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Byron Bay Brewing Co gets a little ‘craft-washing’ from CUB

January 25, 2013
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Please read the following media release very closely, there will be a test…

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Media Release

Byron Bay Brewing Company Pale Lager paddles into bottles and packs

The guys at Byron Bay Brewing Co led by head brewer Stuart Ritchie, have taken a bit of time off from surfing The Pass at Byron Bay to celebrate the release of their medal-winning Pale Lager in bottles, six-packs and cartons.

Byron Bay logoPreviously only available on tap at the Brewery this exciting release into pack from the Byron Bay Brewing Co comes as a result of the love they have already felt up and down the east coast for their refreshing, clean, and crisp Pale Lager.

The folk at Byron Bay Brewing Company say the brew matches their lifestyle – easy-going and perfect after a session in the surf. The Pale Lager uses the Motueka Hop which delivers a refreshing beer with low bitterness and a balanced citrus aftertaste.

Following our sponsorship of the Byron Bay Surfing Festival and in the middle of a hot summer, we thought it was the perfect time to release the Pale Lager into pack. We love brewing beers that speak to our lifestyle up here and to share that Byron Bay magic with the rest of Australia,” says Barry Schadel, owner of the Byron Bay Brewery.

Byron Bay Pale LagerByron Bay Pale Lager will be available to purchase in Liquorland, First Choice and Vintage Cellars as well as selected restaurants and cafes around the country.

The Byron Bay Brewing Co. has won an array of awards during the last few years including a swag of gold, silver and bronze medals at the Australian International Beer Awards in 2012. Most recently, Gold was awarded to the Byron Bay Blonde, silver to the Billy Goat Dark Lager and Broken Head Bitter, and bronze to the Byron Bay Pale Lager.

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Ok, did you read it closely? Let’s test your written comprehension.

  1. Can you name for me the brewery where this beer is made?
  2. Can you tell me the name of the brewer making this beer?
  3. Who markets this beer?
  4. Bonus question. Who paid for the media release announcing the move to bottles?

Pens down, time’s up.

Scroll down for the answers:

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Ok, here we go. Did you answer:

  1. SABMiller’s new $125 million state-of-the-art brewery at Warnervale.
  2. Whoever CUB’s shift brewer is.
  3. Carlton and United Breweries
  4. Carlton and United Breweries

So, how did you go? Who got them all right?

No one?

Well I suggest you go back and read it again. It’s all written right there in their media release.

It’s not? Surely it is. I mean the company that put video of the Queen visiting the Carlsberg Brewery on their website because they thought she had once visited their brewery and who swore to us that VB “tastes exactly the same” because they had only made a “a microscopic change in alcohol content” to it would never try to trick us now, would they?

Hmmmm.

The above media release landed in my inbox, just as I was about to take an early mark for the Australia Day weekend. I thought it a little interesting, especially as I was sure Byron Bay Brewery didn’t have a bottling line. “I might check this out,” I thought. So I fired off a reply to the lovely young lady at the same PR agency that had only recently been so hopeful in getting answers to my questions about where Coles’ Steam Rail Brewing beers are made.

Hi [lovely young lady] -

Happy New Year. Thanks for this.

Can you advise where the bottled beer is being made?

Cheers,
Matt

A short while later came the reply…

Happy New Year to you too Matt!

The bottled beer is being brewed at the state-of-the-art brewery in Warnervale.

Cheers,

[lovely young lady]

Man, that’s strange thought I. The only state of the art brewery that I know of in Warnervale is the one SABMiller built in partnership with CCA. Surely things aren’t so bad at CUB these days that they have had to turn their hands to contract brewing to try to make ends meet. I mean, I know that contract brewing has seen Gage Roads turn things around, but surely CUB don’t have the arse out of their brewing overalls quite yet. If they weren’t, surely the fact that CUB are brewing and marketing this product is relevant to a release from their own PR agency?

So I replied,

The state-of-the brewery at Warnervale owned by SABMiller I presume?

Can you please advise who within CUB I can speak with to find out more about their relationship with Byron Bay? I presume they are licencing it?

To which I received the reply:

Hi again,

In order to allow for increased distribution of the Byron Bay Pale Lager, CUB will be brewing it in the bottle under license at the Warnervale Brewery.

Are you happy for me to organise a catch up with a CUB representative for Wednesday next week?

Cheers,

To save this becoming too tedious, I’ll skip the next few about my deadlines and the nature of the questions that I wanted to ask. Eventually, I received the reply:

Hi Matt,

I’ve tried my best to find someone for you, but I haven’t been able to.

[Media Relations Manager] is spokesperson for Byron Bay and unfortunately she is on annual leave until Tuesday.

The earliest I can tee up a conversation is Wednesday morning.

Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.

Cheers and I hope you enjoy the long weekend.

