A global giant will decide the future of Fremantle’s Little Creatures

little creatures

THE future of one of our most iconic brewers is now in the hands of a Japanese-owned giant, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to the craftsmen behind some of the state’s top brews.

Little World Beverages, which owns the Fremantle icon Little Creatures, this week announced a $381.6 million offer it couldn’t refuse from beverage giant Lion.

The takeover means Lion will have about a 45 per cent share in the Australian beer manufacturing sector, which IBIS World analysts estimate is worth about $5.1 billion.

It leaves Gage Roads Brewing, in which Woolworths holds a 23 per cent stake, as the biggest brewer in WA but with less than 0.5 per cent of the market share.

However, Swan Valley-based Feral Brewery took claim this week to being the state’s biggest independent brewery.

Feral Brewery founder and head brewer Brendan Varis said he hoped for the sake of the staff at Little Creatures that the value of craft beer was maintained.

“You’ve got to be concerned for that, there’s a history of large breweries taking over small independent (ones) and shifting production,” he said.

Mr Varis said the takeover would have some impact on the landscape in WA as Little Creatures “opened doors” for some of the state’s smaller operators.

WA has more breweries per capita than any other state with 22.8 per cent of the country’s establishments and 90 per cent of them employing fewer than 20 people.

Brewers told The Sunday Times the takeover wouldn’t taint the state’s claim to being the home of craft beer. But they will be watching with interest to see what the beverage giant does next.

Mash Brewery head brewer Charlie Hodgson said it was a shame to lose the iconic brand, but he didn’t think there would be too much impact on the rest of the craft brewery industry.

Meanwhile, Mal Secourable, head brewer at Colonial, said it was a matter of wait and see.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out on a number of levels,” he said.

LWB director Howard Cearns was adamant Lion, which has been a significant shareholder in the company for years, would stay true to the flavours and aromas of his beers.

He said people often “overreact” about foreign investment in Australian companies and the purchase should give confidence to the smaller operators.

“I think it’s about being a good shareholder and if we can leverage the international market presence of someone like Kirin to take a little old Fremantle beer to more consumers,” he said.

The industry, he said, had learnt lessons from when Fosters acquired WA-based Matilda Bay Brewery in 1990.

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