2018 Australian Craft Beer Survey

‘Craft beer is the only segment of the Australian beer market in continuous growth’

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Beer Cartel's co-founders Richard Kelsey and Geoff Huens, with some of the 1,000 craft beers they offer.
Beer Cartel's co-founders Richard Kelsey and Geoff Huens, with some of the 1,000 craft beers they offer.

Related tags Craft beer Beer Australia

Australian craft beer consumers now purchase an equal number of previously untried beers as old favourites, according to the 2018 Australian Craft Beer Survey: showing how quickly the sector has evolved. And consumers’ continuous thirst for something new has implications across the craft beer industry: from the diversity of styles to the preferred packaging sizes.

“On average, five out of every ten beers purchased by consumers are for previously untried beers,” ​reveals the survey, which is the largest publicly available style of Australian craft drinking trends.

“This is quite staggering and speaks volumes as to why many breweries have an extensive seasonal and limited release program. Considering the Australian beer landscape prior to 2012 with little access to beers outside of mainstream lines, it is amazing how quickly consumer habits have evolved.”

More than 18,000 craft beer drinkers took part in the survey which is run every year by online beer supermarket Beer Cartel.

“Craft beer is the only segment of the Australian beer market which is in continuous growth, with overall consumption of beer and alcohol in decline. The data that follows provides an extremely accurate picture of this young, thriving industry.”

beer cartel purchasing-of-new-beer


The question of independence for craft breweries was a focus of the survey both in 2017 and 2018.

In 2017, three of Australia’s leading craft breweries were snapped up by big multinationals: Pirate Life​ and 4 Pines​ by AB InBev and Feral Brewing​ by Coca-Cola.

Two thirds (66%) of craft beer drinkers were aware of one or more of those buy-outs, according to the survey.

Out of those who were aware of one or more of the buy-outs, 57% said they had changed their purchase habits post take over. A number of consumers said they were buying less (43%) or have stopped purchasing from these breweries (13%).

But Beer Cartel also points out that the quality of the beer has seen ‘no noticeable changes’; while the breweries themselves and the people that run the breweries have remained unchanged.

“Rather, innovation and development has occurred; 4 Pines now has their beer on the Manly ferries as well as at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Pirate Life has been able to forge ahead with their Hindmarsh brewery, while Feral continues to brew its core range plus tasty limited release brews.”


Independence seal

In May 2018 the Australian Independent Brewers Association (IBA) launched an independence seal, following on from the launch of similar seals in the US and UK.

It says the seal is already having an impact – and has ‘huge potential to dramatically change the beers consumers buy’. Out of those who were aware of the seal, 83% of consumers said it was likely to have a medium to large impact on their beer purchases.

Packaging shift

The Australian beer landscape is made mostly up of smaller format vessels (330ml-375ml); but the survey reveals a lack of appetite for larger format vessels.

Only half purchase a 500ml bottle/can every few months or more often, while just 26% purchase 640ml-750ml bottles.

“This finding does have strong implications for the market moving forward and is likely to see even more beers produced in smaller format cans and bottles. From a retailer perspective the much higher purchase frequency for smaller bottles/cans makes a lot of sense. Consumers are trying new beers at a great rate – by providing these in a smaller format it means each new beer is a smaller investment, plus there is lower perceived risk if they don’t like it.”

The interest in craft beer in cans has been growing and this is now almost at parity with bottles. In the survey 33% of respondents said they preferred bottles; 30% preferred cans; and 36% had no preference either way.

The typical Aussie craft beer drinker

beer cartel craft-beer-drinker-demographics-2018

The responses to the survey showed a 80% male / 20% female split; while the largest consumer group (40%) was in the 30-39 year old age bracket.

Most craft drinkers (90%) said they had been drinking craft beer for three or more years. The average weekly spend on craft beer was $56 AUD ($40 USD).

As in 2016 and 2017, Pale Ale is the most consumed beer style, with IPA deemed by 31% of respondents be their favourite. 

australian beer cartel top 10 beer styles

The full survey results can be found here.

All infographics: Beer Cartel​ 

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