Crafty Beggars

Crafty Beggars bottles
Three Crafty Beggars

It is, apparently, Brandwank Monsoon Season. At least I won’t suffer for material.1 As was spotted by the eagle eye of Dominic (from Hashigo Zake) some months ago in the Trademark Registry, “Crafty Beggars” is a new brand / imprint / stealth-fake-brewery2 from one half of the local duopoly, Lion. And these days, if you’re talking about them, you’re probably talking about Emerson’s,3 not this shit. I haven’t had my say about that bit of news, yet, it’s honestly been too vexing; I’m firmly in the middle on the issue, finding much of the positive and negative feedback to be Missing The Point. But more about that another time, inevitably. Suffice to say — for now — that if you, my dear hypothetical reader, still harboured hopes that Lion’s acquisition of Emerson’s was a sincere and honest investment in craft beer, this should give you pause.

“Someone should make a craft beer you can actually drink”, the bottle’s text declares as the raison d’être of this new range. Nine un-named brewers, going “rogue” from a parent company which also goes un-named, apparently felt that way and set out to make these “crafty, but not too crafty” beers. It’s an act of staggering dickishness and pointless absurdity, a petty swipe at a corner of the industry that Lion a) pretend to also occupy, already, and b) just acquired two large chunks of. The necessary implication is that Mac’s, Little Creatures and Emerson’s are either “not craft” or “not drinkable”. I phoned Lion, to ask which of those two options was now their official stance, and was handed around a little bit but eventually put in touch with their “Brand Manager, Craft” — though I still haven’t been given an answer… If you were a new operation, that tagline would token near-pathological arrogance, but here it’s weirdly worse.

Crafty Beggars blurbs
The Crafty Beggars bottle blurbs

Brandwank is one thing — a vile and detestable thing — but this kind of internally-incoherent brandwank is more annoying by an order of magnitude. How the fuck does no one in the company feel sufficient shame, when one business unit contradicts another, to pull the plug on a campaign like this? As I mentioned when deconstructing some nonsense from the other giant ultra-conglom in the local market, D.B., my favourite example was when Jim Beam was marketed with the slogan “If it ain’t Beam, it ain’t bourbon” and Maker’s Mark was touted by the same company as “the World’s finest bourbon”.4 It just seems so pathetic a trick, such a lazy failure of imagination, and it says nothing good about what they must think of their customers; that kind of half-assed deception seems to require believing them to be stupid or (against all evidence) completely disinterested in where things actually come from.

Last time I had some unkind things to say about a mega-brewery’s fake “little guy” offerings, I drew some criticism for not trying the beer first. Which baffled the hell out of me, since I was explicitly commenting on the marketing. Which is, you know, a separately-existing thing. But in the investigative spirit — which is very close, it turns out, to the morbid curiosity that causes humans to rubberneck on traffic accidents — I grabbed one of each, and I’ve had them here at home tonight.5 And they’re meh — which is me being as unjustifiably generous as it is me being abnormally monosyllabic.

(Meanwhile — in the later spirit of “fuck it, I should empty the Naughty Corner of my fridge while I’m at this” — while I’m writing, I’m polishing off my remaining bottles of those “Resident” beers from Boundary Road / Independent. And I haven’t changed my mind. They are, just as they were, technically competent — vastly moreso than most of the “Boundary” beers — and a recognisable echo of something that might’ve been a good idea before the cost-compromises involved in up-scaling a pilot batch bit hard, and before the beers were filtered to within an inch of their lives and probably robbed of much character. But they sure aren’t good, they sure aren’t special, and they sure as fuck weren’t worth the fuss, the wank and the insults to the local industry that they brought with them.)

