Drinking culture The annual poll conducted by the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE) reveals that 40% of Aussies drink to get drunk and 75% believe that the nation has a problem with excessive drinking. The poll also indicates that 57% of consumers drink at home – or ‘preload’ – before heading to pubs or clubs. FARE considers that much of the blame lies with the alcohol industry which ‘appears hell-bent on increasing profits at everyone else’s expense’. The usual calls to provide more detailed information labels, decrease the availability of alcohol and raise its retail cost are made.
In a rational comment on the poll results, the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA) observes that ‘there is little public support for higher prices and for substantial reductions in alcohol availability and actively reducing bottle shop numbers… but the majority of the public wants adult Australians to have reasonable access to alcohol under reasonable restrictions…’ [From Adelaide Advertiser, Apr 18 & National Liquor News, Apr 2 013]
Energy drink ban A ban on mixing alcohol with energy drinks after 2am in Adelaide’s pubs and clubs has been proposed by the Adelaide City Council on the grounds that the practice produces ‘a dangerous cocktail’ that encourages revellers to drink longer, increasing the potential for violence. The SA Government’s draft Late Night Trading Code of Practice, which has faced strong opposition from pubs and bar operators, would ban the sale of shots or other high-alcohol drinks after 2am. But the Council says it does not go far enough and should also restrict the sale and supply of energy drinks. Australian Beverages Council CEO Geoff Parker criticized the proposal, saying that it is not mixers that are causing anti-social behaviour.
Under the draft code, the service after midnight of beverages, both alcoholic and soft will be restricted to tempered or polycarbonate ‘cups’. This aspect of the proposal, which is in line with established practice in some other parts of the country, has been met with strong opposition, particularly from ‘top-end’ venues such as the Adelaide Casino. [From Adelaide Advertiser, Apr 15 & 16 & The Shout, Apr 15, 2013]
Sports alcohol ban Introduction of a ban on alcohol advertising at games of all football codes is on the agenda for a meeting this month of the country’s police chiefs. The concept is being promoted by WA’s Chief Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan who also wants mandatory health warnings on all alcohol ads. [From Adelaide Sunday Mail, Apr 7, 2013]
BEER & BREWING: Australia – general
Imports cheaper Recent Nielsen data show that imported beers enjoyed double-digit growth in 2012, with the category share rising from 12% in 2009 to 16% last year. Imports were generally cheaper by comparison as in 2009 they commanded a price premium of $11 per case but the margin was almost halved in 2012. [From National Liquor News, Apr 2013]
BEER & BREWING: Australia – mainstream breweries
CUB/Foster’s: Plans for the release of limited quantities of several heritage brands emerged as CUB defended a trademark claim by Thunder Road Brewing Co on April 16 & 17 [see Smaller Breweries Vic below]. Various sources note that White Horse (Tooth’s), NQ Lager (Cairns) and the McCracken brand (Melbourne) may be revived in May and June. Thunder Road hopes to be granted the right to use more than 60 trademarks currently held by Foster’s, quoting the ‘use it or lose it’ component of the existing Australian trademark law. A decision regarding the claim is expected in July and reported mixed reactions from beer lovers show that possibly not all favour Thunder Road’s approach. [From The Shout, Apr 1; Crafty Pint, Apr 19, 2013 & other sources]
Lion: With the displeasure of some pubs, Lion maintains that the target audience for its Tap King (the launch of which was noted in an earlier digest) is ‘men over the age of 30 who appreciate the taste of draught beer but their busy lives with work and family commitments means they spend more time relaxing at home’. The new draught beer dispenser system means they can pour their favourite Lion brews in home comfort of their own home. Matt Tapper [what an appropriate name!], Lion’s marketing director said ‘the launch is an exciting milestone which offers more choice for people enjoying beer at home… a development which should benefit everyone in the industry, from primary producers to industry partners.’ [From Beer & Brewer, Apr 18, 2013]
BEER & BREWING: Australia – smaller breweries
Conference: The country’s first Craft Brewers Conference, mounted by the Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA) is scheduled for May 22 and 23 with a packed roster of speakers at the Melbourne Lithuanian Club, 45-50 Errol Street, North Melbourne. CBIA director Dave Bonighton says that the program is designed to appeal to all members of the craft brewing industry. [From The Crafty Pint, Apr 19, 2013 & other sources]