Becoming a little frustrated now, especially as Lovely Young Lady’s email includes the signature line “Call us if you need more info, pics, beer or someone to chat to about the sunny Byron Bay weather… We’re here, all the time, waiting for you to call, drinking a little beer” and yet she seems to want to part with information about as much as the NRA wants to hand over firearms, I reply…

Man I have such bad timing. Those Fosters people are hard to find whenever there’s something that they don’t want to talk about. They always seem to be around when VB has a two per cent sales increase.

[Media Relations Manager] is CUB’s media and comms, Can you advise who the brand manager is?

To which I received the reply:

There is no brand manager on Byron Bay. CUB is merely brewing this beer under license.

If you would like more information regarding Byron Bay, feel free to contact the brewery directly.

I DON’T WANT TO KNOW MORE INFORMATION REGARDING BYRON BAY,” I scream at my computer. “I WANT TO KNOW WHY CUB IS BREWING A TINY LITTLE BEER BRAND WHEN THEY ALREADY HAVE PLENTY OF THEIR OWN THAT THEY DON’T SEEM TO BE DOING VERY WELL WITH.”

With that out of my system, but still a little annoyed, I reply:

That’s odd, they always seem to have a brand manager for their international brewed-under-licence brand and I am sure that [Media Relations Manager] isn’t overseeing strategy in beer these days. Given [Media Relations Manager] is on holidays and has been for more than a week and you would have needed approval from someone within CUB before sending out the media release, can you please advise who you have been dealing with at CUB.

Also, given it seems CUB weren’t switched on enough to make sure that there was someone on hand to answer media questions about a story on the afternoon they sent out a media release about it, I will be using a few quotes from these emails in my story. I won’t be quoting you by name.

I am yet to receive a reply, though I did receive a phone-call from Lovely Young Lady’s every-bit-as-lovely-but-no-more-forthcoming Account Manager who assured me that [Media Relations Manager] is her contact and there’s not a brand manager for me to speak to.

I suspect I know why CUB is struggling if Media Managers are running the beer side of things as well, but that’s just me.

So, there you have it. Australia’s second largest brewer has signed a contract to brew a beer-under-licence, but are such modest types they don’t think it’s relevant to share the limelight with a tiny little brewery in Byron Bay who gets all the credit. It’s just brewed under licence, it’s not relevant by who or who is marketing and distributing it and paying for the public relations around it. They’d never think it relevant to provide that information.

Or not…

Let me see, CUB haven’t signed to do any new business for a while so I had to go back into the archives to find a media release involving a brewing under licence deal. Here’s one: A new global campaign – Now that calls for a Carlsberg! What’s that written at the end?

Carlsberg is brewed under license in Australia by Carlton & United Breweries.

What’s more, it’s even been sent by the very same PR agency that I have spent the day emailing. They sure seem happy to announce CUB’s involvement when it suits them.

What do you think readers? Are things so tough at CUB that they have to take in laundry, or at least contract brewing, to make ends meet and are just too embarrassed to tell the neighbours?

Or are they clumsily indulging in a little bit of craft-washing, sneakily trying to capitalise on the consumer’s growing interest in small independent breweries?

I just hope for Byron Bay Brewery”s sake that SABMiller is more financially secure than the last mob that they jumped into bed with. That agreement to assign the global rights to all sales, marketing, manufacturing and distribution didn’t work out too well. One thing’s for sure, owner Barry Schadel was much more open about the licencing agreement last time he signed one.

Update

Byron Pale Pale LagerWith a niggling voice in my head that maybe the media release didn’t tell the full story, I popped in to my local Liquorland. There, right next to the Steamrail Brewing Company’s beer I saw a six pack of Byron Bay Pale Lager. Anxiously checking the label, my media release umbrage was well founded. Bearing in mind Byron Bay Brewing Co doesn’t bottle, this has been produced under licence by CUB and, presumably, they have been responsible for the packaging, this is what it says.

Byron Bay Pale Lager

The Byron Bay Brewing Co is located on Skinners Shoot Road in Byron Bay. We’re housed in a historic location, a birthplace of much of the fame and spirit of Byron Bay which has attracted local and international musicians, artists and alternative thinkers since the 70s. Next time you’re in town, drop in and have a beer.

Byron Bay Brewing Co. 1 Skinners Shoot Road, Byron Bay NSW 2481.

Brewed in NSW by the Byron Bay Brewing Company and its Licencees.

Do you like that? It says that even though no bottle, ever, will be produced at 1 Skinners Shoot Road bearing that label. They even add a nice little map so you’ll be able to find your way there. And how cute is it that it mentions ‘licencees’, as if CUB are just one of a number of kindly old gents just help out a little local brewery by taking on their overflow and helping them out a bit with their marketing.

They’re like that at CUB.

Update 2

By the way, nothing in this little rant should take away from the beers that Byron Bay’s head brewer Stuart Ritchie is making in Byron Bay. Stuart is a great bloke and top brewer. He’s even penned a great story for Brews News about his family’s history in the Tasmanian hop industry. If you’re in Byron Bay the brewery is a good place to have a beer and a feed.

