An Ongoing Conversation

On Friday, the 2nd of February 2024, the story appeared on the Brews News website announcing the end. What does this mean for beer media in Australia?

by | Feb 4, 2024

On Friday, the 2nd of February 2024, the story appeared on the Brews News website announcing the end.

Brews News began 20 years ago as a modest WordPress blog by passionate beer lover Matt Kirkegaard. It grew to feature regular stories and reporting on beer industry news by some renowned, award-winning journalists.

It also incorporated two weekly podcasts. Beer is a Conversation featured interviews with brewers, hop growers, marketers and other industry personalities, and Brews News Week, the weekly news round-up.

On episode 451 of Brews News, a weary, slightly emotional, but pragmatic Matt Kirkegaard put himself in the interviewee seat for his co-hosts to query his reasons for calling it a day.

Ultimately, Brews News’s sustainability was mirrored in the industry it covered, one that ‘mines passion’ as Matt would say. It became evident Brews News could not reach a scale where he could take much-needed breaks without some risk to the integrity of what it had become. The publication’s most crucial reporting often involved subjects that don’t attract sponsorship.

But the similarities between Brews News and Small Breweries may also be a saving grace. There’s a likelihood the Brews News audience will understand only too well the motivations behind the decision to hang up the mic and retire the quill to its pot.

Social media posts sharing the news have attracted comments acknowledging Brews News’ service to the industry and thanking founder and editor Matt Kirkegaard for being the driving force behind it.

Brews News’ focus wasn’t limited to craft beer, but the rapid growth of small, independently owned and operated breweries naturally generated much of the content. Despite the presence of other publications focussing on the seemingly niche subject of Australian’ craft beer’, Brews News carved out its own unique space as an industry-focused news source.

In The Craft Pint’s recent newsletter, founder James Smith acknowledged the “dovetail” of coverage by the two publications. He cited Brews News as a valuable source of information for him as he founded his publication.

James’ experience is undoubtedly similar to that of many others, including myself. Brews News has not only informed my understanding of beer and the beer industry but also shaped my views by highlighting realities and exposing my misconceptions.

Since I discovered craft beer, podcasts have been my primary source of information. Ale of a Time, The Chosen Brew and The Beer Healer fueled my early fascination with beer. I even came around to those cheeky Tassie larrikins, The Step Brewers.

Along with Sessionable, Beer Sucks, Not Two Bright, The Sunday Sesh, Beer O’Clock, Operation Brewery, Crack the Ceiling, The Inside Word, Brunswick Beer Collective, The Good Beer Project, Hey Brew, Froth Cast, Aussie Beer Explorers, The Revel Brewing Show and more, alas, all these passion projects succumbed to some form of fatigue or lack of time due to other commitments. 

But Radio Brews News was the mainstay. I doubt a week has passed since I discovered it where I didn’t listen to the weekly round-up of news hosted by some combination of Matt, Pete, Clare, Sabrina, James, Ian, Zoe and others.

When I started listening, the closing theme was ‘Roll out the barrel’, which had to be changed to avoid a copyright strike on Spotify.

I sent my first email to the show in January 2018 and became a regular correspondent and contributor to the community built on social media. I even filed one report and co-wrote another. 

My participation earned me recognition within the industry, which still surprises me. Matt called it ‘the Brews News effect’, a clear indicator of the show’s reach and influence.

Over the years, Matt, Clare, Sabrina, James and Pete have supported my own modest endeavours and inspired me.

Matt’s pursuit of journalistic integrity is something to admire. And while at times I think his pursuit of the truth was confused with imposing an opinion, he’s always been respected for pragmatism in his views on the realities of the wider beer industry, whilst remaining a staunch advocate for small, independent breweries.

Even though recent episodes occasionally featured Matt acknowledging parallels with the fatigue of running a business in the brewing industry, I didn’t imagine Brews News could potentially end.

Thankfully, passionate beer fans and industry veterans continue to enter the beer media arena. The Cool Room (where I appeared for my first interview only recently) has grown in popularity, and Aussie Beer Voyage is producing some notable content of its own. The weekly podcast The Boss and the Brewer, with renowned brewer ‘Hendo’ Henderson and Black Hops founder Dan Norris, regularly touches on the beer news of the week, as well as F1, scooters, and paint.

Former Brews News journalist and co-host James Atkinson also continues to touch on beer in his podcast, Drinks Adventures.

These podcasts and stalwart publications like The Crafty Pint and Beer & Brewer will continue to cover beer industry news. However, whether the void left by Brews News will be filled is difficult to see.

Matt did not shy away from the industry’s shortcomings. He was vocal about the dangers of focusing on the positives without scrutinising the negatives. His devotion to journalistic integrity meant asking hard questions and reporting on the industry, warts and all, with the goal of encouraging it to acknowledge its shortcomings and improve itself.

The beer industry is in turmoil, but Brews News has not abandoned it in its hour of need. It is, sadly, yet another casualty.

But Brews News is unlikely to be the end of Matt’s beer journey. His other projects, friendships and connections within the beer industry, and, of course, his love of beer, mean he’ll never be far from it. 

I’ve wrestled with the tone for this story, which I began the day the news broke. I’m not one to mourn loss and accept inevitability. I prefer to be optimistic about the possibility of evolutionary change. One door closes. Another opens. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

As I pondered, I observed the outpouring of thanks and appreciation on social media from all corners of the brewing industry. Observing some of Matt’s responses, it almost seems a weight has been lifted. I expect he’s been overwhelmed by the support, but he deserves every bit—and a much-earned rest.

In addition to Matt, I acknowledge the hard work of the entire Brews News team. I wish Sabrina, Ian, Jo and Sam all the best for the future.

Thank you.

Categories: Craft Beer


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