Crafty Beggars range
The Crafty Beggars, lined up

Skepticism is just mandatory when three styles of beer appear in a range at precisely the same ABV, especially when that’s an usually-low number. All three “Crafty” beers are 4.0%, which should — given the vagaries of local excise tax rules — raise the suspicion that they’re aiming at a price point, rather than a flavour. I love sessionable beer with an inappropriate passion, but I do ask that the lower strength exist for reasons more to do with the brewer’s designs and the drinker’s plans for their evening, rather than it being dictated by a formula in some arcane spreadsheet. And so, speaking (as I parenthetically was) of the “Resident” beers, these seem to be targeting those, given that Boundary Road placed theirs at a looks-like-a-loss-leader price and proceeded to carve themselves out a sizable chunk of the sales statistics. It looks like Lion have conjured something to claw that back, perhaps after seeing sales of their Mac’s range take a hit. But then why make a drive-by implication that their other “craft” offerings are “undrinkable”? Who the fuck knows? (Also — as an addendum to the “Meanwhile”, above — I’m changing my mind. For their relative lack of flavour and character, these “Resident” beers are camped out on the border of being intolerably bitter.)

The “Crafty” pilsner, ‘Good as Gold’, was worryingly pale and anemic-looking; close to that Budweiser-esque piss-yellow you’d only call “straw gold” if you were being paid wodges of cash to do so. It put me in mind of my ‘Chosen One’ tasting session — but, mercifully, of the non-candidate dummy options like NZ Pure. And if that memory comes as a relief, we’re in dark times indeed. It didn’t stink of faults, sure — none of these beers did — but it just had a limp tinned-apple-flavoured-baby-food nose that definitely wasn’t appealing and sure as hell didn’t convey “pilsner”. ‘Wheat As’ was reassuringly hazy, given how often macro brewers wimp out and apply their ultra-fine nano-scale filters to seemingly everything, and did present some appropriate spice-and-citrus-peel notes. But Belgian-derived witbier-ish stuff hasn’t ever been my thing, so I don’t feel entirely qualified to rule it in or out. Given the two-and-some-bucks-a-bottle price point these seem to be landing at, it’s at least possible that this one represents a bargain — a deal with the inveterate shitbags in the Devil’s marketing division, perhaps, but all the same a bargain. And then the disappointingly un-punny / seemingly un-referential ‘Pale and Interesting’6 commits a devastating act of metaphor shear by pouring like Speight’s and making you realise that these are Speight’s 330ml bottles.7 It’s billed as a “smoother take” on a pale ale, which is always a worrying thing to hear from a mega-brewery, and presents as so watered- and dumbed-down that it — just like its inexcusably-bland cousin from the duopoly’s other half, Monteith’s IPA8 — smells like an empty glass that used to have beer in it, rather than a vessel which currently does. The “tinned fruit” aspect of the nose from the pilsner returned, only this time it was reminiscent of peaches — and even then only if they’d been unceremoniously disposed-of into a cardboard box.

In summary, these aren’t good. They aren’t fuck-awful, hurl-them-at-your-enemies bad, either — but that’s hardly worth praising, is it? Given the pitch, this horrible “craft but drinkable” bullshit they’re swaddled in, they’re an abject failure. They are neither recognisably craft, nor particularly drinkable. Basically every single member of the already-extant Mac’s range — with the possible exception of the new Shady Pale Ale, about which I hear plenty of terrible things — is head-and-shoulders better than these, and well worth the extra dollar.

But wait, what? Back to the pilsner, “Good as Gold”. That’s the name of a beer from the Coromandel Brewing Company, isn’t it? Here we go again, it seems, with the brandwank-engines of the Big Two churning in the absence of a connection to the Almighty Google. I called the design agency responsible for the “Crafty Beggars” work,9 and their Director told me that the beer names were their creation — but Lion obviously have final sign-off on these things, and someone should’ve known / should’ve checked / should’ve given five seconds’ thought to the possibility that someone might’ve found the same reference fitting. But no, here’s one of the Big Boys, charging around making bullshit claims left and right with no consideration of how it affects a) their other products, or b) anyone else’s.

