CUB Beer executive #1: Hey, you know all those old breweries we bought ages ago?
CUB beer executive #2: Yep.
Exec #1: Well, we probably need to bring one of them back. You know, so we can show they’re active brands to protect our trademarks and so it looks like we actually give some sort of shit about them.
Exec #2: (checks watch) yes, it looks like it is that time. Did you have any in mind?
Exec #1: Nope, but here’s a hat with all the brands we owe. You get to pick which one we make.
Exec #2: Cool (reaches into hat and rummages around before putting out a piece of paper) “McCracken’s Amber Ale”. Never heard of it.You?
Exec #1: Nope. But it doesn’t matter, we’re not actually going to make that beer.
Exec #2: Huh?
Exec #1: What we’re going to do is make an all-new beer but just put the name of the old beer on it. We did it last year when we made Tooth’s Pale Ale. (laughs) We didn’t even have the recipe for that one. And we used hops that weren’t even invented when the old beer was around.
Exec #2: So it didn’t taste anything like the real thing?
Exec #1: Dunno. Who the hell cares anyway? It’s not about being historically accurate. No one actually wants to drink those old beers. So we make a completely new beer and slap an old label on it and let the stupid punter think they’re drinking history.
Exec #2: Okay, just so I’m clear on this – we take the name of an old beer and relaunch it. But we don’t actually make that old beer, we make a new beer. One that doesn’t even resemble the old beer. Have I got that right?
Exec #1: Yep, cool aye?
I’ve been meaning to write about CUB and their limited release schedule of heritage beers for a while now. And then Luke at Ale of a Time went and did it first. So I thought it was time to pull my finger out.
For a few years I’ve felt it would have been a great marketing idea to resurrect six old beers and flog them off in a mixed six-pack – maybe do it for Father’s Day. I’d buy a few for sure.
As long as they use the original recipes. Because I actually want to see what those old beers tasted like. What did Australians knock back in, say, the late 1800s? I actually want to know.
I’m aware of the Bronzed Brews book that provides homebrew recipes of a lot of these old beers – I even bought myself a copy. But I don’t do much in the way of homebrewing anymore. And I don’t trust my abilities enough to ensure that I got the beer right – if it tasted strange I wouldn’t know whether it was supposed to be like that or if I’d screwed up.
Which brings me to my fundamental problem with CUB’s relaunching of its heritage labels – they’re not the same fucking beers. Take the Tooth’s Pale Ale. According to this Brews News story, they didn’t have a recipe but had heard beers around that time were big and chewy.
So what did they make? “A light and refreshing style of Pale Ale offering a little more complexity and depth than a lager”. In other words – not a fucking Tooth’s Pale Ale at all. It’s some other beer altogether (complete with Galaxy and Centennial hops – neither of which existed in Tooth’s day) that’s being flogged under the Tooth’s name to try and hook into drinkers’ sense of nostalgia.
“It’s not exactly the same because we don’t have the brew card,” CUB’s Robert Ovadia told Brews News, “but we think it’s a beer that’s worthy of carrying the Tooth’s Pale Ale name, and interesting in its own right.”
Nope. You know what beer is worthy of carrying the Tooth’s Pale Ale name? The actual beer known as Tooth’s Pale Ale.
They’ve done it again with the McCracken’s Amber Ale, according to this piece from The Shout.
“So we’ve created a new beer, but it’s old in the style of an English ale and it’s a dark copper colour,” said CUB’s Matthew O’Keefe. But it’s not a highly bitter beer, it’s good beer, but not one that we’ve based on an original recipe.”
Then why the fuck don’t you give it a different name? Look, it’s fundamentally misleading to give these new beers an old name, because it’s going to con the average drinker into thinking they’ve got the genuine article in their schooner glass. They’re not going to research the issue; they’re just going to see the tap decal and take it all at face value.
I’m not against these new beers in and of themselves. CUB could have badged these new beers under the old brewery name – Tooth’s Summer Ale, for instance – and I’d have been fine with that. It’s the historical dishonesty that’s going on here – as someone who values Australian beer history, this really pisses me off. They’re passing off a substitute as the real thing.