If I was to mention Bob Hawke and beer what would your first mental image be?
If you’re like me, the image is of a young Bob Hawke skolling a yard glass of beer in a world record time (or more recently a much, much older Bob Hawke skolling schooners of beer in a much slower time at the cricket).
However, the team behind a new beer named in honour of the former Prime Minister want you to associate his name with economic reforms and his support of Landcare when you order a schooner of their new beer, Hawke’s Lager.
“It’s easy to draw a quick straight line between Bob Hawke and beer but you can’t build a genuine beer brand and a real beer company around that,” co-founder and former advertising man, Nathan Lennon, told Australian Brews News.
“The connection is kind of obvious, you know what that is, but it’s not something that we choose to focus on, it’s not what our brand is built on. It’s not what we’re interested in talking about, it’s not what we’re interested in creating a company around.
“We’re an alcohol brand, we know what our duties are. We intend to promote and sell our product in the most appropriate way possible.”
When pressed about the link, Mr Lennon said he didn’t think you can reduce it so easily down to one isolated moment.
“I think the connection is Bob Hawke is an Australian guy. He’s an iconic, loved Australian that does enjoy a beer like the rest of us. One of the most important things to Mr Hawke in moving forward with this was there was a quality product at the end of it.”
Of course, as CUB discovered with the Boonie Doll, sometimes the intent and the result don’t necessarily correlate.
Chris Maxwell, then national sponsorship manager for Foster’s Group atmitted as much in a mea culpa made after the brewer discontinued the campaign.
“At the time the business decided he was a good Aussie bloke. However, we came under a lot of criticism. We did not have the foresight. In glorification of that behaviour we have added to the normalisation of binge drinking in Australia,” he acknowledged.
And while Bob Hawke’s yard glass skolling was of another time, he has famously reprised the act several times in recent years, to the chagrin of anti-alcohol groups.
Still the owners, who cheerfully admit “one of us wasn’t born when he was in office, and the other two were very young” are confident that they can overcome the negative associations.
“I think that [Mr Hawke’s famously fast beer drinking] is something that people might choose to focus on, but as a business and a brand we’re not choosing to focus on that. We want to put our focus on Mr Hawke’s legacy and the key pillars of what will make a great Aussie beer brand,” Mr Lennon said.
“First and foremost it’s about brewing a great product. We’ve got 100 per cent Australian ingredients, all our hops and malts and years are sourced from Aussie farms. We’re first and foremost a craft beer.
“One of the biggest things for us was to find the right brew partner and brewer, which is why we were lucky we got Foxy [brewer Justin Fox] on board. So really firmly establishing that this isn’t a gimmick and we absolutely respect the industry we’re going into and we know that if we came out with a product this is at best average we would get ripped to shreds.”
The beer itself is brewed by Justin Fox, formerly of Colonial Brewing, and more recently working with Bintani. From its description it is squarely modelled as a craft take on a premium lager, and Justin Fox certainly knows his way around a mash tun.
Aside from beer quality, another pillar for the company is Mr Hawke’s political record and his integral role in the formation of Landcare.
We’ve picked Mr Hawke because in our opinion he’s one of the best Prime Ministers there has been,” Lennon says.
“Not that we’re a political brand, but as an 87 year old man he transcends politics, he transcends beer.
“He is loved by many because of his character. What other Prime Minister has cried on television? What other prime minister has brought the economic reform that Bob has?
“We chose Bob Hawke for all of those reasons and because he has cut through for general Australians. Any other name to this brand will not have had the power that Bob has and especially with this partnership with Landcare.”
Whether that name speaks to the broader public of beer quality and Landcare, or about what these days is regarded as inappropriate consumption, only time will tell.
Even Mr Hawke must be alive to the risk of his past feats distracting from the positive message in lending his name to a beer. In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, he showed reporter Charles Woolley a trick for placing the label of a beer bottle onto the inside of the glass.
“That’s the thing people are going to remember about our story – all the wit and wisdom will be lost and next week everyone in Australia will be doing this!” Mr Hawke joked as he performed his party trick.
Drinkwise declined to comment for the story.