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.

Pigs Fly Pale Ale

Prologue:  This weekend was the type of weekend that required a young man to pretend it was summer. It was sunny (but not really that hot)

Now for me summer means two things. 1. Sitting on the balcony and 2. Drinking Pale Ales.

So this is what I did. I’d made a rare trip to suburbia yesterday, and during this trip I happened to pop into a dodgy little IGA supermarket to pick up the newspapers. (my exploration of the suburbs meant I wasn’t able to do my usual Sunny thing of walking to the local newsagent, which is staffed by a sausage dog).

As is my want in these situations I had a poke around their liquor section (I only looked a little bit desperate as it was 10.30am on a Sunday morning) and came upon a couple of things that I thought interesting. One of these beers was Pigs Fly Pale Ale.

So armed with newspapers and beers when I got home I climbed the many stairs up onto the balcony, read and drank, and reviewed.

Packaging: Now if you are thinking you’ve heard of this beer before, you might have. I reviewed their Pilsener about six or so weeks ago. This one has the same label design, that crafty little pig with his wings. This one has green writing rather than green. Maybe they are hoping for a ‘Coopers Red, Coopers Green.” type effect with people ordering a ‘Pigs Green.’

Appearance:  This had a big head as I poured it, it might have been a result of the rapid cooling I’d given this beer, taking from the car and dumping it into some ice water to get it cool enough to drink. It was a dark golden colour, quite clear with some energetic bubbles.

Smell:  It smells of basically nothing, which is never a good sign.

Taste:  It is okay. Not brilliant, Just okay. There is nothing about it that really stands out, but then again there is nothing about it to put you off either.  It’s the Phil Collins of beer, completely middle of the road. There is a little bit of body, but not heaps, there is some hoppy bitterness there, but only in a resiny and slightly metallic way.

In conclusion: It’s a reasonable beer. It’s the beer you would make if you were a microbrewery that was keen on making some sales and money (hopfully to fund more interesting beers), it’s not going to offend anyone. The mainstream kids won’t find anything to hate, and the craft beer kids will drink this before mainstream swill. The problem is if I was choosing between this and some of the great pale ales out there like Kooinda or Nirvana (Soon to be known as Angry Man Pale Ale) or even Fat Yak, I wouldn’t be going the Pigs Fly, and that might be a problem for them.

Ranking:  Let’s have a Schooner

Fat Yak

Prologue:  The time has come, after much promising here  herehere, here,  and here  I’m finally going to do it, I’m going to review Fat Yak.

What has prompted me to take such action? I’ve been bought.

Last night I got caught up in some yaktion. Which is to say that I tripped along to a Mongolian BBQ place and attended the ‘launch’ of Fat Yak’s new on pack promotion. The Launch seemed to involve little more than drinking Fat Yak, watching the ads, and eating BBQed meat.

Have no idea what I’m talking about? Haven’t seen the ads? Think Matilda Bay’s media buyers need to work harder? Well let me get all web 3.2 on your arse and embed it for you:

So now that I’ve proven that editorial can be bought on this blog for to price of a few beers. some fried meat and a chance to listen to Mongolian Russell Howcroft I think we can get to the review.

Appearance:  It was a coopery, amber type colour. The glass I was concentrating on (as opposed to my usual Fat Yak drinking ritual of quaffing whilst spouting general bullshit stories, theories about footy and the general moronic-ness of people)  seemed to have these big fat bubbles making a run for the surface, I’ve never noticed these before though, so it’s might have been a trick of the glass, or my pouring or something. It has a full head on pouring, but this dissipates quickly, leaving just a trace of lacing at the edges.  

Taste:  It has a nice hoppy kick to it, without it being overpowering, there are some fruit aromas coming through as well. Very refreshing and easy to drink.  

Packaging:  It shouldn’t be too hard for you to find this on tap (at least in Victoria) so your packaging should be a pot glass, or possibly one of those clever Fat Yak branded Schooner glasses (nice tricky way of increasing volume, ask for a pot and get told ‘we only serve it in Fta Yak glasses, you get back the table a realise you’ve just bought a schooner) but say you are going camping, canoeing, or possibly yak racing. Tucking a keg under your arm is unpractical, then you will find the rustic yet stylish green yak on the standard Matilda Bay brown bottle very pleasing.