NSW: At Malt Shovel the Mad Brewers latest creation is Wee Highlander, a strong Scotch ale, a style known to some as Wee Heavy. The red-hued ale, with 6.7% abv and minimal hop character, was brewed with blended crystal malts plus some malted oats and peated malt. [From Australian Brews News]
Monteith’s Brewing Co – from across ‘the ditch’ – recently showcased its Brewers Series, a new craft beer range, at the Royal Albert Hotel in Surry Hills. The range includes Alcoholic Ginger Beer, India Pale Ale and Apricot Wheat Beer, as well as a barrel-aged Porter that will not be available in Australia until later this year; experimental brews will also be offered. [From The Shout, Apr 19, 2013]
SA: A five-day craft beer mini-festival – Good Beer Wheaty – at the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton from May 16 -20 will include sessions featuring Italian craft brewer Leo di Vincenzo as well as the Wheatie Boys from NZ plus other Kiwi and local brewers. [From Australian Brews News, Apr 19, 2013]
Vic: A hearing into a claim by Thunder Road Brewing Co for the right to use more than 50 old beer labels, trademarked by CUB, began in Melbourne on April 16. The claimant, hoping to revive many of Australia’s historic and forgotten beers, says CUB, now owned by SAB-Miller, no longer uses the historic labels and should not be able to retain the trademarks. Thunder Road chief executive Philip Withers says consumers should have the right to drink the labels because they represent Australia’s rich beer history. CUB maintains the labels are part of the company’s own history and will vigorously defend its ownership of the marks. [From ABC radio and other sources]
With ‘a pledge to bring flavour back to beer’, Thunder Road Brewing Co has released Collingwood Draught, described as ‘a rich, chestnut coloured lager with a malty aroma and a subtle toasty sweetness. Long on flavour, it’s unpasteurized to preserve maximum taste and freshness.’ Philip Withers, CEO of Thunder Road, said ‘Bringing flavour back to beer might sound simple, but when you’re fighting in a market dominated by two big multinational brewers – that together control roughly 94% of the Australian beer market – it’s not easy. In the Australian beer war, Collingwood Draught is David facing off against an army of bland, tasteless Goliaths. Produced with traditional brewing methods and ingredients, Collingwood Draught does not use any corner-cutting artificial ingredients, preservatives or extracts, like some mass-produced beer brands’, he added. ‘For years, the Australian beer market has been in decline. No surprise there since consumers have been starved for choice. Our answer to this is simple: give the beer drinking public what they’ve been crying out for – great flavour, freshness and choice.’ The beer will initially be sold on tap to pubs and restaurants and later bottled for national retail distribution. [From Australian Brews News, Apr 09,2013]
Whilst we must acknowledge the sincere motives behind Thunder Road’s plans, the promotion described above seems to provide yet another example of the dubious practice of belittling or denigrating ‘the opposition’ by using sweeping, emotive and sometimes misleading statements, a practice which does not enhance the image of the industry as a whole, nor ultimately benefit consumers. In a slowly declining, or at best, static overall market for beer, it is important that all sectors of the brewing industry present a united and strong front. As noted before, internal ‘sniping’ has the potential to produce a negative impact on all sectors and it is hoped that we do not see more such examples. [JH]
WA: The latest single-batch brew from Little Creatures was released in late March. The new brew, utilizing the folklore of the ‘red sky at night’, is appropriately named Shepherd’s Delight. It is a ‘hop mad’ Red IPA carrying 50 IBU at 6.4% abv and a colour of 40° EBC. Five hop varieties: Southern Cross, Dr Rudi, Stella Victoria Secret, Chinook, EK Goldings were used. [From Beer & Brewer, Apr 11, 2013] Another single batch beer, this time from Eagle Bay, is a Pilsner of only 1,000 L. It was brewed with fresh rainwater collected on sit, using four malts and four hop varieties. [From Australian Brews News Apr 20, 2013]
BEER & BREWING: International
New Zealand The results of the International Brewing Awards, judged at Burton-on-Trent (UK) in February, indicate that Lion, New Zealand fared well. In Small pack Lager (Class 1: 2.9 – 4.5% abv) the gold medal went to Lion with Triple Hop Pilsner and the silver for Crafty Beggars Good as Gold. Another gold was awarded for Macs Sassy Red in Small pack Ale (Class 2: 4.5 – 4.9% abv). A NZ cider – Old Mout Passionfruit Cider – scored gold in Cider Class 4.