This is why I can’t be optimistic about something like Lion’s acquisition of Emerson’s. These huge, sprawling, many-branded companies — like D.B., Lion and Independent — are shot-through with the wrong thinking, the wrong incentives, too many bad-habit-ed Suits, perverse internal competition, and are the kind of hydra-headed monsters with which it constantly proves impossible to reason. They, at the meta / corporate level, are the “rogues” in this business, and not in the lovable-and-rakish sense; these are proper loose cannons, capable of any damn wreckage, accidental or otherwise.

Diary II entry #248, Crafty Beggars
Diary II entry #248, Crafty Beggars

Verbatim: Crafty Beggars Range — ‘Good as Gold’, ‘Wheat As’, + ‘Pale and Interesting’ 20/11/12 @ home. This is Lion, pulling an epic dick move. Design blogs are all over it, but I just don’t get it. Naff as. All 4%, 330ml — in a Speight’s bottle, in fact. 1) Shockingly pale and clear — and the name was taken, guys… Reminds me of the Chosen One tasting. A can of tinned apple baby food. 2) Actually hazy! Proper adjunct flavours. Not my style, so hard to judge. 3) Looks like Speight’s. Same non-aroma as Monteith’s. Cardboard box, into which tinned pears were dumped.

Crafty beggars caps
Crafty beggars bottlecaps
Monteith's IPA tap badge
Monteith’s IPA tap badge
Monteith's IPA
Monteith’s IPA itself

1: Not that I ever do, of course, grotesquely-far behind in my notes as I am. But after we’re done here, we’re going to have to have words with the newly-appeared “Hancock & Co.” brand. Sheesh.
2: They’re not proud enough to say “a new beer from Lion” or “brewed by Lion”, but also not subtle enough to give the brand its own street address or 0800 number. That middle ground makes no sense.
3: Note for aliens / cave-dwellers / normal people: Lion recently purchased local craft beer legends Emerson’s. The jury is well-and-truly out on whether or not this is a Good Thing.
4: Funnily enough, they also didn’t get back to me when I contacted the parent company and asked them to pick which (if either) was true.
5: As often happens, I’m behind in the Diary in the additional sense of having lots of scraps of paper lying around with notes as-yet-untranscribed into the actual physical book itself. Tonight’s notes were therefore written up, as is common, on the back of a coaster (and photographed for ‘proof’, rather than scanned). Now I almost feel I owe the boys from ParrotDog an apology for soiling their merchandise so.
6: ‘Pale to the Chief’? ‘Pale and Hearty’? Surely there was scope for something. It’s just a bit of a drop off a  thematic cliff after the other two.
7: Maybe they have a whole bunch spare now they’ve started selling Speight’s in “Imperial Pint” bottles, which are inadvisably labelled as such. Local laws which prohibit the use of non-metric measurements might be obsolete and stupid — and indeed they are — but they are still on the books.
8: Just look at the blurb on the tap badge. That should win an award for unjustified overstatement.
9: A very early Alarm Stage on the Brandwank Detector is triggered if, as here, a Google search for a new beer / brewery / brand returns oodles of write-ups of the design work before you can find anyone talking about the actual product. And I know this is largely a matter of unimpeachable aesthetics, but I just don’t see what the praise is about. This design is hugely boring. It’s the spending-money-to-look-poor nonsense of a thousand intolerable Trustafarian fuckheads. Yawn. The same agency’s work on Steinlager Purea is, I’d say, vastly superior in every way.
— a: Though that product’s pitch also falls foul of this same “Crafty Beggars” problem, in that it implies worrying things about the other products from the company, just like Monteith’s Single Source did.

48 thoughts on “Crafty Beggars”

  1. Phil, the reason I love reading your posts is within the space of a paragraph you’ll have me alternately yelling “yes! Spot on! Why do people not get that?” and “No! Wrong! So very wrong!” – disagreement and debate are the spice of life, and you provide so much fuel for both. I also love that your opinions are well thought out, and well reasoned. Even when your opinions are CLEARLY wrong! 😉

    Right, enough praise, into the debate!

