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Who is Steamrail Brewing Company?

February 6, 2013
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And what is Australian Beer Connoisseurs?

Many readers will have seen a new beer brand in some bottleshops called Steamrail. It all looks very crafty with packaging cues to place it squarely in the craft space. That said, the price is pretty amazing, advertised on the Liqourland website at $45 a carton.

steamRail_01_03But who or what is this Steamrail Brewing Company?

Last week I wandered into to my local Liquorland and grabbed a bottle of the Golden Ale. l presented it to the young lady behind the counter asking, “Is this new?”

“Yeah, we just got it in,” she said.

“Great,” I replied. “Who makes it?”

In an attempt to help an interested, but obviously stupid, customer the young lady picked up the bottle and made a show of studying the label. She turned it over in her hands, turned it back. Put it down and said, “Streamrail Brewing Company, I guess”.

Now, here’s the rub. In a Liquorland bottleshop, the lady who is paid and, presumably, given some basic product training by Liquorland was completely unable to inform me that the beer was brewed for Liquorland.

Of course, she can easily be forgiven for this error. The branding of this beer has been carefully constructed to avoid disclosing that fact. The label boldly announces “Steamrail Brewing Company”. Not Steamrail Beer Marketing Company, not Steamrail Beer Company, Steamrail BREWING Company.

As a punter in the bottleshop, if you wanted to find out a little more about this new Steamrail Brewing Company, you would – as the young lady serving me did – turn over the bottle to find out a little more. Wading your way through the nonsense spiel designed to pretend there is a backstory to the brand, and if your eyesight is very good, you will find a line referring to  AUSTRALIAN BEER CONNOISSEURS.

“Hmmm, now who are these Australian Beer Connoisseurs,” you wonder to yourself.

A quick Google search from your phone (and let’s face it, who is going to do long search – or any search – on their phone standing in a bottleshop when all they want is a beer) reveals nothing about this business responsible for the brand. One needs to go to the website of the Australian Securities and Investments Corporation to find out anything meaningful about Australian Beer Connoisseurs. Personally, I love accessing the Australian Securities and Investments Corporation website from my phone when I am on my way to a barbeque.

Once you have reached the website of our nation’s corporate regulator, you can perform a business names search and find out that Australian Beer Connoisseurs is a business name registered to Liquorland (Australia) Pty Ltd.

I am obviously stupid. I cannot for the life of me think why a business selling a product in its own store would not want to put that store’s product on the name, can you?

Even more intriquing is that a search of the Trade Marks database reveals that the Trade Mark “Steamrail” is owned by Liquorland (Australia) Pty Ltd, not Australian Beer Connoisseurs.

So, we have a beer that is made under contract for Liquorland, trade marked by Liquorland sold in Liquorland, but not mentioning Liquorland anwhere. Instead you have the Steamrail Brewing Company (which is actually not a name I can find registered anywhere, “Steamrail” being the only name I can find and it is a trade mark) listing a registered business name that does not hold the product’s trade mark.

Why?

I’ll leave you pondering those questions readers. I would put the question to Coles or to their external public relations consultants (curiously, the same ones who handle most of CUB’s highly responsive and transparent communication) but, three weeks after asking “who brews it”, I still don’t have an answer to that. So, there really seems no point.

One thing I will say though. There is indeed a story behind the Steamrail Brewing Company, though it’s not the story that we are being told.

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23 Responses to Who is Steamrail Brewing Company?

  1. […] Read: Australian Brews News – Who is Steamrail Brewing? […]

  2. Craig on August 19, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Interesting article.
    I thought the steam rail pale ale was really nice nd decently priced.
    But I too became curious as to who was actually brewing it. Though is its not just the name liquorland that’s brewing nd selling its own product it’s the same Weafarmers that own liquorland that own bunnings, Coles, officeworks, kmart, target, first choice liquor plus the rest… Do they not put Wesfarmers on all their different stores so ppl don’t realise what they own nd earn
    Woolworths did the same buying into hotels, and brewery’s like their 6 star brewery nd gage roads
    i say just stick with the home brew!

  3. Shane on August 16, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    If you actually take 2 seconds to read the back of the label it stated made under contract for Australian Beer Connoisseurs a trading name of liquorland. As it is required by law to do.

    • Editor on August 17, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      This article was written two years ago when the label was silent about ownership. The labelling that you mention is a recent occurrence implemented only after the ACCC started contacting breweries in relation to labelling following its decision in relation to Byron Bay Pale Lager. The law hasn’t changed in that time.

  4. Robert Bannister on August 1, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    I don’t really care who brews it. Coles have marketed some good beers at low prices over the years: I still really like Henninger. What I object to about Steamrail is that the beer I bought was labelled Pilsner. Unfortunately, it tasted like all the other new, Australian pale ales: of fruit. I don’t know why our local pale ales donn’t taste of beer, but they don’t, but that’s fine if that’s how you like pale ale. Calling it Pilsner, though, is truly below the belt. This is not the worst Aussie beer I have ever drunk, but I won’t be buying it again.

    • Slartibartfast on November 8, 2015 at 2:51 pm

      It’s not a pale ale, it’s not an ale of any description – ales by definition are bottle conditioned and thus cloudy. Most “ales” sold as such in Australia actually aren’t, the only commercially brewed true ales in Australia that I’m aware of are brewed by South Australia’s Cooper’s. Cooper’s also make a very good Pilsener, 62.
      Steamrail’s product is a lager. Not an exceptional one, but a lager nonetheless.

