First published in New Zealand Herald 20 January 2016
James Grugeon, formerly part of the team that launched Powershop into Australia, has kicked off the year with the launch of a social movement around craft beer, The Good Beer Co. He’s winning a lot of support in Australia and soon-to-be New Zealand with the concept.
In a nutshell, The Good Beer Co. picks a cause, names and creates a boutique beer after it.
Supporters like us donate funds to brew and launch the beer, including a crowd-funded and a corporate donor element.
Once the dollar target is reached the beer is brewed and we receive our 6-pack or whatever else comes with our level of support. Meanwhile, the cause receives at least 50 per cent of the money raised.
Regardless how you may feel about it, these days we all want something in return for our charitable gestures. It might be evidence of how our money helps, or a bit of kitsch merchandise we receive in return. Instead of calendars and badges, Grugeon is giving us beer.
With so many charities out there (obscure, corporate-like or those that should never see the light of day) we can surely all agree that volunteers with clipboards knocking on our door asking for money, really isn’t viable.
Grugeon gave up his job for this venture, with his wife bankrolling the business as principal breadwinner right now. He’s based the organisation in Brisbane, partnering with local craft breweries to create the product. Eventually he hopes to set up a dedicated brewery, as inspired by the work of US and UK ventures Finnegans and Two Fingers Brewing. Both brewers have encouraged and advised James, going as far as to share business plans with him.
The first beer due to launch in March is the Great Barrier Beer, supporting its namesake Australian reef. Crowd-funding for the inaugural product closed last week with over AU$36,000 raised.
Grugeon says the reception has been encouraging, with supporters lobbying local pubs and bars to stock the beer, and the bars equally enthusiastic knowing there’s a customer-following for the product.
More importantly, the venture has the support of its initial charitable partner – the Australian Marine Conservation Society, for whom backing a beer wasn’t a decision without some risk. After all, supporting the sale of alcohol in the name of a charity isn’t exactly selling T-shirts and posters. But Grugeon hopes the risk pays off and that this model and product becomes a legitimate, successful and profitable one.
Having worked with a New Zealand brand as Head of Strategic Partnerships of Powershop Australia (where we first met) Grugeon is keen to capitalise on the Kiwi interest in the business. It’s definitely a concept that would appeal to New Zealand brewers, Kiwi causes and drinkers, and Grugeon plans to spend more time in New Zealand working on local partnerships.
Meanwhile, this March all craft beer connoisseurs have just that little bit more reason to feel good about the Great Barrier Beer, knowing it’s all for a good cause.