Food Suggestion: Until the good people of Matilda Bay educated me in the ways of the Mongols, I was not wise to the ancient ritual of Mongolian BBQ. It’s quite a production with strict rules for the customers, and snap frozen shaved beef. Fat Yak is a beer that goes well with the spicy flavours of the BBQ meatstuffs, its flavour is  big enough to cut through.

Fun Fact about Mongolia:  

       It’s the 19th biggest country in the world, yet has a population of only 2.9 million people, lonely.

       Ulan Bator is the capital, it has the lowest average temperature of any national capital in the world, so rug up.

       They produce quite a bit of sea buckthorn, tasty.

       Here some free financial advice for you – invest in Mongolia   – it’s about to be the Dubai of the central Asia, I assume without the gaudy architecture, British ex-pats, and the close enough to slave labour.

       Oh and you can go there and race a Yak if you win the Fat Yak competition. You should enter, but not too many times because I’m planning on winning, in fact I’m already working on my victory dance. I assure you it’s better than this guy’s;


In conclusion:  Fat Yak is a really good beer, it’s that fantastic ‘can’t go wrong’ available almost everywhere beer. Tasty, refreshing, more complex than the macro lagers out there, and a great way to introduce people to the wonderful world of Disney craft brews.

In fact I would argue that Fat Yak, along with James Squire are the most important beers in the Australian beer market today, as they are the gateway beers between the Macros and the Micros, they will be do more to grow the micro’s shares than any high hopped, 9.5%, post punk Indian pale ale ever will.

Oh and my money is on Bilakai, ‘The Justin Bieber of Mongolian Yak racing to win the Bayankhongor classic and I would select Khubilai to ride my beast of burden. I’m dubbing him the John Scholes of the Yak racing for his ability to build a successful career in both Archery and Yak Racing. (Don’t get the reference? Brush up on your late 1960’s North Melbourne footballers)     

Ranking:  I’ll have a Pint

6 Degrees of Norm (Where we link every beer back to George Wendt, Norm from Cheers):

  1. 1.    If Fat Yak had a theme song it could be Yaketty Yak (Don’t talk back)
  2. 2.    A version of which (recorded by the two live crew) was used in the movie ‘Twins’
  3. 3.    Which starred Danny Devito as Arnold Schwarnegger’s twin even though they looked nothing alike, but I guess Ivan Reitman knew what he was doing, he’s a genius.
  4. 4.    Danny is married to Rhea Pearlman
  5. 5.    Who plays Carla in Cheers
  6. 6.    Who serves beer to Norman ‘Norm’ Peterson

Matilda Bay – Big Helga

Prologue:  Big Helga, sister to Fat Yak (which I promise I will review at some point).  She came into my life in early December. I was at one of my many family Christmas functions. There were only two beer drinkers in the room, so we banded together and opened a couple bottles, sat quietly in the corner and were happy little vegemites.

It made another appearance at my immediate family’s Christmas, where everyone is a beer drinker. We sat on the balcony sipping away and throughly enjoying it. 

And then on the weekend, there it was again sitting in a keg at the Doutta Galla hotel in Flemington, a third group of people to test it. This is perhaps the most scientific of all Tipples reviews. It has a sample size of seven people. If Frewy has taught me anything about research it’s that sample size matters.  

Appearance: It has a nice pale gold colour, almost like straw with a cascade of bubbles. Not big fat commercial lager bubbles, but rather small, more delicate bubbles.  

Taste: Very smooth and easy to drink, refreshing but complex. Although this is not wheat beer I thought I could get small hints of third most popular cereal in the world.

I also felt the beer had fruity overtones, and if I had to guess a fruit I was suggest Passionfruit.  Now bitterness and the fruity flavours generally get into the beer through the hops. I did some research to see if I was right. I found out the Big Helga is made with Pacifica Hops from New Zealand. Pacifica is meant to give orange marmalade tones, so I was vaguely close.

