Lessons from the West.


Monk – In the heart of Freo

So I’ve spent the last week or so over in the West. That big old state famous for beaches, great big holes in the ground and a craft beer scene that us Melbournians thinks comes close to, but doesn’t exceed Melbourne’s. This is mainly because us Melbournians think that the world of good food and drink extends about as far west as Footscray and is made up of laneways tapas bars, coffee shops in former storage cupboards, food trucks and not much else.

Well I have returned from the Western Front with tales to tell. Beer soaked of course and over the course of the next little while (I’ve learnt that putting actual time frames on blog posts just makes me look lazy and unable to hit a deadline when I miss them) you will hear of my trips to many a brewery, from well known names like Little Creatures and Feral to those breweries people in the East have never heard of like Bush Shack and Occy’s.

But what have I learnt from my time over there? Well it’s true Western Australia does have a beer scene that would make a fight with Victoria’s beer scene pretty damn close, except of course why would beer scenes fight, beery people are friendly people. Make Beer not War and all that.

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The other ‘Little’ beer company.

There has been a bit of noise around lately of Little Creatures take over by Kirin, however you might have missed another story kicking about around another ‘little’ brewery looking for some investors.

The Little Brewing Company (TLBC) which is based in Port Macquarie is looking for investors and they have a prospectus which is available for download here. They are best known for the Wicked Elf and Mad Abbott range of beers.  

For anyone interested in the business of brewing it’s a good read. Now I’m not going to analyse it from an investment point of view, because, well if you take advice from random strangers on the internet about how to invest money you need your head read, and secondly I’m not a financial advisor, my accounting skills don’t stretch too far past Mr Jones’ year 12 accounting class. But there are a number of interesting statements in the document which are worth mentioning here.

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Six Pack to Brewing Success – Part 4 – Getting people to buy

When we last left this seemingly never ending series of posts we examined some of the better ways to get people to try your beers (I note that Moondog had a ‘showcase’ pack in stores last week, perhaps they have been reading the blog, would have thought they had better things to do, like changing the face of the Australian beer industry) but hell everyone loves free/cheap beer so how do you covert the trial into sales?

Now although this chapter is called – ‘Getting people to buy’ it could more correctly be called ‘distribution’.  As with all the other areas we have looked at there are a lot of things to consider.

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The Beer Academy

Uni students between pints of Geelong Bitter might try to convince you otherwise but beer and education aren’t generally the best of friends.  This isn’t how the Beer Academy sees it though. The Academy was started in the UK in 2003 and has recently launched in Australia, in fact I was lucky enough to get invited down to their first event in Melbourne town.

Hosted by the appropriately monikered Professor Pilsener (AKA Pete Mitcham) and held at the James Squire Brewhouse, the event was part 90 minute introduction to beer tasting session, part intro to the Beer Academy, part the biggest collection of beer bloggers and associated beery people this side of Good Beer Week.

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The Six Pack of brewing success – Part 3 – Trial

The Casual Cravat

Welcome to part three of the Six Pack of Brewing Success. Now I know I promised that it would take six weeks to get through this series and that was seven weeks ago where only now are we at the half way mark, but in my defence, I drink quite a bit and I get distracted easily so you know, live with it.

Previously we have talked about what to make and how to brand it, now it’s time to move to the all important step of getting people to try the product.

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It’s a Little World after all.

So the biggest news story in the craft beer world this week has been Lion’s takeover bid for Little World Beverages. The back story is this; Lion which is owned by Japanese based Kirin Holdings have always owned about a third of Little World Beverages (who brew Little Creatures range as well as White Rabbit) and they have made a move to buy the remaining two thirds for about $380 million and some change.  Little World Beverages (LWB) have advised their shareholders to accept the offer. 

 This of course has got people asking some questions…

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Six Pack of Brewing Success – Branding

An Effen awful idea

If I had a dollar for every time that someone told me they had a great beer on the weekend, but they can’t remember its name I’d be a rich man. Well not rich, but I have slightly more money than I have now, although I’d probably just spend that money on beer, so then I’d have the same amount I have now, but I would have more beer which would be good.

After producing good beer, branding it well has to be the most important thing a brewery can do and like most things there is quite a bit to consider. 

The brand name is a good place to start. Now first and foremost, puns and in-jokes may be funny, at most once, but then you are just labelled with a stupid name. No one wants to order an Effen beer, it’s childish and dumb.  

You should remember particularly if you are on tap that you are going to need a name people can pronounce. This is more a issue for international brewers than Aussies, but if you were Zierholz, Kooinda or Lobethal you might want to think about it, and if you think I’m being picky you’d be surprised how many people pronounce words wrong, or worst still for your brand, avoid having to say it at all. On a side note if anyone can explain how to pronounce Nogne O correctly I’ll be forever in your debt.

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How do CUB and Lion really advertise their brands?

