Otway Estate Winery and Brewery –producer of Prickly Moses – is a long way from Dalyan, a region in the Ortaca district in northern China. Xerri says the group has begun to sell a “small amount” of beer in the area, testing the waters for the future.
It’s a huge market for a company which still bottles its product by hand, according to Prickly Moses head brewer Luke Scott.
“Yeah, it's a labour of love,” he admits. “Every bottle has four fingerprints on it. All hand capped and hand bottled.”
Xerri sees the scope of opportunity in Asia but understands the challenge.
“It's a very large market over there but then once again there's a lot of competition,” he says. “From a lot of other countries and locally.”
Originally a winery, Otway Estate has since expanded into a brewery, function centre and was part of a consortium which recently bought a hotel on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Situated in Victoria’s picturesque Otways rainforest region, Prickly Moses has now been brewing for 10 years. Sales of craft beer are increasing year-on-year by between 15 and 20 per cent. The sector in Australia says it now generates $A740 million in economic output, employing close to 2,500 people.
Nearly two-thirds of the sector operates out of regional Australia. Victoria and New South Wales-based businesses dominate the market, with 60 per cent of the share between them.
“There's growth in the craft beer market but then there's huge growth in the in the competition in the market,” Xerri says.
The growth is catching the eye of the markets bigger players, who were this year ejected from the aforementioned Independent Brewers group.
Australian taste, in all senses of the word, continues to support microbreweries. Research from Beer Cartel shows 64 per cent of drinkers consider ownership of a beer a factor in purchase, with 99 per cent happy to buy from independent local breweries. Just 23 per cent are happy to buy from large multi-nationals.