      • Editor on November 9, 2015 at 10:03 am

        Thanks for the feedback…though “ales” are only defined by the yeast that is used and cover a huge range of beers. Bottle conditioned ales are a sub-set of ales.

  5. Shane mcjannett on July 1, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Afternoon team i recently brought a six pack of the steamrail summer ale. Once i got home 2 of the 6 bottles were half empty please contact me so we can sort this out.

  6. Del on May 23, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Who cares??? Big deal. If you don’t like it Matt, because it is not labelled as Liquorland brewery, why make such a big deal. You don’t have to buy it if you don’t like it. It should be the taste that counts not whoever owns it. You never said in your report that you have tasted it. All you did is complain that the label of the brewering company is Steamrail Brewering Company and not Liquorland. There must be some legal issues for them to do so. There might be nothing sinister about it. I thought your review is about the taste.

    • Editor on May 24, 2015 at 9:09 am

      Thanks for the feedback Del. It wasn’t a beer review. As to your point about who cares, the truth is everyone does. That’s how marketing works. If no one cared, it would be called Coles Pale Ale. If you like the beer, great. I have no criticisms about the beer at all. As for the legalities of it, the ACCC recently stepped in and Liquorland is now on the label.

  7. Tim on February 6, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    hmmm… Steamrail…
    I’m sure I’ve heard that name before…
    But not in the beer market!

    Ah, yes, now I remember. Steamrail Victoria, the train buffs stuck in yester-year…

    I smell something of a distinctly legal flavour in this…

  8. locky on February 6, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    I’m assuming most craft beer lovers are the same as me….I can tell whats shit and whats not a mile away…I just don’t even bother with murphys, first choice etc the beer is almost always spoiled…Use your local cellar or craft bottle shop and know your beers…The problem of dodgy and disguised craft beer is solved (for yourself at least)

  9. Brad on February 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    AB InBev in the US brews plenty of awful but craft-looking beers for sale in big chains, and does everything to keep their company name off the label. It works too.

  10. Brad on February 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    The answer is obvious. Who in their right mind would buy a Liquorland Homebrand beer? It’s clever marketing.

    • Editor on February 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      Clever marketing or dishonest marketing? If, as they say, people just care about price and flavour then Liquorland Homebrand wouldn’t matter. It doesn’t change the flavour of the beer. If people do care about who makes it then surely they should be honest about their involvement.

  11. rob deBrewer on February 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    I believe there is a legal obligation to have on the label who has made the beer either by a code number (that all breweries can apply for) or by name. So perhaps the smart marketers at coles or liquorland or whatever they call themselves and others having their beer made under licence should adhere to this and it will make it easier for us ignorant beer consumer to make an educated choice.

  12. Adrian on February 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I think ‘Steam Roller’ would have been a more appropriate name. I’m sure the beer is very middle-of-the-road and a ‘safe’ investment for Coles, nothing exciting, though I’d love to hear your thoughts on the flavour Matt. I’ll keep sending my dollars to the little guys who are putting their hearts & souls into their product.

  13. Mitch on February 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I did the exact thing, asked the lady behind the counter, she had no idea. Then googled it on my phone while walking down the street. It was actually better tasting that i thought it would be.

  14. Colin Weaver on February 6, 2013 at 9:43 am

    More disgusting tactics from the ‘big beer’ would be monopoly trying to cash in on the image of craftbrew without the substance. Sadly I fear the majority of Australians will fall for this, because we are yet to develop the craft brew culture that exists in the US & elsewhere. Frankly, they can all sod off and I’ll just keep making my own – nothing beats the smell of a fresh mash!

    Incidentally, this brand name is potentially a trademark violation, given that Streamrail is a long established heritage rail operator in Victoria.

    http://www.steamrail.com.au/

    • Editor on February 6, 2013 at 9:56 am

      Thanks Colin – though I’m not sure that not a question of a craft beer culture, the US grapples with this sort of thing too.

      Sadly, I think it’s more a case of a company completely devoid of an original ideas having contributed nothing to the development of a rapidly growing market wanting to come in strip mine it for its own profit and not caring if it leaves a smoking pile in its wake. I could be wrong about that though.

  15. Matt (Grafton) on February 6, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Matt K,

    You are the ‘A Current Affair’ for beer related matters (with a little more objectivity).

    As craft beer drinkers are usually quite interested in what is in the bottle, it is also important to know who is making the beer (even if this is just as a matter of principle).

    It would be good if a list of all Australian beers could be compiled, listing items such as a) Does the brewer brew it themselves or is it outsourced b) specific notes, such as for the Byron Bay beer being made in Sydney without any Byron water as hinted on the label c) Whether the Brewery is actually a brewery, or just a trademark d) The chain of ownership for a beer label (ie from head company down eg Kirrin (Japan)>Lion>Malt Shovel Brewery>James Squires>Mad Brewers) e) anything else that may be relevant (eg I believe some small Breweries that outsource, do so with the longer term view of establishing a real brewery in the future, which would place them in a different class to the “Steam Rail Brewery”).

    I know I can get confused at times remembering who makes and owns a particular beer.

    Maybe this could be made into an easily updatable book or website, or just a simple list. Could include summaries such as level of Australian Ownership etc.

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