Steel City Beer, which was launched with the backing of Newcastle sporting royalty less than three years ago, has ceased production.
Steel City Brewing blamed current economic conditions for the beer's demise in a statement issued on Monday.
The collapse follows a recent parting of ways with brewing giant Lion, which had been brewing the product in Sydney since its 2021 launch.
The Newcastle Herald understands the shareholders, which include managing director Oliver Semken, marketing director Ryan Ginns, rugby league heroes Andrew Johns, Matthew Johns, Danny Buderus and Kurt Gidley, plus surfing heroes Matt Hoy, Craig Anderson and Ryan Callinan, had been investigating alternative brewing options up until last week.
"It had always been our goal to establish a brewery and spiritual home within the Hunter Region to solidify our presence within our backyard," Mr Semken said.
"However, amidst interest rate pressures and a subsequent downturn in consumer confidence, it made it increasingly hard for our business to rationalise funding our brewery aspirations given the current economic climate".
Mr Semken said the beer industry had been "knocked around" in recent years due to escalating costs, dwindling demand, and the prolonged closures of venues amid lockdown restrictions.
"Small breweries have found it particularly tough to regain their footing. Faced with these challenges in the industry, we considered our options and made the difficult decision to cease production, redirecting our focus towards enjoying beer in the Hunter's great venues, rather than brewing it," he said.
"As a business, there's plenty to celebrate about the past couple of years despite the difficult operating environment. While our plans may not have unfolded as expected in the short-term, we've had a lot of fun along the way, met some great people and we remain optimistic that opportunities may present themselves again in the future".
Documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) on December 20, 2023 show Lion-Beer Spirits and Wine sold back its 270,000 shares to Steel City Holdings (the business' holding company) for $80,310.33 in December.
The documents say the selling shareholder (Lion) "no longer wishes to participate or be involved in the company or the company's business".
They also note the company (Steel City Holdings) is not insolvent and there are no material impacts on the company as a result of the buy-back.
A Lion spokesman told the Herald on Monday that the company had been delighted to partner and work closely with Steel City to bring their vision to life.
"However, it's been a tough couple of years for all players in the Australian beer industry with inflationary costs, softening demand, continuing impacts of COVID-19 on our customers, and high interest rates limiting what consumers can spend," he said.
Pitched as a mainstream lager, the recipe was developed with input from master brewer Chuck Hahn, Lion Beer boss James Brindley and the shareholders.
No expense was spared for the marketing campaign that accompanied the beer's launch.
One of the tv ads shot at the Bellbird Hotel, opens with Matt Johns enjoying a schooner of Steel City before panning to brother Andrew retelling the final moments of that grand final with trademark showman's style.
"You know, you talk about that grand final a lot," cornered co-star Kalyn Ponga says.
"Well if you played in one, you might too," retorts the GOAT
Another ad featured scenes of early morning trackwork at Broadmeadow with trainer Kris Lees, surfboard shapers Steele Lewis and Sam Egan, industrial scenes and the father-daughter commercial fishing duo of Steve and Marissa Moncrief.
Mr Semken told the Newcastle Herald in April 2021 that the company was actively looking to create a "spiritual" and physical home by claiming their own brewpub.
"We just missed out on a location [in Wickham], but we're going to have another spot, probably in a fringe area [near the city] in the next 12 months," he said.
"I think it's a key part of any brewery these days to have that spiritual home, where people can come and get to know the people behind the brand, and see how it's made, and get to know that process as well."
Following its launch, the Steel City Beer was sold on tap ($7.50 a schooner) and in cans (24 cans for about $65) at selected pubs and bottle shops throughout the Hunter.
"We'd like to extend our sincere appreciation to our team, drinkers as well as our venue and bottle shop partners who have supported and embraced Steel City wholeheartedly since its inception," Mr Semken said.
"We'd like to express our appreciation to Lion for their unwavering support of our vision and ongoing dedication to brewing some of Australia's best beers."
A GQ magazine survey of 30,000 ale experts voted Steel City Lager the No. 1 beer for 2021.