Craft beer in the Illawarra

For your interest, here’s a story I wrote for the Illawarra Mercury about craft beer on the South Coast.


The Little Prince bar in Wollongong.

South Coast drinkers are discovering craft beer, just like others around Australia.
Market researcher, IBISWorld wrote in its May 2012 Beer Industry report that beer drinkers are craving variety beyond the mainstream offerings.
“Beer drinkers have become increasingly discerning and have been more willing to try different brands and styles in recent years,” the report says.
It’s a trend that is showing itself on the South Coast, through breweries like the Illawarra Brewing Company (IBC) and HopDog, venues like The Little Prince, restaurants like Samuels, Murphy’s Bar and Grill and Diggies and a number of bottle shops throughout the region.
IBC operations manager Dave McGrath says craft beer certainly offers beer drinkers variety.
“Craft beer to me is more about the different styles and flavours,” McGrath says.
“It’s giving the consumer a choice rather than the old days of having to pick between Tooheys and Carlton. … There was a time when no-one had heard of pale ale, now everyone knows about it.”
Those flavours are reaching the South Coast and slowly more and more people are realising beer is much more than they once thought.
McGrath says the Illawarra Brewery is the “showcase” for IBC beers, which are increasing in popularity.
“There’s been exponential growth in terms of volume going through the bar,” McGrath says.
“That’s a great measuring tool for us as to what the Wollongong market is doing. We outsell Carlton Draught there every week with our draught ale.”
McGrath says while the interest in craft beer is out there, finding some on the South Coast can be a bit tricky.
“When you look at the Wollongong market it’s a pretty closed shop. You can get our full showcase of beers down at the stadium and we’ve got a few beers on at different venues, but the Wollongong market is very sheltered currently from craft beer.
“You’ve really only got The Little Prince, Samuels at Thirroul and then Murphy’s Bar and Grill at Unanderra.
The Little Prince in Wollongong is carving out a niche as one of the few bars in the area with craft beer on tap. Co-owner Katie McKenzie says she’s seen locals’ taste in beer change, with sales of their on-tap craft beers steadily rising.
“When we opened people were much more inclined to go for the Pure Blonde and Fat Yak that we have on tap. But since then people are far more interested in what we have available on our rotating taps.
“They come in and ask questions and they’re willing to try things. …”
Even though a craft beer on tap can cost about $8 a glass, McKenzie says Little Prince drinkers aren’t put off by the price.
“We had Chimay on tap and Hoegaarden, which are not cheap beers … People were happy to pay for what they knew was a quality product. So there’s been no issues there.”

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