Australian drinkers do not need to compromise on freshness despite having to accept different standards for Stone beers than US drinkers, says the brand’s Australian importer.
Johnny Latta from importer ExperienceIT was responding to questions raised by a Brews News survey of seven major inner-city Brisbane retailers that found only one example of Stone being sold younger than the 120 days that the brewery insists on in the United States.
“Australian drinkers do not need to compromise and don’t, but what it should be is a consistent standard in the local market. I am confident that the Stone beers on sale are in most cases as good as any beer on shelf,” he told Australian Brews News by email.
He said the difference in acceptable maximum dates was due to the different markets Stone operated in.
“The message and approach used by many US brewers is geared towards the US market and the market’s rapid rotation and maturity that craft beer has been able to achieve.
“Australia does not have that yet, so is the solution that we stop working with major retailers? Or we stop importing beers?”
Latta said that despite Stone’s clear policy, it was ‘simplified’ to ask whether Australians had to compromise on quality when buying beers sitting warm on shelves longer than this 120-day period.
“The beer we supply to major retailers should all taste great and I am confident it does, we wouldn’t sell it if it didn’t. We also stand by our commitment to quality and if it’s not great we’ll address it with the consumers directly as we do often,” he said.
The issue was raised after Australian Brews News discussed the issue with Stone co-founder Greg Koch on the Beer is a Conversation podcast.
Koch had previously told Brews News that Australia’s distance, lack of domestic refrigerated transport and cost of beer down under were among the reasons for not wanted to export to Australia. In the recent interview, he felt the local market had changed and he wanted to contribute to that.
“If you see the opportunities to help the change and be a part of it and recognize that there are many out there that are doing the right way and doing it in a way that you really respect, in wanting to help change the market, then you say, ‘OK that’s something I’ve got to support’,” Koch said.
The Stone co-founder said that despite extending the Enjoy By dates for the Australian market, the aim was still to sell through local retail according to their US standards
“What we have done in our contractual agreements with Johnny and his team is we say, ‘OK we’re going to ask you to maintain our known code lines’, which are in the 90 to 120 days depending on the exact beer range,” he explained.
“We’re going to ask you to work to maintain the marketplace to those dates regardless of what the enjoy by date says on the can.”
“It’s a method by which we can get into the system but we still do not let go of the goal of having our beer in proper condition.”
The Brews News survey of Brisbane and online retailers found beer older than six months of age is common on major retailer shelves. This is despite Stone’s ‘Commitment to Freshness’.
“One of the greatest tragedies for us is when a beer crafted to showcase these hops is left languishing on a shelf for too long as time erodes all of its botanical qualities,” the Stone website declares.
“Once a beer goes “out of code,” we replace beer that hasn’t sold with fresh beer to ensure that you’re getting the best experience.”
Koch describes the survey findings as ‘problematic’.
Latta points out that few Australian craft brewers put ‘brewed on’ dates on their beers.
“Do we hold Stone to a higher standard than every Australian brewer?” he asked.
“What are we saying about Australian brewers and quality? Is it ok for us to drink a local beer with 110 days or 140 days into the code, but not for Stone beers?”
The issue of Brewed On dates in Australia was covered recently by brewer Steve Henderson.
Of course Stone Brewing, which has literally trademarked ‘arrogant’ in respect to ales, created the standard by which it is now wishes to avoid being judged.
Koch previously told Brews News that stale beer in retail damages the industry as a whole.
“What happens when beer isn’t treated properly by retailers, a consumer – whether they’re experienced or not so experienced – they’re not turned onto the category they’re turned away from the category. So it damages,” he said in the 2010 interview.
“I will say you know direct to you. If you are a retailer who is knowingly selling damaged beer, beer in a way that the brewer would not approve of, you’re hurting the industry and you’re hurting yourself. You’re hurting your customer base.”
You can hear the full discussion on Beer Is a Conversation.