Pacific Breweries – Ready, steady, go – the Bluetongue Brewery

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The new Bluetongue Brewery is a multi-brand plant. In the future, the SABMiller Global Premium brands such as Peroni, Grolsch and Miller Genuine Draft will also be brewed here and the plant flexibility allows a wide range of other brands to augment the portfolio.
Just 18 months have passed since the first bulldozers rolled over the 10-hectare site of the new Bluetongue Brewery.
All brands will be brewed in compliance with the brand owner specifications and filled using a multitude of packaging options to provide both customer and consumer flexibility. A key issue in the design phase was the modular format which allows future expansion of the plant to a final capacity of 1.5 million hl/a. This was definitely the right decision, bearing in mind that the total production of beer in Australia is 17 million hl/a, and in the more expensive premium segment this trend is growing steadily.
Just 18 months have passed since the first bulldozers rolled over the 10-hectare site of the new Bluetongue Brewery. Within this period a state-of-the-art turnkey plant has been erected with a high focus on quality and flexibility and a capability to brew 500,000 hectolitres annually.
The lauter tun brewhouse can produce 9 brews per day with a cold wort output of 300 hl. The packaging line has an output of 48,000 disposable bottles per hour. The principle followed by Pacific Beverages and Ziemann throughout the project was to only use the best suited technology, to strictly observe all environmental standards and to ensure process reliability.
Interview – Peter McLoughlin, CEO, Pacific Beverages and Michael Shirbin, Project Director.
What position does Pacific Beverages Bluetongue hold on the Australian beer market?
Together with Canada, Australia is one of the most profitable beer markets in the world. Whilst the total market is relatively flat, the premium beer segment is growing rapidly and presently comprises about 16 percent of beer consumed with a five year CAGR of about 10 percent. Recent trends have this growth accelerating to over 16 percent.
“Since our inception in 2006, we have grown from a start of about 3.6 percent share of the premium market to about 10 percent. In December 2007, we acquired Bluetongue Brewery and its Bluetongue brand which included a Premium Lager, Pilsener, a Light and Ginger infused variant all of which complemented our portfolio.” Pacific Beverages continues to focus on delivering great tasting, high quality brands to delight our consumers. Australia is a competitive and challenging market. While it is attractive due to its economic stability and growth, it also has high barriers to entry which have ensured an element of ‘status quo’ for many years. Our goal is to challenge this status quo and we have taken the first few steps on that journey,” said Peter McLoughlin, CEO, Pacific Beverages.
What was the idea behind the joint venture with the soft drink giant Coca Cola?
The rationale for the joint venture was simple. SABM had been looking for a way to enter the Australian beer market as part of its global expansion and CCA was keen to enhance its beverage portfolio and diversify into complimentary alcohol brands. SABM contributes its brewing and beer marketing expertise together with a range of premium brands and this combined with CCA’s extensive sales and distribution network and local knowledge makes a compelling combination.
Which environmental standards does the new brewery have? Could this very efficient energy- and water saving engineering system be used for future SABMiller breweries?
Bluetongue Brewery has been designed with the environment in mind. Water is the primary raw material used to brew beer, but it is scarce and needs to be managed with the utmost care, so we are ensuring that it is channelled efficiently to avoid any wastage. We have invested around 10% of the total project cost in various elements to build our sustainability capability including a water recovery plant to provide process water. This plant will assist us in moving towards a brewing ratio of around 2.2 litres of water per litre of beer, amongst the best in the world and well below the global average of around 4.5. We are using sterile filtration and filling rather than tunnel pasteurisation for beer quality and this also helps significantly with reducing water usage. Where possible we are using plastic conveyors, which minimise the need for continuous water lubrication. Part of the water recovery process includes an anaerobic digester that generates methane which is utilised in a supplementary boiler and will offset our energy consumption by about 15 percent.”
The new Bluetongue brewery is a multi brand brewery. What is the idea behind this strategy?
Innovation can be a game-changer in the beer industry, which was somewhat starved of new products up until 2008. Whilst the environment has changed significantly now and product innovation is prolific, Pacific Beverages have started building a track-record of product innovation. “We were the first to market a flavour-infused product (Miller Chill) and the first to produce a low-carb premium product, Peroni Leggera”. We certainly think there are market opportunities if you are prepared to act and think differently”.
What advantages does a twin-stream brewhouse have?
The Bluetongue Brewery is unique in its design because it has twin-stream breweries, which are of two different sizes – a large brewery and a small brewery under the one roof. These twin-stream brewhouses allow for flexibility in the brewing process through the smaller size of the brewing vessels. This allows the brewery to adapt to suit consumer demand meaning the brewery has the ability to be small enough to be niche and caring, but large enough to provide sufficient scale.
What was the decisive factor for building a new brewery and why did you decide to choose Warnervale as your location?
In February 2008, Pacific Beverages announced the construction of a new 120 million dollar brewery north of Sydney. The rationale for this development was understandable – to overcome the existing capacity constraint at the existing brewery in Newcastle, to reduce the complicated and long supply chain to provide fresher beer to the consumer, to provide the more brands in the popular draught format and to build a platform for future innovation and expansion. “About 40 percent of beer in Australia is consumed in what we call on-premise licensed outlets as opposed to off-premise outlets which service the take-home consumer. Of the beer consumed in on-premise, in excess of 50 percent is draught or tap beer. In addition, our experience has shown that beer brands are built on the on-premise environment and this is key for trial and adoption. To be a real player in this market you simply need to be able to offer a portfolio of brands in draught format,” said Michael Shirbin, Project Director, Pacific Beverages.
Why did you decide to work together with Ziemann as a partner for building the brewery?
Traditionally SABMiller have had a long standing relationship with Ziemann and when the planning for the new brewery commenced, naturally, Ziemann were considered as a possible partner. During the tender process, Ziemann developed a strong sense of integrity and trust with the project team. The ultimate decision to proceed with Ziemann was based on two key factors: 1. Ziemann’s willingness to adopt a “best of breed” approach in the packaging area 2. The competitiveness of the tender with regard to the overall engineering and last but not least an unbeatable the price. (Source: BrewingWorld – Ziemann)