    I think that the main thrust of your argument is both accurate and insightful, but a little immaterial in that “that’s just how massive companies work”. They do have multiple departments. It is all about demographics, and brand differentiation. It’s really almost never about product, at least not in the sense that it is with small producers. So, with that in mind, of course you’ll get the kind of schizophrenic marketing you’re commenting on. I never understood how the bigwigs at these companies could live with the kind of cognitive dissonance that comes from seemingly holding two (or more) mutually exclusive positions simultaneously. Then I realised that they don’t actually hold these positions at all. It’s just words. Words which sound comforting/exciting/edgy/honest/whatever-you-need. They don’t genuinely believe any of it, any more than spray on deodorant manufacturers genuinely believe using their product will bury the wearer in huge piles of lustful members of the opposite (or same – I’ve never seen such an ad targeted at gay people but I’m sure they must exist) gender.

    I’ll acknowledge that this approach fills me with sadness. Not because they do it, but because of the reason they do it. It works. “We” are the problem. Until we cease lapping it up and buying the products they peddle using such techniques, it won’t ever change.

    Now, you may have noticed that I’ve just argued myself into a change of position on our ongoing debate here and on twitter re: Boundary Road and Emerson’s. I’ve held the position that it should be about the product. I’ve not found the Resident series to be as meh (with all of the attached implications) as you have. I actually really love the Red Rye, though I don’t think the IPA or the Pilsner are aging well – the hop flavour has given way to intense bitterness. Fresh was best with these beers. I’ve also said that I’ll not stop drinking Emerson’s until it does get dumbed down, and I mainly see positive outcomes from the purchase. While I shall continue to hold these views, and will always drink for flavour first, and politics second, I do now see a principled reason to boycott, and will no longer criticise those who do so.

    Maybe it’s time for some cognitive dissonance of my own? I always thought that required religion. Perhaps beer is a religion? 😉

    1. I think it gets that way with a lot of people! (In all possible senses of the word — positive, neutral, and negative.)

      I pretty-much entirely agree with you, actually; I know that this is just how companies work and I know that the marketers don’t really believe anything they smear all over their pages of work. And I’m entirely on board with the “I wan’t to be optimistic, but I just can’t. Can we please snap out of this, please, people?” mood wherein you’re grumpy at the masses for letting themselves be hoodwinked so easy. But the people who peddle this shit shouldn’t get a free pass, and should be called out occasionally — even if they’re immune to criticism themselves, doing so might just every-now-and-then help more people see through their nonsense.

  2. I think I’ve come up for a new definition for ‘craft beer’ – you can tell by the marketing. If the company feels its product is so underwhelming that there’s little to say about it and they therefore resort to slagging off the competition – it’s not craft. If they marketing talks about the beer, because the company believes it’s fricking awesome – it’s craft.

    1. Fits nicely within my “does the brand / image / marketing make me want to have a beer with the maker” definition 🙂 Emerson’s still qualifies by my book, but I won’t be raising a glass with these Crafty Beggars any time soon I think.

    2. I’m not so sure about that definition as it’s not unusual to find complementary descriptions of the contents of a bottle on the label. The label on BRBs Chocolate Moose describes “aromas” and “notes” and refers to the content’s “magnificence”. Do BRB believe that it is magnificent? Maybe, maybe not. But it otherwise stands up to the mooted definition.

      And while my initial reaction to the CB packaging/marketing was similar to Mr Cook’s, it only occurred to me while writing this reply that said “slagging” of the competition is deliberately intended to distance the brand from “real” craft beer (which differentiates CB from BRB who want to be seen as a brewer of “real” craft beer). The CB brand doesn’t care about existing consumers of craft beer. They want to appeal to the person who screwed their face up upon tasting an Epic but is ready to try something that looks like it wasn’t produced by a major commercial company.

      And as much as it sounds like commercial bullshit, perhaps it makes more sense to distinguish between levels of “craft-ness”. Or as Lion described it: “three distinct craft beer categories – specialty, boutique and popular craft.” Presumably CB’s marketing positions the brand comfortably within their “popular craft” category. Which I imagine is craft beer for people who don’t actually like craft beer beyond the appearance of a craft beer.

