Let’s say you were looking to take on a fairly big entry-level beer label. Lets say it’s James Squire, because, well, that’s who it is.
If I’m doing that, I’m going to create a very distinct image – in terms of the name, the packaging and even the beer. I’d be trying to make beer that was a step above where James Squire is – a beer that wasn’t supremely challenging but very tasty and moreish.
But I’ve come to the conclusion that I have no idea of how the beer world works. And the John Boston beers pictured above are an example of that.
For those not in the know, the actual real people (and not the beer labels that appropriated their names) John Boston and Squire both have some claim to the title of Australia’s first brewer. The historical records are a bit sketchy, because people were too busy trying to carve a colony out of the bush to worry about who made beer first.
The Wine Society had a crack with the John Boston name, but really didn’t make any inroads. A year ago, it seems they sold the name to Pinnacle Drinks, which has relaunched the brand with new beers, new packaging and everything else.
That’s the sort of thing you can do when you’re owned by Woolworths (though you won’t find that info on the label). So you can prepare to see great big John Boston displays at Dan Murphys, BWS and whatever other bottle shops Woolworths own.
Firstly, I found it odd that Woolies would buy the John Boston brand. For two reasons; firstly, it hadn’t really set the world on fire last time and, secondly, using a colonial brewer as your figurehead is just likely to cause people to confuse your brand with James Squire.
Unless, of course, that’s exactly what you’re aiming to do.
Take a look at the labels in the photo. Don’t they have a passing resemblance to Squire labels? To me, that beige-pale yellow backing colour looks quite similar to the one Squire uses, as does the use of different colours. And the tag ‘‘Australia’s first brewer’’ – surely that’s going to cause people to think ‘‘James Squire’’.
As for the beers themselves – the Guard House golden ale and The Point pale ale are both pretty tame. Nothing much wrong with them technically, but for someone who likes a bit of flavour, they’re quite lacking. Quite similar to the equivalent James Squire beers (though I will say I’d pick JS’ One-Fifty Lashes over The Point any day of the week).
Looking at the beers and tasting them makes me think the whole idea is to resemble James Squire. That way James Squire drinkers may go into a bottle shop and pick up a six-pack of John Boston by mistake because they look the same. Maybe they’re looking to encroach onto an existing market and demand, rather than creating their own.
Seems a weird way of going about things to me. But, like I said, I’m clearly no genius in this area.
Categories: beer business