Two of Sydney's most popular independent breweries have secured taps at the SCG ahead of this summer's Ashes Test. The Grifter Brewing Co and Young Henrys are part of a new look lineup at the iconic ground after hospo group Merivale landed hospitality rights at both the SCG and the new Sydney Football Stadium.*
A clearly shell-shocked Matt King (second from left behind the banner above), one of Grifter's three owners, told The Crafty Pint the news came as a surprise to the brewery team. He said they were honoured to be chosen, given Merivale could have run with beers owned by the major breweries.
“It’s not like we were bashing down the door of the SCG trying get in," he says. "I never thought that would be a possibility to be honest.
"But I’m a big cricket and footy fan so I’m super pumped on it and the whole team is excited as well.”
The Marrickville brewers have been dealing with Merivale for a number of years; the pub next door to their brewery, the Vic on the Park, is owned by the group, whose plans for the stadia look set to bring the offering closer to what Matt has seen in the US.
“The food was so outdated [at the SCG] and so were the offerings in terms of beverage, but you go there now and there’s all sorts of things to try,” he says, adding that this represents a big win for independent beer and Sydney’s inner west.
With Gage Roads securing pouring rights at Perth's Optus Stadium and others, such as BentSpoke and Capital in Canberra, Colonial with Essendon and now North Melbourne in the AFL, and Mismatch with the Adelaide Crows, making progress in a variety of ways in the world of sports, it's a promising outlook at the end of a second challenging year for the beer industry.
“I believe we’re just more in touch with the drinker so we can cater for what they want," Matt says, "and we’re pretty in touch with our city and in at the right place. I feel like the public demand is doing this for us."
While it's clearly great news for fans of craft beer – recent Lion/Kirin acquisition Stone & Wood and CUB/Asahi-owned Balter are also set to appear alongside Coopers on tap in the Brewers Bar – it's also a sign of how much progress the independent beer sector is making.
When 4 Pines launched a bar at the SCG in April 2018, co-founder Jaron Mitchell told The Crafty Pint: "There’s no way on the planet, as much as I’d like to pump the chest and say this is all us, this is not that at all. This is completely an effort between [AB InBev] and 4 Pines to bring this to life." Yet, less than four years later, two independents have made it into the hallowed ground.
Young Henrys co-founder and newly-elected Independent Brewers Association chair Richard Adamson says having Newtowner pour across eight taps throughout the SCG is an amazing opportunity. He described it as incredibly exciting to be part of the "revolution" being led by Merivale at the stadium, and encouraging to see how the SCG is open to such changes as they follow a trend witnessed at music festivals in recent years.
“People were putting up with bad food and overpriced drinks that were pretty average for a really long time," he says. "And then festivals had to start improving their overall offering by bringing in really great food trucks and street food while lifting up the drinks experience at the same time.
"This is what we’re seeing in stadiums now. You really need to be enticing to get people up off the couch, so it’s about having that complete experience and offering, and you need to give the people what they want in terms of variety and choice.”
Although it's early days, he hopes the experience of enjoying an independent beer at such an event will be here to stay.
“The proof will be in the pudding and we need to sell the drinks and get the feedback from the general public that that’s what they want," Richard says. "But I’m pretty confident that people will be enjoying a Newtowner while watching the cricket live and it will be great."
The news has a nice bit of synergy too, as Grifter were given a leg up into the world of brewing by the team at Young Henrys, brewing at the latter's Newtown site before striking out on their own. You can read more about their relationship here.
Merivale's deal runs from this month until September 2027 and will see the inner west brewers' beers share a platform with chefs from many of Sydney's high profile eateries.
The hospo company's CEO Justin Hemmes said in a media release: “This is a major milestone in our company’s history and builds on our commitment to the city of Sydney, its culture, economy and job creation.”
SCG and Venues NSW CEO Kerrie Mather described the new partnership as "a transformational moment for our precinct", confident Merivale "will offer our customers, members, sporting and entertainment partners the highest quality food and drink this city has to offer."
While he looks forward to drinking Grifter Pale at the SCG – and hopes many more do too so it proves popular enough to appear in more of the stadium's bars – Matt says: “Even five years ago I would have said no way but it shows the state of where things are at. At the end of the day, the public determines what the choice is and the public are swaying with independent beer and they want independent beer.
“I hope this gives hope to all independents that anything is possible, and you don’t know where things are going to go or where things are going to take you, because I never thought this would happen.”
You can find both Grifter Pale pouring in the Brewers Bar on Level 2 of the Noble Bradman Messenger Stand, and Young Henrys Newtowner at a number of tap points in the stadium.
*UPDATE 15/12: It seems The Grifter and Young Henrys aren't the only two Sydney indie beer operations toasting to success this week, with Bondi Beer announcing their beer would be served on all United Airlines flights between Sydney and San Francisco and Los Angeles. Founder Paul Parks tells The Crafty Pint that with United being the only airline to maintain daily passenger flights between Australia and the US, they wanted to better commit to supporting Australians as borders reopen.
“They were thinking how they could progress this idea of helping their mates in Australia," Paul says. "So they looked at all the aspects of the business and the on-plane offering was something they thought they could change up.”