      What also struck me (besides the ignorant use of ‘Good as Gold’) is the inherent irony of the brand name. Because, while the name may be a pun (and who isn’t sick of craft beer related puns involving the word “craft”), if you take the name as the phrase is commonly meant (crafty: as in sly, sneaky), then it is a fitting name and aptly applies to the brand and the people behind it. I.E. the true crafty beggars are the people in the marketing department. Perhaps there’s even nine of them.

      1. Think this sums it up nicely.. it is, more or less, tosser’s beer.

        Can’t blame the marketing guys for identifying that demographic any more than when they found the large market of knuckle-dragging antecessors (I’ve given up on slagging Neanderthals.. recent research seems to indicate they were pretty sharp all round) who would gladly buy ‘bourbon’ and ‘coke’ mixed drinks.

  3. Pale and Interesting is a phrase used to describe women who eschew tanning. Like Helena Bonham Carter. So in its way it is an evocative name, slightly feminine, slightly referencing English Rose delicacy, denoting an intriguing and unique kind of beauty.
    This observation is strictly about the name. I don’t drink beer.

    1. That’s the reference? Gawd, you learn something new every day, don’t you? I’d never even heard the phrase before, so thanks for the tip. Still, that’s a really weird reference for these guys to be making, here, isn’t it?

      1. It would work as a reference if the beer was marketed to women. It could have a companion pilsner called ‘Bronzed Goddess’.

        However from your review of this beer I’m thinking you’d prefer ‘Pale by Comparison’ or perhaps ‘A Pale Imitation’?

        X

  4. Hi Phil,
    Danny here from Lion.
    Great to see such passion for beer and long may good strong debate continue.
    We just wanted to let you know that we have been in touch with Neil from Corromandel Brewing Company about our beer ‘Crafty Beggers – Good as Gold’ and we are working with them on what they would like to see happen. We are rather embarressed about our slip up in naming a product the same as Corromandel Brewing and are now trying to figure out what with Coromandel Brewing what they would like to see happen.
    cheers
    Danny

  5. Pressed Submit before I should have and my post reads very poorly… apologies. Better gramatical effort below!

    Hi Phil,
    Danny here from Lion.
    Great to see such passion for beer and long may good strong debate continue.
    We just wanted to let you know that we have been in touch with Neil from Corromandel Brewing Company about our beer ‘Crafty Beggers – Good as Gold’. We are rather embarressed about our slip up in naming a product the same as Corromandel Brewing and are now trying to figure out what Coromandel Brewing would like to see happen.
    cheers
    Danny

    1. Hey Danny, a while ago somewhere (I forget where) Stu from Yeastie Boys suggested a definition of craft beer/brewers, saying “craft breweries have opinions”. While it was a tongue in cheek discussion, I think it’d be really great for someone from Lion to actually engage with this debate by offering a real human opinion and insight into some of the thought processes going on at Lion. Not just the usual sterile PR, but real, honest, fiery, controversial debate. How about it?

    2. ‘morning Danny, and welcome along. Glad to hear you’re at least admitting the mistake — it’s a pretty crazy one to have made, especially in the context! — and I look forward to seeing the mess resolved fairly.

  6. ‘Brandwank Monsoon Season’.. you crack me up Phil.
    Mind you, I do live in Auckland, Bradwank Central…
    This stuff is serious beer mulch,that is, shit sprinkled to slow the growth of the weeds of diversity. Crafty Beggars is a shameless shit beer that, in my opinion, is an attempt to cash into the only growing sector in the beer market.
    To take the cynical view further, maybe it’s also a method to water down the growth of the said market, you buy a ‘craft beer’ it’s terrible, and you go back to your Heinlager.

