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A Short History of Craft Beer in Australia (Part 1)
Back to What Is Beer articlesSmall breweries were common throughout Australia in the nineteenth century, but most of them had closed by the 1930s, and beer production had become centralised in a small number of very large breweries, mostly situated in the capital cities. Nearly everyone alive in Australia in the early 1980s understood that beer production in large breweries was normal practice; brewing in small plants was unfamiliar, indeed rare, especially if they were attached to pubs.
In the three decades since the early 1980s, nearly three hundred new breweries have opened in Australia, defying the long-term historical trends of ownership concentration and geographic centralisation. Most of these new breweries have produced beer in small batches, and most have sought to produce beer that is distinctly different from the output of the small number of very large breweries that churn out the vast majority of the beer consumed in Australia. Many of them, perhaps most, produce or have produced what we would today call ‘craft beer’.Craft beer is something that many of us will recognise when we see it, but which most will have difficulty defining in words. The use of the term ‘craft’ to qualify beer, brewing and breweries in Australia is a fairly recent phenomenon; it made its first tentative appearances at end of the 1990s, adopted from the United States of America where it was already common parlance.
When some dozens of small breweries opened around Australia in the 1980s, the idea was so new and foreign that we didn’t know what to call them. At first they were commonly referred to as mini-breweries, then as micro-breweries (another term borrowed from the USA), but these terms conveyed nothing about the type or quality of beer produced, just a sense of the scale of output. The term boutique brewery also became popular in the 1980s, and implied something about the distinction from the traditional mainstream brewing industry that the new small-scale operators were seeking to establish.
The distinction between large-scale industrial beer production for national and even international markets, and small-scale, hands-on production, catering for local markets was one of the defining features of many of the new wave of breweries in the 1980s, as it remains for many ‘craft beer’ producers today. Indeed, the appearance of these small breweries can be explained as a reaction against the increasing homogenisation of beer in Australia, and a desire for the return of diversity of brands and styles, a desire first manifested in the 1970s in our captivation with imported beers.
With thanks: http://whatiscraftbeer.com.au/learn-beer/short-history-craft-beer-australia/