Entries for the awards totalled 953 with products coming from 199 companies in 50 countries. [From Brewer & Distiller International, April 2013]
USA; At least eight lawsuits, accusing Anheuser-Busch (A-B), the USA unit of AB-InBev, of watering down some of its beers, have been filed in recent months. The brewer is accused of selling beers with alcohol contents from 3 to 8% below values stated on labels. Given that labelling regulations in USA specify a tolerance of plus or minus 0.3% from the stated value, the complaints perhaps appear to be frivolous. For example, Budweiser at a stated value of 5.0% abv can legally range from 4.7 to 5.3% abv, representing a 6% departure from the stated value; for Michelob Ultra at 4.2% abv the tolerance represents a departure of more than 7%. So, maybe A-B has not transgressed, even if it is deliberately keeping alcohol contents at the low end of the range – a strategy which it has strenuously denied In the EU, the tolerance is greater (at plus or minus 0.5%) but reports state that ‘food monitoring agencies make sure that these wide tolerances are not exploited by profiteering brewers.’ [From Brauwelt International Newsletter, Apr 12, 2013 & other sources]
Recent research at the University of Indiana (USA) has shown that the taste of beer, without any effect from the alcohol itself, can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. The release of dopamine, known as a pleasure or reward hormone, is perhaps yet another factor to be considered when defining ‘drinkability’, that elusive quality of beer. [From Adelaide Advertiser, Apr 16, 2013 & other sources]
CIDER, JUICES, RTDs & SOFT DRINKS
Cider grows A CEO will be appointed shortly by Cider Australia as part of its plans ‘to keep pace with the growing cider industry in Australia’. Cider now accounts for almost 4% of the domestic alcohol market and Cider Aust plans to tackle a number of issues facing the industry. [From National Liquor News, Apr 2 013]
Interactive fridges Several outlets in NSW and Vic now have new interactive fridges, installed by Coca-Cola Amatil in conjunction with digital agency tkm9. The new concept gives customers special deals on food and beverage, depending on the time of day and also acts as a database on consumer purchasing preferences. The fridges can play interactive games, music and videos and have Facebook connectivity. They will be installed in more stores in four states (NSW, Qld, SA & Vic) in April. [From National Liquor News, Apr 2013]
WINE & SPIRITS
Further local contraction? On April 10 Accolade Wines announced that a review of its Australian operations to be conducted shortly would probably lead to a restructuring of the business rather than a major job redundancy situation. Currently, Accolade employs about 1,700 people throughout the country and last year a review led to the abolition of 175 jobs, mainly in SA. [From radio news services, Apr 10 & Adelaide Advertiser, Apr 12, 2013]
Lighter wines in demand New data from Nielsen indicate that low-alcohol/low-calorie wine is the fastest growing wine category in Australia and also in some other markets around the world. Aussies are thought to be moving away from higher alcohol wines for several reasons, including health concerns, increased awareness of drink-driving penalties and dietary aspects. Alcohol contents of 8 to 9% abv are general but some wines in the category have as little as 5.5% [From National Liquor News, Apr 2013]
New logistics centre At Penfield SA, Treasury Wine Estates is planning a new national distribution facility which will be the base for its exports into 70 overseas markets. Using a fourth-party logistics (4PL) model, the facility is within SCT Logistics’ intermodal freight centre and will be leased and operated by supply-chain specialist Trebuchet Logistics. [From SA Business Journal, Apr 16, 2013]
FROM PAST DIGESTS … 5 YEARS AGO
New to the scene…
Byron Bay venture Brad Rogers has moved after about 15 years with Foster’s (most recently as head brewer, Matilda Bay) to start Stone Brewing Company at Byron Bay, where he will continue his commitment to brew small-batch, quality beers. [From National Liquor News, Apr 2008]
Another low-carb offering: Haagen Premium Blonde, in 30 can packs, was featured in an exclusive promotion in SA by the Thirsty Camel Bottleshops (a renamed group in hotels) in April.
From the Mad Brewers… Raspberry Wheat Beer, in an unusual 9 x 640mL amber bottle pack, arrived in SA in April from the Mad Brewers at Malt Shovel Brewery. At 5.0% abv, this limited edition beer is brewed with extracts of raspberry and peppermint.