  7. Hi Greg,
    keen to engage in the debate and it would be great to do it over a couple of flavoursome/interesting/different/experimental etc beers (I have avoided using the word ‘craft’ as a definition everyone can agree on still alludes me!). How should we get in touch to organise something?
    cheers
    Danny

      1. It’d hardly be a hijacking. I’d love to see an official reply to some of the substantive criticisms of this kind of strategy — not just the clash of beer names. I’m still waiting on an answer from someone at Lion about what the Crafty Beggars tagline implies about Mac’s / Little Creatures / Emerson’s, for example. And just generally, I’d love some insight into why the hell they thought this range, with this marketing, was necessary or even a good idea.

        1. I’d be interested to even know the business-think behind it.. as in, what the internal pitch was that got the money for the project…

          What segment of the market are Lion aiming this stuff at – it seems unlikely that its involved craft beer drinkers like us (if you read this blog you probably care too much about beer to be taken in by Crafty Beggers).

          I haven’t seen it on shelves to compare prices etc, but given that it didn’t even get its own bottle design (and has a screw top which is pretty non-craft from a design aesthetic/tradition point of view) I’d assume they’re going for… upwardly mobile students?

          Or perhaps, given the lack of investment (some nothing beers and some label design) perhaps this is a temporary foray into the market to test the waters in some way… Test some predictions perhaps?

          Or its an elaborate diversion to stop Phil writing his thoughts on the value of independence and the measures of and rewards for success in the NZ beer industry.

          Stranger things have happened. (well, maybe not)

  8. Hi all,
    It’s taken me a while to get back to this but I am keen to share our perspective on craft and Crafty Beggars. Although it is hard to give a full picture in a blog style forum I’ll do my best. Phil, I’ve e-mailed Greig to organise a time for us to catch up and it would be good to try and catch up with you in Wellington next time I am there for a fuller discussion over a couple of amber liquids, you can pick the beer!

    So here’s a glimpse at our perspective on beer. Some of which have been already touched on by some of the people posting.
    There are a range of drinkers in the market place with different needs in terms of flavour, packaging, price etc. We hear time and time again from drinkers that they would love to get involved in more interesting beers but they find the flavours too big or too challenging. What is a complex and satisfying flavour profile for one person may be either too much or not enough for another. Crafty Beggars is only looking to meet the needs of a certain part of the market. It is certainly not looking to deliver for beer drinkers who enjoy more challenging flavoured beers. It is however looking to satisfy beer drinkers who are looking for something more interesting and flavoursome than a standard everyday/mainstream beer experience. We think Crafty Beggars will do this and the drinkers we talked to and tried the beers agree.

    The world would be pretty dull if everyone was the same, likewise with beer. We see different options for beer drinkers as good for beer. For example: Say drinkers begin to enjoy a Crafty Beggars they may continue to explore the wonderful world of beers which is evolving in NZ as their desire to discover new beers increases. Or maybe they won’t. But it will be up to them to decide. At least we all, big breweries or small breweries are provided drinkers with different and interesting beer experiences which we all hope will keep them drinking beer.

    This is only a quick summary but I look forward to keeping talking.

    Cheers, Danny

    1. That’s a fair position, but the Crafty Beggars are not even particularly varietal or interesting. They don’t taste like the label says, a pretty large fail there.
      I tried the Speights ‘Craft’ beers the other night and again they are boring, but drinkable. triple hop pilsner? Wasn’t hoppy or pilsnerish. Golden ale, tastes like summit.
      Liked the ad though, but do ‘Southern Men’ even know what hair product is?

      You have fantastic beers in your portfolio such as James Squire (hurah for finally getting to NZ again!) and Little Creatures that get little to no marketing or brand support.
      Scrap these wishy washy attempts at making almost craft products, which are an insult to the public’s intelligence, and promote your unloved premium beers.

      Would love to see Emerson’s core range in a 6 pack 330ml, has worked well for Harrington’s.

      As someone who runs a Liquorland store that sells more craft beer than premium and mainstream these days, I think I actually understand what the consumer wants.
      And I son’t think anyone in a corporate environment will ever get it.
      Producing new products for the sake of generating interest and buzz, while ignoring what it actually tastes like is a waste of everyone’s time.

