January 29, 2013 by 250 Beers
There has been a lot published online recently surrounding the craft vs crafty saga whereby large brewing organisations ‘dress up’ a mass produced beer and market the stuff as ‘craft beer’. Very clever. Very crafty.
A few months ago, WA based Sail & Anchor released four new beers with rather fancy titles. They had obviously taken a leaf out of the same book that the mob at James Squire used when relaunching their beers during a re-branding exercise some time back. We now have Sail & Anchor ‘Monkey’s Fist’, ‘Boa’s Bind’, ‘Cat’s Shank’ and ‘Lark’s Foot’ to contend with. Hmmmm.
It’s known by many that Woolworths own a rather large chunk of Sail & Anchor so I was immediately sceptical of a mass-produced beer from a large organisation. This, in my mind, isn’t a craft beer. It is crafty marketing.
Combine what Woolworths are up to in WA with the fact that brewing giants are trying to muscle into an ever-growing craft beer market and you’ll end up in exactly the same place where the head honchos of Coles ended up. It’s a place called ‘Iwantapieceoftheaction’. It sits just north of ‘Asliceofthatpie’ and just to the east of ‘Mustconcustomers’.
Yes, it was only a matter of time before Coles jumped head-first into the beer marketplace. They’ve done it under their guise of the Australian Beer Connoisseurs with a made-up brewery called The Steamrail Brewing Company. Ever heard of them? No, I thought not. Nobody has.
I won’t harp on about the nitty gritty of it as that has all been said elsewhere but essentially, Coles are shifting 3 mass-produced beers (‘Ghost of Eyre’ Pale Ale, ‘Lucky Amber’ Amber Ale and ‘The Gold Digger’ Golden Ale) via their liquor outlets namely First Choice, Liqourland and Vintage Cellars. Note that you won’t find any Sail & Anchor beers in these places much the same as you won’t see Steamrail beers on the shelves at Dan Murphy’s or BWS as they’re owned by Woolworths.
There is a portion of Australian beer drinkers that know what’s going on here. These people drink decent beer from decent breweries….proper craft breweries. They will avoid buying these beers thus not lining the pockets of the execs at Coles and Woolworths with their cash.
There is also a massive portion of this country’s population that drink poor, mass-produced beer that occasionally feel like something different and opt for a craft beer. I know people (friends and relatives) that will sit at home and drink XXXX or VB or Tooheys yet will go and buy something a bit nicer, a bit more ‘craft’ if they’re going out or fancy a change. What really irks me is that these people are being unknowingly sucked into the Woolworths/Coles machine.
Only 3 days ago I ducked into my local First Choice to see what was going on as I’d read about retailers putting up signs telling shoppers that they could only purchase one carton of Steamrail at a time due to high demand. What a load of rubbish! This is marketing at its craftiest!
I walked in and I reckon I hadn’t even taken three steps and I was greeted by a mountain of Steamrail beers all neatly stacked up in a nice presentation. Nobody entering the shop could have failed to miss it. To top that off, there was a gorgeous female attendant offering free tastings of the stuff! Yes, you heard me right. Tastings! I nearly brought my lunch back up. Anyway, the crafty marketing was working. During my five minute visit to the store I counted half a dozen people with Steamrail Brewing Co. bottles under their arms thinking that they were going home to try a new ‘craft beer’. Oh dear.
It’s here where you’ll be thinking that I shouldn’t write these ‘Supermarket Beers’ off. “What if they taste great?!” I hear you say. Well, it’s at this very same point where I should state that I have indeed tried all 3 Steamrail beers and they rate very poorly in my opinion.
I acquired a bottle of each knowing their background but I also drank them with an open mind perhaps hoping that they’d be OK at the very least. There really wasn’t much of anything to any of them to be honest – no depth, not much body, nothing appealing. All three of them were very wishy-washy. In terms of taste, I’d rate the amber ale as perhaps the best of a bad bunch.
If the truth be known I’ve actually had far worse beers, however, I won’t go out and buy more. For the record, I haven’t tried any of the four Sail & Anchor beers mentioned above. Maybe I will one day, maybe I won’t.
Go and try them. Make your own mind up…..but don’t be fooled!
Comments welcome as usual.