map in the Hunter Valley."
"We get zero complaints from neighbours in terms of noise or smell from our brewery," said Mr Philip. "It's an example of urban industrialism coming back in a way that's compatible with modern urban living. The government should be doing as much as it can to encourage the industry by loosening restrictive conditions around operating breweries. We're applying for a small change to put a kitchen in, for example, and there is a very high bar for the hoops we need to jump through to make it happen."
With more than two-thirds of independent breweries located in regional and rural Australia, there is great tourism potential outside the city limits, said Mr Philip.
"Certainly the inner west of Sydney is seen as the craft beer capital of Australia but there's a lot of other areas, such as the Northern Rivers, we believe people would travel to and stay overnight for the breweries. We need to start promoting beer regions akin to what the Hunter is for wine."
To qualify for IBA membership, a brewery cannot produce more than 40 million litres of beer annually. Although independent brewers constitute 97 per cent of all licensed breweries in Australia, 85 per cent of the beer market is dominated by four multinational corporations (AB InBev, Kirin, Asahi and Coca Cola Amatil.)
"Because the multinational breweries are so automated, they can do with one person what it takes a small independent brewery up to 40 people to do," said Mr Philip, who is also calling for the NSW government to increase the opportunities for brewing education at a tertiary level.
"The current TAFE course in brewing is fantastic but we need to double the throughput – all the graduates find jobs immediately."
Three new Sydney breweries on taps around town
Dave Anderson was a working musician but after an injury left him with only nine fingers, he decided to focus on making beer instead of music. Anderson is currently "gypsy brewing" at other inner west breweries with the aim to open a brewpub as the business grows.
Beer to try: "Born In The U.S.Ale", American pale ale, 5% ABV.
Sauce Brewing Co.
Sauce microbrewery opened its Marrickville garage doors at 1A Mitchell Street in October 2017 and became an instant hit with local families and beer fans. "Craft beer is all about drinking better and drinking less," says founder Mike Clarke. "We're not a pub with sticky floors and pokies – it's all about the beer and experience."
Beer to try: "Piss-weak Sauce", mid-strength IPA, 3.5% ABV.
Hopsters Co-op Brewery
Sydney's first democratically run, member owned-and-operated co-operative brewery. The enterprise has more than 400 members and is set to open a taproom on Enmore Road this year.
Beer to try: "Founders Range Saison Spice", saison, 4.5% ABV.