Riding the Sobah Wave

As Sobah Beverages launches its second wave of development, we talk to co-founder Clinton Schultz.

As ‘low and no’ alcohol drinks move into the spotlight, it says a lot about Dr Clinton and Lozen Schultz’s intuition that their product, Sobah, was already paddling the wave before the rest of Australia even saw the swell approaching.

Still paddling at the front, Chinton Schultz spoke to Cove about the next exciting phase of development for their company, Sobah Beverages.

Sobah (every pun intended) is a non-alcoholic craft beer produced by the Schultz’s Queensland-based company. Founded in 2017, Sobah was named after sobriety and the local Aboriginal word for ‘place’ (bah). Literally, ‘Sobah’ could be taken to mean ‘the place of sobriety’.

A Gamilaroi man, Clinton Schultz first recognised the need for a non-alcoholic beer when he himself went sober. A former chef, now a Bond University lecturer with a full-time psychology consultancy, Clinton tells us he made the decision to place honesty and accountability at the forefront of his relationships.

“I wanted to be a positive role model for my children,” Clinton tells us. “Being a community counsellor, as well as personally, I know the problems alcohol can cause. I also don’t like hypocrites, so it was important for me to be able to have honest encounters at home, at work and socially.”

It was only when Clinton decided not to drink that he discovered a yawning gap in the beverage market, an absence of enticing non-alcoholic adult wine and beer alternatives. ‘Why not make my own?’ he thought, dipping into the home brewing knowledge he already possessed.

At the time, the couple operated Clinto’s Kupmurri, a food truck selling native ingredient focused street food. It was a natural fit for them to make and sell their first Sobah beverages from their truck. Native-infused and non-alcoholic, it was the perfect drink to complement their food, at the same time smashing stereotypical images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples.

Trading off the interest they had sparked with customers, Sobah gained its first big break when it launched a crowdfunding campaign on Pozible, pre-selling product to raise the capital to launch Sobah Beverages commercially in a can.

Using contract brewing at Pickled Pig Brewery in Tweed and Tribe Brewery in Goulburn, Sobah uses ethically-sourced materials, gaining unique flavours through native ingredient infusions: Lemon Aspen Pilsner infused with Far North Queensland lemon aspen, Finger Lime Cerveza featuring finger limes from south-east Queensland and Northern New South Wales; and the Pepperberry IPA which uses fruit from the native pepperberry tree. Sobah makes other seasonal products as well, such as the Davidson Plum Gluten Free Ale which, at the time of its production, was the only non-alcoholic gluten-free beer in Australia.

Recently, the demand has more than doubled annually for ‘low and no’ alcohol drinks from those who have made the decision to reduce or abstain from alcohol either for a short time or for life. Their reasons may include religious beliefs, personal preferences, ability to drive and operate machinery, work commitments, pregnancy, physical intolerance and other health reasons.

Sobah’s Pozible campaign, by default, provided the team with a groundswell of community support for their product, at the same time giving those supporters a sense of community by being part of a group.

Once more at the forefront, as they approach their ‘second wave’, the couple are returning to Pozible, this time to their equity crowd funding platform, Birchal, to raise contributions towards the $5 million needed to establish Australia’s first non-alcoholic craft brewery.

“We want to stay at the front of the market with our Burleigh brewery, establishing a ‘brew café’ that champions native foods and a training facility for young people,” Clinton tells us.

It’s a welcome change to see a local startup company as the frontrunner in such a powerful industry. Full of both business and social enterprise intention, a percentage of Sobah Beverages’ profits is also committed to fulfilling its social responsibility, supporting the work of the Preston Campbell Foundation, The Wayne Weaver Foundation, and the Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health (FISH) to help support healthy living and sobriety.

Perhaps Sobah’s even greater long-term effect will be the ripple of challenge to all Australians to rethink the role alcohol plays in our society. Whether it changes us or not, at least it will provide us with an alternative and, by example, the courage to stand out from the crowd.

NOTE: Several images supplied by Sobah.