Beerlines

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

13 July
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Crown chases lost gold

So Crown Lager – or rather CUB’s Crown brand – has launched another line extension. This time as Crown Golden Ale.

The launch was well covered by the Herald Sun plus a solid review by Matt K at Australian Brews News (he has some unresolved issues with the Crown brand).

After the hefty consumer backlash to Crown Lager’s new taste (aka reformulation) as well as the failure of Crown Pilsner and Crown Gold, you’d think CUB would be treating Crown with more respect. Being gentle – softly softly – with such a key brand.

golden-ale-bottle-only

Crown Golden Ale in its black and gold livery

But no..

So .. this latest brand refurbishment for Crown prompts me to ask:

  • Is Crown Golden Ale filling an identified demand/niche or just line extending as CUB tends to do reactively when a brand is under serious pressure e.g. VB Original Ale?

Trend watching: OTL (other than lager)
Answer? Maybe it’s the strength of CUB rival James Squire’s Golden Ale.

Or could it be that CUB has spotted the trend in the UK where ‘golden ales’ are chalking up surprising growth in recent years?

The Guardian quotes Tesco ale buyer Chiara Nesbitt who notes: “Over the last five years ale has made a resounding revival as a flavoursome beer that is now appealing to a younger generation of beer drinkers. Golden ale with its light and refreshing taste is playing a major role in this revival as it is the beer lager drinkers first generally try if they want to switch to ale.” (my emphasis)

In support of this view, CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale in the United Kingdom) defines golden ales as a “.. new style of pale, well-hopped and quenching beer developed in the 1980s as independent brewers attempted to win younger drinkers from heavily-promoted lager brands.” (my emphasis)

Sneaking its way into craft?
Many beer experts will claim golden ale as being a style which has its origins in, and is now ‘owned’ by, the craft beer segment. I tend to agree.

So is this just CUB nudging the style boundaries and giving a hat-tip to a popular craft beer?

I think so, but does it matter? Read more…

30 March
Comments Off on Craft beer winning the ‘eye level’ war in retail

Craft beer winning the ‘eye level’ war in retail

For decades major brewers have competed and paid heftily to secure choice, high-profile positions in major retailers’ bottle shops and liquor barns.

The visual customer-facing beer war at POS
Every customer-facing cubic centimetre was precious turf. It was (and remains) a very competitive visual war for beer brand presence in major retailers.

And the big brewers were all over it! They owned it – they thought. Indeed, they devised their own science to prove it: ‘space planning’ and ‘planograms’ and whatever.

The most highly sought after POS placements in retailers’ fridges are, of course, at eye level. The grab-and-go slot.

So for years, what have we seen at eye-level? Usually six packs of VB or Tooheys Extra Dry or XXXX Gold; the result of big brewers with big brands paying the big retailers big bucks.

Craft now dominates at eye level
But a trip to Woolworths’ owned BWS shows how times have changed. Craft beers are front and centre.

This pic from BWS South Melbourne was central to the fridge fronts. There was no VB or Carlton Draught in this frontage at all. Those brands were back in the cold room.

bws2

Clearly BWS is on top of consumer interest at retail. And the consumer increasingly wants something new to try: an interesting brand or style to drink and brag about.

Okay, quite a few of the craft brands in this BWS are Woolies’ own private labels (often called faux craft) and clearly the retailers are making better margins, but the takeout is clear: craft has won this particular POS battle.

Big brewer versus big retailer – control of the POS
For years the big brewers believed this key point of sale in retail was theirs.

That sense of entitlement, I suspect, has rankled the big retailers for some time.

These facings must seriously be pissing big brewers off no end. Especially, as you can bet many of these small craft brewers are paying nowhere near as much for the privilege.

Interesting times at POS. And for that .. Cheers!

08 March
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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. Read more…

19 August
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Thirty breweries

Thirty is a theme. Two articles in as many weeks noted cities with thirty breweries. Both stories I see as healthy signposts for Aussie craft beer.
LONDON
Olympics city is having a craft beer and brewing renaissance according to The Telegraph which notes: “London … now has nearly 30 breweries, most having blossomed in the past three years or so. Capital beer-lovers are now spoilt for choice as fragrant pale ales, robust bitters, creamy porters, slinky lagers and powerfully hopped IPAs spill over into their glasses. Yes, the former brewing capital of the world is definitely making a comeback.’ 

