beer business

Do you know where your beer came from?

You might have heard about the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission saying ‘‘naughty, naughty’’ to CUB over the misleading nature of their Byron Bay Pale Lager.

That’s a beer whose bottle, for all intents and purposes, looks as though it was brewed in Byron Bay. But no, it was actually brewed at CUB’s Warnervale brewery, 630km away from Byron Bay.
The ACCC fined CUB $20,400 and you can read more about it here.

Chairman of the ACCC Rod Sims said what CUB did was misleading.

‘‘Many small brewers cater to consumers who prefer to support small, niche businesses. When large companies portray themselves as small businesses, it undermines the unique selling point that such small businesses depend upon, and it misleads consumers,’’ ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

‘‘The ACCC will be writing to other participants putting them on notice of this matter in order to ensure that marketing and labelling in the beer market appropriately reflects where and by whom beer is brewed.’’

I’ve written about the Byron Bay issue before. I decided that, while I judged beers by the taste and couldn’t give a damn where it is made, that CUB would try to hide their involvement would suggest that – to them – where a beer is made actually is an issue.

Craft beer geeks – especially those who loathe the megabrewers – are happy with the news. Perhaps even rejoicing. But the ACCC actions does raise an interesting situation – just who are the ‘‘other participants’’ the ACCC plans to put on notice?

Are they just talking about other big brewers masquerading as indie brewers? Or are they talking about craft brewers too?

In the craft beer world there are a number of beers that are contracted out, sometimes they’re not even brewed in the same city as the brewing company’s HQ. So, to be totally fair, you can’t insist big brewers have to declare where a beer is made, while letting craft brewers off the hook.

Really, if point of origin is important, then surely it must be important for ALL breweries, not just the ones some perceive as ‘‘the enemy’’.

Let me say that I have absolutely no problem at all with contract brewing. In fact it makes sense to me – you start out wanting to make beer, you test the market by brewing elsewhere before making all that capital investment yourself.

But if big brewers need to declare where a beer is made too, then small brewers have to do the same.
Anything less would simply be inconsistent.

6 replies »

  1. Completely agree that there are plenty of great contact brewed beers out there. It’s only if you claim to be from one place but are brewed somewhere else that the ACCC would have an issue. McLaren Vale are the most obvious example, their draft beer is brewed in the Vale but bottles are not.

  2. I think there’s a distinction to be made between licencing a brand – which is what CUB have done – and contract brewing.

    I’m obviously not privy to the wheelings and dealings but presumably CUB have paid Byron Bay Brewery a token fee to use their name, label and maybe recipe. CUB then brew and distribute the beer, with them taking home the lion’s share of the dollars.

    This differs from the contract brewing model where the brewery is paid a fee to make the beer and the brand (usually) takes care of the rest.

    While I would like to see contract brewed beers labelled as such (a la Four Hearts), I don’t think this decision means what everyone thinks it does.

    • The ACCC chairman specifically said labels need to show who brewed it and where it was brewed. I take that to mean all beer not just those under licence.
      But I was also getting at the idea that some beer people are happy CUB got a rap over the knuckles while not realising there are craft beers that also obscure where they’re actually made.

      • True on both counts, although I guess it depends on whether the chairman includes all breweries or just the big ones that may portray themselves as small ones as “other participants” that will be the target of future potential enforcement.

        Hard to think of any labels as misleading (yet true) as “Brewed in NSW by the Byron Bay Brewing Company and its Licensees” though.

  3. Looking at the ACCC findings that you linked to, you can also see that the description on the back of the bottle SAYS it’s brewed in Byron Bay, which is really just lying if it’s not…
    I’ve found most brewers are pretty forthcoming with where/how their beer is made, but it’s important that they’re telling the truth. Part of the fun of the craft is the story behind it (I think at least), and I would feel ripped off if the story wasn’t true – and this applies to the big and the little guys.

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