Almost 250 years after the Thirteen Colonies declared independence from Great Britain, there's a fresh insurrection in the Victorian High Country. Bridge Road Brewers have declared their home in Beechworth to be a micronation going by the name Brewland.
The new sovereign nation, which measures 2,179 square metres and has a population of 39, is to have its own flag, its own national day and, over time, says newly appointed President Ben Kraus, its own national anthem, perhaps even a national dish.
When visitors enter the grounds, they'll pass a "Welcome To Brewland" sign; as they leave, another will read "Welcome To Australia".
The newly installed leader says the decision to break away from Australia is "a bid to protect our beer".
A statement announcing the move declared:
"International law states that people have the right to determine their own destiny. We have declared our own sovereignty to make sure our beer stays truly independent and accessible.
“Brewland will be a place where beer flavour and quality comes first. Where creativity and innovation can thrive and it’s more than OK to be a little bit weird.”
Speaking to The Crafty Pint on the eve of the Declaration, President Kraus said: "We'll put flags up at the brewery for our nation. We'll keep the number of citizens up-to-date.
"It gives a bit more focus to the venue and gives visitors more of an experience."
While the latest venture from one of the local beer industry's keenest marketing operations is laced with humour, there's serious intent behind it too.
"We're looking for different ways to call out our independence," says President Kraus, who already adorns the brewery's cans and labels with graphics highlighting their family-owned status. "But also bringing the beer community's focus back onto the way the bigger guys are maneuvering things through acquisitions or tap contracts or sports stadiums.
"We're seeing more competition among the independent brewers because there's more around but also because [the availability of] tap points isn't growing. Competition between independents is music to the ears of the big guys."
His view is that venue owners who stick to the incentivised tap contracts offered by larger brewing operations – a practice deemed not to be anti-competitive by the ACCC in 2017 – won't survive in the long run. But the challenges of finding and keeping hold of tap points and shelf space as the number of players in the market grows is creating challenges, with many small businesses struggling, some ceasing to operate, a growing number seeking outside investment to survive or expand, and price wars very much part and parcel of today's beer landscape.
"It's going to be a focus for the IBA [Independent Brewers Association]," he says, even though his membership may well now be in question if Bridge Road Brewers becomes 100 percent foreign-owned.
"We don't have a strategy on how to change [the situation] yet but an awareness campaign is one step. [At Bridge Road] we are still gaining tap points but you need to look at the industry and its health as a whole."
Brewland is taking citizenship applications. You can head here to join the cause and if you visit the nation during Good Beer Week, which runs from May 10 to 19, and show staff your certificate of citizenship you'll be rewarded with a free pint at the bar. Beyond that, the plan is that the nation – and what it stands for – will continue well beyond the festival, developing its ethos and culture over time.
"We'll have a national day on the brewery's anniversary in June and celebrate that every year," says the President.
"It's a bit out there but when we've done other marketing campaigns around beer it's been more beer-focused, whereas this is more fun."
Head to visitbrewland.beer for more on the world's first ber micronation.