      Try being honest. Steinlager Edge, was launched as a mid strength beer trying to capitalise on a growth segment in OZ. Except it was also low carb. Trying to be two things at once failing at both but only marketed on one of its aspects? Dumb.

      Wow. long rant.
      Mostly annoyed because of the many average beers I’m forced to keep in the fridge so there is no room for more interesting, better tasting and honestly more profitable Craft offerings.

      Cheers,
      TIm

    2. Danny I think it’s great you’ve taken the time to comment on this blog and engage others on here directly, whether it be in an official Lion rep capacity or not. If Lion was asked to officially comment i’d expect a marketing/PR templated response; something that doesn’t really address the problem or topic at hand. While your responses are a tad big-business-mission-statementy, they’re actually quite human and more importantly on topic, so thanks for that.

  9. Very interesting thread…

    I am meeting more and more people who are turned off by overtly hoppy beer. And the SOBA survey at Matariki seemed to be tracking towards a #needslesshops hashtag. I do wonder if a fair few people who are saying there is too much flavour in some beers actually mean that there is too much hops.

    However, in regards to what Lion are “hearing from consumers”… I had a friend around on Saturday who was called by a market research company (on behalf of one of the big breweries) a few months back. There were several introductory questions, one of which asked him if he identified himself as a typical kiwi bloke. When he said “No way!” there was a little bit of an attempt to rephrase the question to get him to answer yes before they finally said he wasn’t suitable for the research. How I laughed!! It makes you wonder what the point it. They’re building a sample to meet the needs of their hypothesis.

    I think the real definition of craft brewing is the brewery who makes the beer and puts it out there, hoping like hell it’ll sell (even if they mostly know it will sell like hot cakes), as opposed to those companies that ask consumers what they want… and only a select group of consumers, at that… and then make something along those lines. Perhaps, to borrow a concept off one of NZ’s less loved craft breweries, this makes Yeastie Boys super craft. After all, we put out beer that we know people will hate.

  10. Beer suffers the same as wine, your average consumer doesn’t understand what they are drinking and use terminology poorly.
    Many red wine drinkers ask for ‘sweet’ red wines, when what they actually want is a less tannins. But say ‘sweet’ as that is the opposite of ‘dry’.
    Hops should be used always with finesse. And many hop bombs are overly bitter.

    A beers apparent hoppiness is a factor of many variables including bitterness.
    Hop zombie and Double trouble are two very hoppy beers that balance their alcohol and bitterness perfectly so come across as being very drinkable, until you go to stand up.

    But many brewers treat hops as the only consideration when brewing, and try to see how many can be crammed in to a single bottle.
    Mainstream beers usually lack the arromatic hops that give a beer it’s character. Remember that 90% of taste is actually smell.

    So we need to break in new drinks with beers like Epic lager, Valkyrie, and delicious balanced golden lagers.
    You would never give a new comer a bottle of Rex attitude, as that would scare the pants off them.

      1. I love Rex and Taniwha. And I think the folk that love Hop Zombie and Double Trouble are weirdos… I haven’t been able to finish a bottle of Zombie. Who put Fresh Upin my beer!?

        Variety is the spice of life. And that’s exactly what Lion/Mac’s/Emerson’s/Beggars are playing at… attempting to cover 99% of the market (leaving the peat and hop bombs to the rest of us).

        1. But why not do it openly? Why not say that you’re doing so? I get your point about variety — but it doesn’t come within a million miles of excusing Lion’s double-dealing and deception.

          1. What’s deceptive about it? It’s just another company with multiple brands. I don’t get the deception thing. It’s not like they’ve set up some elaborate set of companies and Swiss bank accounts to put people off the trail… I mean their website has a Drink Responsibly link on it, which immediately screams Lion/DB to those who care.

            Plenty of companies have different companies and different brands working on different things. Sometimes that’ll be the same people, sometimes different. If, I was to set up a distillery I probably wouldn’t put it under the Yeastie Boys name. Nobody complained about Shed 22 being a deception… because the beer was awesome. It doesn’t need to be the company and the brand that we target when we say “fuck this beer is shit!”… sometimes we can just say that.

