Insights on beer marketing & PR by a beer-war vet

08 March

Beer provenance revisited: lack of transparency still a hot issue

On the matter of beer provenance I must highlight and hat tip the role Matt Kirkegaard, arguably Australia’s leading beer commentator and blogger, has played in bringing this issue to prominence.

After penning my previous post I came across an earlier post and podcast by Matt about beer provenance concerns. I urge you to read and listen to this interview with Dr Chuck Hahn by clicking on the RBN pic immediately below. Maybe miss the preamble and start 10 minutes in.

rbn chuck

While contacting Matt, beerlines took the opportunity to quickly interview him on beer provenance and secure an update on his thoughts.

Beerlines: “As Editor of Australian Brews News is provenance becoming more important? If so is there any variation between small and big brewers?”

Kirkegaard: “It’s an interesting question.

“As our shelves become more cluttered with a wider array of beers, consumers are looking to brand values as much as flavour to aid their selection.

“It’s here that provenance can really matter. It’s also here that large and small brewers can be pushing things a little too far and muddying the provenance waters.Byron_Bay_Pale_Lager_Carton_6_x_4_330ml

“While it’s very easy to point the finger at beers such as CUB’s outright deception with Byron Bay Lager, or LION’s highly dubious labelling of Kosciuszko Pale Ale, they can quite rightly point their fingers at smaller brewers who have taken the ‘we don’t hide it, but we just don’t advertise the fact’ line when it comes to own their own contract brewing.kosciuszko

“It really doesn’t matter to the quality of the beer, but the unwillingness to be open gives everyone the right to hedge a little and that hurts craft.

Unwillingness to be completely upfront .. lowers the craft bar
“While in one sense I can understand their thinking, it’s the craft brewers’ own unwillingness to be completely upfront that allows the debauching of the craft beer market by the likes of Coles’ Steamrail brand for example: indeed one beerlines used in earlier posts.

new dan murphys_1480

“When Coles can point to their product and say, quite honestly, that it comes from the same brewery as Mountain Goat’s Steam Ale and Summer Ale, and Mountain Goat offers nothing to differentiate their beer .. well, it lowers the craft bar.

“Mountain Goat has spent 15 years building its brand and Dave has worked closely with the team at Independent Distillers to get the beer to Goat’s specifications. Compare that to Coles which faxes an order for ‘something just like James Squire The Chancer Golden Ale’ and then paid someone to write up a meaningless back story.

“And yet Mountain Goat’s unwillingess to provide a meaningful differentiation by confronting the issue lets Coles get away with it; it also gives LION and CUB cover when they fudge provenance.

Transparency is part of the brand promise
I also look at a brewery such as Stone & Wood, for which being based in the Northern Rivers is integral to their brand.

“You could not buy Stone & Wood for love nor money over Christmas because they simply could not keep up with demand. They could have outsourced to keep up, but they made a business decision that brewing their beer themselves in the Northern Rivers is a big part of their brand promise. That comes at a business cost, but its a cost that brewers that outsource their overflow and still talk provenance don’t want to pay.

“It’s a really tough issue, but ultimately the more brewers try and hide – or at least not confront head on – their decisions regarding brewing, the more they open the door to the Coles and the CUBs to fudge things as well.

“That just muddies the provenance waters for all.”

Transparency rules
The takeout from both posts – Matt’s and beerlines’ – is there is only upside in full transparency. While, ideally, this axiom would have always applied, the new reality in a networked market with social media is .. YOU CAN’T HIDE STUFF AND YOU WILL BE FOUND OUT.