Last drinks called for West End brewery

Last drinks called for West End brewery

Agribusiness
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The West End factory at Thebarton will close its doors mid next year.

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AFTER 160-year history in SA, the West End factory will have its taps turned off by its owner Lion mid next year, who said production at the Thebarton site was "no longer viable".

In a statement, the brewing giant - a subsidiary of Japanese-owned Kirin - said the factory, which makes West End, Hahn SuperDry and Southwark Bitter, had been operating "well below its full production capacity for some time now".

"The Australian beer market has been in long-term decline for the past decade as Australian drinkers choose other beverages, like wine, over beer," the company said.

"Per capita beer consumption has dropped around 20 per cent in this time, yet our input costs have continued to rise. Plus there has been a further drop in draught beer sales as a result of the pandemic."

The company will still make West End beer at its interstate factories and sell it locally.

The West End factory was one of only two major breweries left in SA, alongside Coopers, who supplied the company with its malt.

Coopers Brewery managing director Tim Cooper said it was a "sad day for the industry".

"Our thoughts are with all the employees affected at West End," he said.

Dr Cooper said while 2020 had been difficult for the entire industry, Coopers remained in a "strong position".

"Testament to our loyal drinkers, the resilience of pubs and venues as well as the hard work of all our employees," he said.

"We continue to invest in our brewery at Regency Park, while expanding and diversifying our portfolio of products in line with our future outlook."

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Coopers maltings manager Doug Stewart said the plant had been running at full capacity throughout COVID-19, with malt exports doubling in the past 12 months.

The independent Australian family-owned brewer sends about 35,000 tonnes of malt a year to food producers, brewers and distillers overseas, while locally, the company used about 15,000t a year in its beer production, DIY beer concentrates and malt extract production, with smaller volumes sold to other Australian brewers and food producers.

"One of our key selling points for overseas customers is the quality of the malt we produce, which is a result of high quality barley sourced from SA farmers and our state-of-the-art equipment," Dr Stewart said.

"But our plant is also flexible enough to allow us to produce single origin malts, which are increasingly popular among Australian craft brewers and distillers."

Dr Stewart said Coopers Brewery expects to buy at least 72,000t of barley from this year's harvest.

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