The Tele journalist (Adrian Tierney-Jones) notes three of the best London beers, all of which sound great:–
1 Camden Town Pale Ale, 4.5%: Bright amber in colour, this juicy pale ale has a fragrant nose of ripe peach skin with orange pith in the background.
2 Beavertown Smoke Rocket, 5.4%: The colour of midnight, this is inspired by the London porters of the past. [see my earlier post on porters]
3 Brodie’s Hackney Red IPA, 6.1%: American hops give this amber-coloured beauty slinky ripe pink grapefruit notes.
PORTLAND
Second: Portland Oregon is now called the ‘craft brewing capital of the world’ with 32 breweries according to this article in the July edition of Virgin Australia Voyeur.
The inflight mag notes Portland’s brewery numbers now eclipse Leuven in Belgium and even Munich.

Portland. Now that’s one city I gotta visit!

And – as if I needed another reason – Portland’s population is about 584,000 while London’s is estimated to be anywhere from nine to twelve million: so Portland is certainly well ahead on a brewery per head of population basis.

Just one of thirty-two good reasons to visit Portland.

How many does Melbourne have now? Cheers!

17 August
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Five PR tips in building craft beer brands

In the last beerlines post I interviewed PR Warrior Trevor Young as a vodcast. We discussed the current state of marketing communications for craft beer brands.

Here are five key pints points
that emerged from that interview:–

ONE: CONSISTENCY ONLINE & OFFLINE

  • an essential cornerstone of building a brand over time is consistency
  • the more you tweak and vary messages and positioning the less consistency develops
  • without consistency your brand finds it difficult to get any critical mass out there in consumer land
  • get the story right at the start so you don’t have to tweak – either online or offline
  • know your story and key messages cold!
  • retell that central songsheet consistently with consistency

TWO: PUT A HUMAN FACE TO YOUR BRAND

  • it’s what craft brewers can do that the big guys can’t Read more…
04 July
2Comments

Crafty invasion by US brews

It looks like small American craft brewers have achieved what big US beer brands, like Bud and Miller, have consistently failed to do: secure a viable foothold in Australia. Why?

  1. Craft beers – both local and imported – offer new and different beer styles to a beer market increasingly looking for alternatives.
  2. These alternatives reflect the expanding ‘preference portfolio’ of Aussie beer consumers. Not all: but clearly an increasing number including many opinion leaders. They are cool with choosing a different beer at different times and occasions.

Part of the US line-up at Dan Murphy’s

Tasty more than crafty?
At the end of the day perhaps these US brews are being supported locally because they offer alternative tastes to a market thirsty for them. More to do with taste than being designated ‘craft’ perhaps?  And let’s not forget they are: —

  • NOT LAGER: many are not lagers. Australia has a solid line-up of domestic lagers and a burgeoning choice of European imports. We’re awash in lager!
  • YOU CAN TASTE THEM: historically mainstream US lagers have been of a lighter style and taste. Not in ABV, as urban myth promulgates: but certainly in taste. A product of post-Prohibition use of rice and corn in place of scarce malt.

Whatever the reason: Australian beer drinkers did not take to America’s big beer brand imports. But lately they seem quite partial to their craft brews.

Makes for an interesting dynamic in the Australian beer market. Bring it on!

Cheers!

03 June
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Revolution in lager land

Good Beer Week has just finished here in Melbourne. Congratulations to all who brought this amazing event about.

Melbourne’s Good Beer Week 2012

Just a few years ago there would not have been the groundswell of interest I believe to make GBW the success it’s been.

The beer market is changing. A revolution is underway in lager land. And about time too.

I know I’m late to the revolutionary barricades (and only carry a pen!) but in a land dominated for so long by monolithic samey lager brands it’s fantastic to see the diversity of craft beers becoming available across Australia.

It’s a hard slog trying to make a few bucks from brewing in lager land. It’s soooo hard trying to get distribution for a start.

I wish all Aussie craft brewers well and will do my small part to champion the cause.

Slowbeer: emblem of the revolution
My small part today was to stop in at Slowbeer in Richmond Melbourne and buy a few different porters. My fave style for winter.  I’ll pen some thoughts on them soon.

If you’re a book lover you’ll know of a bookshop where you know if you go in, just for five minutes, you’ll come out having bought a few. Without doubt.

Slowbeer is the equivalent bottleshop for craft beer lovers.

Craft beers can be hard to track down. Irony aside: maybe Slowbeer can speed that up for you.

Cheers!