Sobah is the natural extension of creator Clinton Schultz’s personal journey that is contributing to turning nationwide drinking habits on their head. The non-alcoholic craft brew that is transforming the adult beverage market aims to prove it’s possible for a non-alcoholic beer to offer a real alternative for beer drinkers when they’re out with mates.
By infusing the beer with Australian bush tucker, it also offers a flavourful education in Australian indigenous foods and culture. Schultz said the fusion of his desire to create a non-alcoholic beer and showcase native foods and flavours, from the zing of lemon aspen to boab, and spicy pepperberry, had put the beverage range in a class of its own.
What is the market growth of Sobah?
Schultz and his wife Lozen brought the product to market in 2017, just ahead of the climb of the global better-for-you drinking trend. From its Gold Coast base, Sobah has since rapidly grown to the point it is sold in bars, restaurants, cafes and 900 retailers across Australia.
In an equity crowdfunding campaign last October, Sobah raised $1m in nine days for 9% of the company. 586 investors now have a share of the company with a valuation of $11m.
In a move to ensure all facets of the business could grow from their Gold Coast home, Schultz said Sobah was also building Australia’s first non-alcoholic craft brewery on Gold Coast, in the rapidly emerging brewing and artisan distillery hotspot of Burleigh.
“We were the first non-alcoholic craft beer company in Australia. I think we were the first non-alcoholic adult beverage produced in Australia. There was no acceptance for non-alcoholic beverages when we started, it was a lot of work,” Schultz said.
“There were a couple of ‘non-alc’ spirit business that started up around the same time, and collectively we had to do a lot of re-education with the public about accepting non-alc and that non-alc was just as good, if not better, than the alcoholic drinks. We’re really stoked that we’ve literally played a significant part in shifting the Australian drink culture in four years.”
What was the inspiration behind Sobah?
Schultz said Sobah emerged from his own experience, which included quitting drinking. “I stopped drinking seven years ago. After I’d had a big night drinking I was lying on the bed hungover and my boy rattled his little finger in my face and he just went, ‘Dad, can you stop drinking silly drink.’ That was the last time I touched alcohol,” he said.
However, it led to frustration with alternative options available on the market. “I quickly realised when I stopped drinking that when you’re an adult and you’re choosing not to drink.”
“I got frustrated that there were no decent options for people who were choosing not to drink for whatever reason at the time, so I started making non-alcohol beer for myself.”
At the time, the entrepreneurial couple was running a food truck offering dishes based on native ingredients. Schultz, who learned to brew beer as a kid with his grandad, figured beer was an ideal vehicle to also carry the flavours. “I thought it would be a really cool idea to start highlighting some of the amazing native produce that we have here in Australia.”
“I’m Indigenous and it was all familiar to me and I thought Australia needed opportunities to try it rather than having to go to a five-star restaurant and having it served as a garnish.”
A Gamilaraay man who grew up on the Gold Coast, Schultz said the company also tried to highlight where the native ingredients, the language groups associated with and tried to lead people to want to learn more about those areas and the First Nations people of those areas.
“Different flavours in the Sobah range had already proven a match for different geographical areas, with the light zest finger lime cerveza very popular along the Aussie east coast, while the bolder pepperberry IPA sought after in Melbourne for its more intense style,” he said.
“We are the only native-infused non-alc adult beverage company and people are intrigued by the things we come up with. But we’re also for people who are choosing not to drink for whatever reason and are simply looking for premium-quality alternatives.”