Also, as is the case with all good rants, the subtleties of he situation can get lost. It’s not a rant about big beer, it’s not a rant about beers being contract brewed. It’s a rant about corporate honesty and the lengths to which the SABMiller-owned CUB seem to want to go to to hide who brews and markets this beer.

Protect, Promote & Grow

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9 Responses to Byron Bay Brewing Co gets a little ‘craft-washing’ from CUB

  1. Shane on January 30, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Hi Matt.

    Nice read and I support your efforts in this quest for transparency. Nothing bugs me more than people being silly about where something is produced. However, in this whole event I do feel that you are ignoring one other stakeholder. That being, Byron Bay Brewing CO. themselves. I find it highly unlikely that they would not have been aware of what was on the back of that label. And if they weren’t aware of it, then it comes to mind what they thought when they came to see it.

    1) Let’s do nothing and let the majority of people believe it was brewed by us.

    2) Damn, that looks a little deceptive as to who brewed it, maybe we should fix that due to our upstanding business ethics.

    I have no doubt that it BBBC had some input into this beer with CUB, considering it is their name and reputation on the line. Overall, in my opinion I think it all stinks just a little bit — all I’m saying is don’t just shoot down CUB on this issue because it takes two to tango.

    Just my 2-cents worth. Cheers.

    • Editor on January 30, 2013 at 8:41 am

      Hey Shane —

      Thanks for that. You have hit on a touchy issue. I very much like having a beer in their Byron Bay brewery and also hold their brewer Stu in high regard. As to who knew did what, knew what and how at a company level, I don’t know and know that CUB will sing “commercial in confidence” if asked, as they always do. I still think there is a wider issue here. Based on the SABMiller CEO Graham Mackay’s comments I wrote about yesterday they know how consumers feel about big breweries and this is their response. CUB’s approach is “The secret to success in craft beer is authenticity. If you can fake that, you got it made.”

      • Shane on January 30, 2013 at 9:17 am

        There definitely is a wider issue at hand. This no doubt will be a re-occurring appearance as the craft beer sector expands and larger corporations will try to get involved. Their input at the moment is not always being disclosed in the clearest of words and/or manner. Where a relationship exists between a craft brewery and a someone like SABMiller I still believe we should hold all to account.

        For a craft brewer, getting in bed with one of the “big guys” may provide them with a larger distribution base and better revenue streams, however, they run the risk of alienating some of their consumers by going “commercial” — thus losing their craft nature. Now, personally I don’t think the latter is true, yet I would argue some people believe that.

        As such, it is a weird dance that these two may do together where they both benefit from little disclosure of the agreement. SABMiller can make money out of the craft beer market and the craft brewer can benefit from more sales and wider distribution. However, we then ask. Are they being honest about the beer they brew? I say, not really in the end.

        I definitely agree that the big guys are trying to “scab off ” (schoolyard term) the craft beer brewers and their reputation, however, when a craft brewer goes into a business relationship with one the conglomerates, responsibility is also on them to clearly disclose it.

        Touchy stuff indeed. But the discussion needs to be had and a little light shed on everyone because this kind of business ethics is suffice to say not very kosher.

        (Can you please get rid of the dupe of the first post above — nothing grinds me more than dupes on a forum)

  2. properbeermate on January 28, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Great write up guys!
    I too saw this deceiving brew at my local liquor land the other day and actually called up the brewery in byron to confirm if it was brewed under license or not as I didn’t see it on their website. The gent that picked up the phone advised that it was their Blonde beer in the bottle renamed to pale larger and answered yes it is the genuine article, not brewed under license making it’s way down the coast. After reading up about the blonde I decided not the splash out on this one and now after reading your article I definitely won’t be handing over my hard earned to these rather deceitful fellows. Stone and wood will and always will be my Byron brew of choice!

  3. Scott on January 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Another great read Matt. I would love to know what the media/marketing people down at CUB and Lion have to say about you around the water cooler!

  4. Michael on January 27, 2013 at 10:52 am

    If quality beer, and great taste is your passion I fail to see why you are concerned that BBPL is being bottled in a state of the art brewery? Now we can all enjoy the great taste of Byron Bay Pale Lager nationwide.

    • Editor on January 27, 2013 at 10:56 am

      Hi Michael, thanks for the comment. I’m not sure the article expresses any concern at all about the fact that it’s being made by CUB. The article expresses concern at the lengths that CUB have gone to hide their involvement. If people don’t care about the fact that it’s made there, it wouldn’t do the brand any harm surely. If they do care that it doesn’t come from Byron Bay, then it looks like they are being deceived.

  5. Steve Coughlan on January 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    I thought it strange, when I walked into 1st Choice yesterday, to find CUB beers stacked high as far as the eye could see, but prominently placed just outside the Cool Room, a stack of Byron Bay Pale Ale.

    Between CUB (Normal and Matilda Bay) and Coles’ Steam Rail (as a Train Driver, this shits me no end), the little fellas can’t get a look in on the floor or in the fridge.

    Where will this end?

    • Editor on January 26, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Yes, one of new CEO Ari Mervis’ first statements was he was going to build bridges with the retailers. Now we know how.



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