Beer critic

Steamrail, Byron Bay and taking ownership

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A few days ago I wrote a piece relating to the brouhaha surrounding the Steamrail beers made for (by?) Coles.

Coles’ name is rather conspicuously absent from the labels. That doesn’t bother me as I feel the test of a beer – regardless of its provenance – is how it tastes. But it would bother others, because they’d prefer to give their money to small breweries or because the way they’re being marketed has left a bad taste in their mouth.

All of which is fair enough. To each his own and all that.Where we seemed to agree was on the need for transparency, the need for Coles to identify their connection to Steamrail on the labels (at least). For the others, it’s about allowing the customers to make an informed decision. For me, it’s because I figure it wouldn’t make much difference to the sales. I tend to think that, had Coles put their name on the back label of Steamrail, most people would still buy it. Or at the very least, wouldn’t use that as their sole reason not to.

But I’m starting to think that I may be wrong about that. And the reason is another brouhaha with Byron Bay Brewing’s Pale Lager and CUB, which was highlighted by Brews News here. In a nutshell, the Byron lager is being made under licence by CUB, but the acronym ‘‘CUB’’ appears nowhere on the bottle, the packaging or the accompanying press release I got.

Again, my first thought was that if CUB put their name on the label it wouldn’t make a difference in terms of the beer marketplace. People who bought the beer would go ‘‘it’s made by CUB? Who the hell cares? I like the taste’’. See I tend to think us in the world of good beer can get a bit of a warped perspective – if something’s important to us and heavily debated within our world we can make the mistake of thinking our views are reflective of the broader community.

But then I got to thinking that here are two big businesses with more knowledge of the way the  marketplace works than some dickhead blog writer (ie myself). If they’ve both decided it was a good idea to keep their names off the label, then they must believe it would negatively affect sales. It’s the only reason I can think of for Coles and CUB making such an effort to distance themselves from their respective beers.

The absence of CUB’s name on the label wouldn’t alter my decision on whether to buy the beer  (the fact that it’s a standard lager has already done that. Please, I wish we could have less lagers in this country). But it is interesting to note that these big businesses seem to think it would make a difference to a substantial segment of the market.

4 replies »

  1. I know of plenty of people who will actively seek out the imported versions in preference over the locally brewed under license. I did a side-by-side taste test (not a totally fair test as it wasn’t a blind tasting and I was already biased towards the imported version… but I still consider the test results valid due to the results), and found that I actually preferred the brewed under license version because it tasted fresher. I want to know what I’m buying. I want to have control over the produce that I put through my body. I want full transparency so that I may make informed decisions.

  2. I’m not into the Coles beers because I feel like they are lying to me a little bit, at the least keeping a secret to try and make more cash. As for the CUB Byron Bay thing, I really get the feel they are just trying to slip in on the coat tails of Stone & Woods sucess with “another beer from Byron Bay”.

    Its funny but I dont really feel anything about the Byron Bay Brewery, kind of good on them for making some $ and doing well, but if anything this deal is going to send bad PR their way.

    CUB simply needs to man up, put a “made under licence by CUB” sticker on the beer and let it stand on its own two feet. Until then they should go to the big room of mirrors and have a good hard look at themselves.

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