So there has been quite bit of talk lately about how beer is sold by the ‘big guys’ in the beer scene, there is a suggestion that their constant portrayal of beer drinkers are fat slobs who fish, sit around on eskys and ignore females is hurting the overall image of beer.

This has been fuelled by two things; Canadian Club’s latest over beer ad (they must be pleased that it’s got people talking) and by Matt Kirkegaard’s articles here and here. He was even nice enough to stop by this here post to continue the conversation with me.

I have to admit I wrote that post without actually doing in research. But Matt’s responses got me thinking, what is the reality?  What have the big guys, CUB (owned by SAB Miller) and Lion (owned by Kirin) been up to of late?

CUB – I’ve had a quick look for the latest television campaigns from their biggest brands. There is a fair bit of spend here too, CUB have spent $7.2 million since the start of 2011, most of it on Carlton ($1.9 million) and VB ($1.5 million). And the short story, although there are a lot of different approaches here, there isn’t a beer drinking slob to be found anywhere, it possible CUB are more enlightened than we think?

Cascade – ‘Brewed by Feel’, okay there is a strange version of what wheat looks like, but certainly no fat guys, clearly going after the hipster Tasmanian market (is there such a thing?).

Crown – We all know this concept is a crock of shit, but it does almost have some connection with the actual brewing of beer which is nice to see even if taken literally you would assume there is only five ingredients in Crown – one of them being time which as the ad states you can’t catch or keep so how they get it in bottle is anyone’s guess.   

Carlton – Okay so there is some dodgy dancing and that arse crack shot still freaks me out, but again no boats, no sports, no eskys, and a nice friendly pub (although people do more in pubs than playing darts, watching sport and eating steaks).

Fat Yak – The ad we all love – Fat Yak’s Yaktion Promo, it’s a sport sponsorship, but with a twist.

Pure Blonde – This ad is a long long way from bogans, I mean it has a Simon and Garfunkle song in it, even if they couldn’t afford the original.  

Corona  – Although they don’t have the license anymore, they were running these international ads for Corona. Great simple concept here, shit beer but the ad almost makes me want to drink it.

VB – So we all know this is where the argument will fall apart, but even VB doesn’t actually use fat bogans in a boat anymore. This ad is complete nonsense, ice and beer the perfect combo, that’s just perpetrating the ice cold beer myth. But there is actually normal looking people and even women at this BBQ and no cricket to be seen.

Lion  – They are actually a much bigger television spender than CUB – in fact across their seven biggest brands they spent $16.4 million since the start of 2011, double and a bit CUB’s spend (gee I wonder why they are growing so much quicker?) but let’s play spot the fat bogans.

Tooheys Extra Dry – Their biggest brand, clearly aimed directly at, wait for it, deer, there is even a nice mix of male and female deer there (you know someone at the ad agency had to work that ratio out, poor kid, probably didn’t even get to share the good cocaine.)

Hahn Super Dry – They love the word dry don’t they? More nonsense, sort of like an adult version of a Cadbury ad, not sophisticated but not hugely damaging to the beer brand either.

Boags Premium – I friggen love these ads, they even suggest that water is important in making beer, although why everything is magical in Lion’s world I don’t understand. And what makes it premium? It’s in black and white.

Boags Draught – The common folk need colour and movement and a voiceover to explain it but still a great ad, although I did spot a boat in there, so we are bogan-adjacent.

XXXX Summer Bright – It’s surprisingly hard to find a copy of this ad, which I find weird given the target audience, but a great summery vibe for gen Y kids (even if the logic of sun and a clear bottled lager doesn’t really mix).

Tooheys New – I was all ready to say the Beer Economy ads were not too bad, sure they relied on the blokey concept of mateship but they were harmless enough. But then yesterday they launched this. Father in Law jokes, fat guys in saunas, boxing, and weight training. Cliched much?

XXXX – If the Tooheys News wasn’t bad enough, XXXX is where most of the problems are, this has every stereotype in it you can possibly think of, truly awful. 

So there we have it, rather than claiming that all beer ads paint us as beer swilling morons dodging salad and fishing all day with mates, we should lay the blame wholly and solely at the feet of XXXX Gold (and maybe stable mate Tooheys New).  I could suggest that XXXX Gold are targeting Queenslanders (and in fact the ad spend number shows regional Queenslanders) and that explains the 1970’s attitude to mates, chicks and beer, but that would seem a little cruel to Queenslanders. Although let’s remember this is the state that gave us Joh Bjelke Petersen, Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer so they have a fair bit to answer for.

I should also mention that the restriction on what you can show in beer ads also doesn’t help with the creation of realistic beer ads. For instance did you know you are not allowed to show people being more socially successful by drinking alcohol? But that’s a post for another day.

So where does the perception come from? I guess it’s just one of those ingrained things, taught to us by years and years of ‘Hard earned thirst’ ads. Most of the big beer brands have now moved away from that positioning, but it takes a long, long time to shift perceptions like this one.