Beerlines

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

Archive for the 'Brunswick Bitter' Category

16 April
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Who owns CUB’s heritage beer brands?

For CUB I think it’s now a case of too many beer brands not enough breweries as its heritage beer brands go to court.

Since the early 1900s Carlton & United Breweries (CUB), now owned by SAB-Miller, has taken over dozens of Australian breweries. This includes the original five Melbourne brewing firms which amalgamated to form CUB in the first place.

One of many famous heritage brands taken over by CUB

One of many famous heritage brands taken over by CUB

There must be hundreds of brands. From well known capital city brands to small regional brews; how is CUB going to keep them all legally under its wing given the requirements to release them to the public regularly? That’s a big task even for a big brewer.

So what’s happening at the bar?

Overnight news, here in The Age, sees local craft brewer, Thunder Road Brewery (TRB), seriously elevate its pitch to secure heritage brands from CUB. Beerlines has covered this before i.e. How to make Carlton bitter.

They’re off to court!

If it weren’t for the fact that this is now actually going to court I would say it was just more drum beating by TRB to get free publicity at the big guy’s expense. Their recent release of Terry’s Ale, based on an early Carlton Brewery beer recipe is a fine example of this.

Is there a serious case?
I’m no lawyer; here comes the ‘but.’ But as I understand it, unless CUB actively keeps those brands alive and seen to be available commercially – if only for limited release every three or so years – then CUB’s ‘ownership’ is exposed. Then such claims as Thunder Road is making have some chance I believe.

And I’m not so sure CUB will have done that. As I said, CUB must ‘own’ hundreds of heritage brands given its history of takeovers. CUB would need to re-release a heritage brand every few months to maintain its claim of ownership across all of them.

See you in court
As Thunder Road is seeing CUB in court, they obviously believe they have a case. They will need good counsel; CUB has a reputation as seriously aggressive litigators when it comes to defending its brands.

Thunder Road’s cuckoo approach to brands
Finally, from a brand-building perspective I question where Thunder Road is going. If it wins the right to take-over some CUB heritage brands then what? How much of TRB’s long term brand and marketing plan relies on the heritage of breweries long closed? What of Brunswick Bitter and its own brands? What of the central Thunder Road brand itself?

So will CUB retain ownership? The answer has the makings of a mini-series based in Melbourne. All good for bringing beer into the news that’s for sure. And for that – Cheers!

 

24 March
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Terry’s Ale: a renaissance for Carlton beers

Thunder Road Brewing’s revival, or renaissance, of Terry’s Ale went public this past week. And a fine launch it was at Young & Jackson pub in Melbourne.

Terry's Ale goes public at Chloe's Bar at Young & Jackson

Terry’s Ale goes public at Chloe’s Bar at Young & Jackson

The historical venue, at Chloe’s Bar, was a perfect setting for the launch, or rather relaunch, of this old recipe.

The nostalgia of the event was capped off by attendance by the authors of the history of the Carlton Brewery, Mike Bannenberg and Andrew Bailey.

Indeed it was Andrew who discovered the brewing handbook of Alfred Terry which ultimately led to the rebirth of an ale in his honour out of Thunder Road.

A blast from the past
The brewers tried valiantly to recapture the ingredients from the 1800s using rare versions of hops and sugar. You have to try it.

Andrew Bailey (centre) presents Alfred Terry's book to fellow ale fans at Y&Js.

Andrew Bailey (centre) presents Alfred Terry’s book to fellow ale fans at Y&Js.

I found it a complex brew; it was no euphemism to say it was interesting. While clearly a great feat in brewing I looked forward to a cleansing Brunswick Bitter after one or two Terry’s.

Thunder Road (and Terry's Ale) brewer Marcus Cox chats with beer writer Charles Coll at the Y&J launch.

Thunder Road (and Terry’s Ale) brewer Marcus Cox chats with beer writer Charles Coll (and shirt) at the Y&J launch.

Where next for Thunder Road?
Thunder Road is clearly cutting some profile with their renaissance efforts and public jabs at CUB’s claim to heritage beer brands. From a PR point of view this is getting good coverage. But, behind this profile, is it building the Thunder Road brand? I think that question is worth another post and maybe another Terry’s Ale.

Cheers!

17 June
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How to make Carlton Bitter

It was ballsy. I loved it. Thunder Road Brewing Company (TRB) in Melbourne’s inner suburb of Brunswick had a swipe at major brewer Carlton & United about CUB’s claim to heritage brands.

Classic David and Goliath. The media lapped it up: which I suppose was the point. See the press clip below and the original by Eli Greenlblat here at The Age.

As seen in The Age: Brunswick vs Carlton

Brunswick Bitter: building its own heritage
CUB’s heritage brands and their labels are fantastic. What brewer wouldn’t want them? While I empathise with that envy and admire the PR pluck of TRB, they face a long and expensive road trying to get them.

BB on tap at the Builders Arms

The old labels are ‘heritage’ because they were successful brands.

Brunswick Bitter can do the same. Build its own heritage. It can; it’s a great beer. Indeed, as Crafty Pint notes, the brew, “..tips its hat to Australia’s brewing heritage, this time with the ‘From 1876’ a reference, we assume, to the Brunswick Brewery that opened in that year.”

I recently tried it on tap at the Builders Arms Hotel in Fitzroy.

The Builders Arms

It has the hallmarks of being a great Aussie tap beer. It’s balanced, approachable, refreshing and drinkable (indeed ‘sessionable’) but with more character than your average mainstream front bar draught. It was served too cold however and was better after warming a few degrees. Hey .. it’s Melbourne in June!

TRB doesn’t need CUB’s old brands. Every beer tap they gain today in the highly competitive draught beer market will worry the big brewers much more than a back-room tiff with lawyers. Every single tap.

Cheers!