Pacifica is also meant to give a solid yet soft finish to the beer, and I would whole heartily agree that this is the case.

Packaging:  I really like the bottle. I like any bottle with a buxom wench on it. I like the fonts, the colours. As we know from my review of Kronenbourg 1664 I love an embossed bottle so the raised Matilda Bay on the bottle really does it for me.

And because I love a story of unrequited love I like the (most likely made up) story behind the name of the beer. Here it is…..

The story of Big Helga begins with a Matilda Bay brewer who took a break, went in search of inspiration and found it in Munich at Oktoberfest, where he fell in love with a lofty blonde beer maid named Helga. . . Helga, he said, through misty eyes and with a croaky voice, could carry 12 steins of beer while his mates struggled with two. Helga was large, certainly, but she had a heart of pure Munich gold. Helga, he reminisced, should come to Australia one day and meet his parents . . .

She never came. So he made a beer in her honour instead.

Having a beer named for you, now that’s love

Food suggestion: Being German I want to say Sausages. Here is a photo of me in Germany (Berlin not Munich) with a sausage….

In Conclusion:  This isn’t the experimental brew that you impress your beer wanker friends with,It’s not the type of high hopped, high alcohol beer that is only liked by fat guys with beards and a trilby hats. No this is a beer that you can take to a BBQ, one of those great session beers, easy to find, easy to drink and guaranteed to be enjoyed by all, or at least the seven people I’ve drunk this with.

Ranking:  I’ll have a Pint thanks.      

The long bow YouTube clip:  I was bought up on a diet of pop songs, but I still claim that the best song of unrequited love, (like that between Big Helga and our brewer friend) is ‘Saturday Boy’ by Billy Bragg

Little Creatures Pale Ale

Prologue:  Ah Little Creatures. A beer I don’t think I’ve drunk for about five or six years. But this wasn’t always the case, back in the early 2000’s it was Little Creatures, Mountain Goat  and Coopers that really got me interested into ‘Beer that wasn’t made by CUB or Lion Nathan’ (Of course Little Creatures is now partially owned by Lion Nathan and thus Kirin)

I remember going on holiday in about 2002 and taking Little Creatures with me. I recall sitting on the steps of the on-site van in a Caravan park in Ocean Grove drinking this from the bottle and feeling mighty cool. I also have a photo from later that afternoon of one of my friends in a shopping trolley, so the coolness was short lived.

Over the years however Little Creatures has been dropped from the rooster of beers, it’s just not interesting enough anymore to seek out in bottles, and is not on tap widely enough to become a ‘fall back’ beer like Fat Yak (which I will review one day) or Coopers still is. I can’t say I drink Mountain Goat that often anymore either, which is a shame.

So when Frewy appeared out of the house and a recent BBQ and his place with three stubbies of Little Creatures I thought ‘Gee haven’t seen that in a while’

Appearance: The Pale Ale is perhaps not surprisingly quite pale in colour, golden almost.

Taste: I’d forgotten that this was actually quite a nice beer. It’s full flavoured with citrus overtones, meaning it is a American Style Pale Ale, which are not a bitter as an Indian Pale Ale. The citrus flavour comes from the Cascade hops, which are from America and are not connected to Cascade brewery in any way. Little creatures is also bottle conditioned (like Coopers is).

Packaging:  I really like the label, it’s classy, I like the little cupid with the beer glass. I like to think that he gets drunk and starts shooting arrows off every which way leading to inappropriate matches like Stones fans with Simon and Garfunkel fans, or Richmond supporters with someone with teeth and a job.

Food suggestion: As you can see from the photo above we were having a BBQ. I can assure that the beer went very well is the smoked ribs you can see in the foreground. That is also Frewy’s patented glass cleaning device in the background.    

Ranking:  Let’s have a Schooner    

6 Degrees of Norm:

  1.  Little Creatures is named for a Talking Heads album
  2. Their song ‘Burning Down the House’ was used in the film ‘The Banger Sisters’
  3. Which starred Susan Sarandon
  4. Who used to be married to Tim Robbins
  5. Who hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 1992
  6.  Which George Wendt hosted back in 1986, and George was of course Norm.