Beer festival backlash: brewers bitter over 'unfair' profit deal

SOME brewers have threatened to pull out of next year’s Ballarat Beer Festival unless organisers can promise a more lucrative payment deal.

Counting the cost after last weekend’s third annual event, many of the smaller brewers in attendance said they struggled to break even or operated at a loss.

But organisers have defended the event, saying that the current revenue split is in line with other festivals and helps pay for a successful festival that promotes craft beer.

The backlash comes after microbrewery Red Duck said it would not attend this year’s event after losing more than $1000 at the 2013 Ballarat Beer Festival. 

More than 6000 people attended the festival on Saturday. Tickets were $45, which did not include the sheets of $2 tokens required to buy beer and food. 

Brewers told The Courier it was difficult to split beer sales with organisers while trying to cover overheads such as staff, stall costs and stock. 

Boatrocker head brewer Matt Houghton said his company “certainly didn’t make any money” at this year’s event, and called for organisers to implement a fairer pay deal.

“I think there’s definitely room for improvement with the festival,” Mr Houghton said. “The brewers certainly could be looked after a bit better.”

Under the current arrangement, brewers get 50 per cent of the tokens used to buy beer at the festival. Organisers take the rest.

He said a fairer system could be based on some events at Melbourne’s Good Beer Week, where organisers take a 30 per cent cut of beer sales. 

Ballarat Beer Festival director Simon Coghlan said the current revenue split was necessary for a successful event.

He said the cost of overheads such as insurance, security and infrastructure, as well as paying for entertainment, meant the festival didn’t make as much money as some believed.

“We think it is a very conservative return for the amount of risk that we take and the amount of money we put on the table to run the event,” he said.

“For those people who think they’re clever and add up the ticket prices and think that’s how much money we made, they couldn’t be further from the truth.”

However Mr Coghlan said organisers were always open to discussions with the brewers who supported the event and would listen to their concerns about the revenue split.

“We have a great relationship with the brewers that participate,” he said.

“We don’t have a beer festival without the brewers and we’re aware of that.”

Grand Ridge Brewery owner Eric Walters said there was a “vibe” among smaller brewers at the festival that the return wasn’t ideal.

“There’s just not a lot going back to the brewers,” Mr Walters said. 

“If the balance for brewers could be increased, to be fairer, well that would great.”

Many smaller brewers at the Ballarat Beer Festival have said they struggled to break even or operated at a loss.

Many smaller brewers at the Ballarat Beer Festival have said they struggled to break even or operated at a loss.


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