Beerlines

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

09 February
1Comment

Does beer provenance make a difference?

The title of this follow-up to ‘Australian owned: does it make a difference?’ was going to be ‘Australian made: does it make a difference?’

But I’m diverted by growing rumblings of a more fundamental issue: and that’s provenance.

Often used in connection with wines, the provenance of a beer, I understand, relates similarly to transparency over where and how a beer is brewed and, sometimes, who brews it.

I hear of a growing number of beer outlets where the owner/manager is choosing to serve only beers with very clear provenance.

Priggish about provenance
Indeed, some are taking a strict, verging on priggish, line on provenance.Soup-Nazi

This will surely upset some brewers both big and small.

For big brewers like CUB/SAB-Miller and LION, provenance concerns may rule out serving a beer brand which was not brewed at its home brewery: preferring brewery of origin as it were.

This may apply to a few global brands sold in Australia: Stella Artois, Heineken, Becks brewed in Australia or Asahi brewed in Thailand are candidates.

Concerning the big guys also, this thinking may extend to brands like Matilda Bay’s (i.e. CUB) Fat Yak ‘craft’ brand which, I understand, outgrew Matilda Bay’s new Port Melbourne home and is brewed at scale at CUB’s large Yatala Brewery in SE Queensland.

For smaller brewers this strict interpretation of provenance might rule out those who own a brand but choose to contract brew or cuckoo brew elsewhere via commercial arrangement. The craft brewer Doctor’s Orders admits it is a cuckoo brewer for example.

Breweries are the equivalent to terroir in wine making
“What I offer is breweries and all that goes with that. It’s like terroir with wine. I’m much less interested in the wine maker or the brewer in this case,” said one hotelier who was particular about this.

Faux craft fail whales
I don’t think there are any surprises that provenance concerns were quick to exclude contracted ‘craft’ brews by big retailers like Coles and Woolworths.

Often with cartoon-like branding, the thin credentials/provenance of many of these brews clearly deserve disparagement as ‘faux craft’ beers.

new dan murphys_1480

Does provenance make a difference?
For me: yes.

My time in brewing exposed me to many prolonged frustrations experienced by brew teams trying to match beer brand tastes from one continent to another.

Have you ever tried Foster’s in England? Ok – probably not. QED.

Or even within Australia; Castlemaine Perkins’ brewers for example could never brew Swan Premium at Milton – it always tasted like XXXX (funny that). And VB or Carlton Draught in Queensland are decidely different to their Victorian-brewed equivalents: to my taste anyway.

And let’s face it: why is there such a strong parallel import market for the original Stella and Becks and other global brands?

It’s because those who loved the original taste aren’t getting it. And ‘yes’ of course, there is the issue of knowing that it’s not the ridgy-didge original anyway.

Brewers always say drink fresh local beer. I fully endorse that.

However I’m also fine drinking a Heineken or Guinness if it comes from the brewery of origin – aged though it may be.

Transparency rules: inform inform inform
There will always be purists and ‘beer nazis’ who will never rest. From a marketing communications perspective however, what the consumer wants most is transparency.

Don’t try to be tricky with me. Don’t make the print small. Don’t hide stuff I might be interested in.

Be open; make a clear effort to over-inform.

Little Creatures Geelong
Provenance, as I said, relates to transparency. I’ve appreciated the openness and transparency which Little Creatures has displayed in opening a like-named brewery in Geelong. The label is up-front about its Geelong origins.

But it begs the question.

I wonder what those who are very particular about provenance think of Little Creatures having multiple breweries. Is it any different to Stella being brewed under licence here?

Cheers!

25 November
2Comments

Sizeism and craft beer

Sizeism is discrimination based on size.

When it comes to craft beer it usually translates to ‘big is bad’ antipathy.

The sizeism word jumped out to me in an article about coffee in the February edition of Time Out Melbourne. It was about big versus small coffee companies and ended with:

“So maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to get on our high horses because a brand isn’t new and tiny. Remember friends: sizeism is wrong.”

Having worked for big brewing I know that ‘big’ provides an easy target. But, as the guy from Genovese coffee noted, you usually get bigger if you get better.

And so it is with craft beer.

Big is often positioned as bad. Much of that angst is just sizeism. An earlier post highlighted the beneficial halo effect of big retail and big brewing’s venture into the craft segment.

Big smoke & mirrors: faux craft
Where ‘big’ does itself no favours is when it pretends to be artisan and small.

On this point, regular commentator Crafty Pint highlights what the editor calls ‘faux craft’ beers. Crafty’s recent enewsletter pointed to faux craft call-out examples by Phil Cook’s Beer diary in NZ and an article by Denis Wilson ‘Big Beer dresses up in craft brewers’ clothing‘ in the US.

I’m not sure whether it’s the size or the subterfuge, or the combination of both, which clearly gets up the nose of these commentators. Which ever: their bullsh*t radars are pinging loudly.

Transparency rules
In an increasingly networked market where Googled social media will quickly uncover a brand’s provenance, pretentious smoke and mirrors – faux craft – is stupid.

Consumers respond positively to honesty and transparency and negatively to deception and obscuration. No surprises there. So .. if a brand is owned by big brewing then deliberately trying to hide that fact is not only stupid it also smells – and consumers have good noses.

Cheers!