            In saying that I enjoy the read as much as the argument…

        2. What most annoys me is that the product is not what the label says it is.
          In the wine industry there is a standard, you want to sell Sauv Blanc as Sauv Blanc, then it has to be at least 85% Sauv Blanc in the bottle, less than that you have to be honest about what is in there.
          Not sure how you could create a bench mark for each style of Beer short of our own Purity Law. But there ought to be some rules. No more putting Pale Ale on Lagers!
          sadly I doubt the Commerce Commission would be of any help, seeing as the swallowed the bull about Radler (another beer that is not what it says it is).

          I plugged the Rex before I realised you were a Yeastie Boy Stu. Love your work. I can understand you not wanting the Big Brewers to get their acts together, as it benefits you, but you love beer. How can you con deem the masses to ignorance?
          How about DB actually does what their marketing hype says and leads a real beer revolution. Perhaps they can bring you on as a consultant and pay you $$$$$

          The best bit of Craft Beer is making a convert, no wonder the Missionaries risked being eaten.

          1. I don’t think DB would like what I’d have to say… but I do have a lot more faith in Lion. My piece in the latest SOBA magazine explain why… They made Mac’s the great brand and line up of beers that it was (admittedly it has stumbled somewhat in the last few years, ending up something more mainstream and less experimental… which I guess is the reason they purchased Emerson’s). I don’t agree with everything they do, nor do I think at all like them, but I do think we would be foolish to not learn something from them.

            One thing they do that I could never see myself doing, and that’s not to say I ever will (because I know things change as your business does), is to pay to exclusivity on a tap, a number of taps, or an entire bar. But I know many other craft breweries do. We’re all businesses in the end… and the number one goal has to be making money, otherwise we may as well remain homebrewers. Our philosophies are wide and varied, which is what makes New Zealad one of the very best places in the world to drink beer right now… Much of this I would put down to the rise of the free (and free-ish) house… Places like Bar Edward, Malthouse, Hashigo Zake, Pomeroy’s, Tonic, Eureka, Little Beer Quarter, Taphaus, Bruhaus and Hop Garden amongst others. It is the blinkered attitude of big breweries that gave these guys the opportunity! And us!

            In the end, flavour and good business will push through.

  11. I agree with Phil mainly on this point; It’s pretty freakin’ whack that Lion’s brands are positioned at slagging each other off for being undrinkable. That’s not so much brandwank as brandfail.

    I think Lion’s seemingly good intentions (as highlighted by Danny from Lion above), to create high quality, flavoursome, yet simple beer are actually quite valid – there’s definitely a market for it. Us crafties sometimes call such products “gateway beers” on our side of the fence. There already exists a bunch of examples of more mainstream-palatable craft products. During my time bartending at Malthouse I used to convert daring Heineken drinkers to craft beer using products likes Tuatara Helles, Mussel Inn Golden Goose, Epic Lager, Gisborne Gold, and McCashins Stoke range.

    So as it happens you’ve got craft and mainstream breweries both acknowledging this market segment. Craft brewers are brewing these beers ‘down’ to be closer to mainstream products, whereas Lion/DB/Independent are brewing them ‘up’ to be closer to craft products – and sometimes these two sides cross over the assumed dividing line of quality. Case in point – Three Boys Tres Amigos Cervesa was utter piss (sorry Ralph), but technically still craft beer. Mac’s Hop Rocker is a lovely pilsner, technically mainstream.

    So it’s glaringly apparent that craft does not necessarily equal quality, and mainstream does not necessarily equal shite. And that’s what annoys me the most about big breweries adopting the “craft” tagline. Not only is it a lie by definition (being independent is unarguably a defining attribute of being “craft”), but it’s simply not necessary and looks desperate. Embrace your mainstream status and just make better beer and advertise it truthfully for gods sake.

    I guess at the end of the day, IF Lion is indeed making slightly better beer than they used to as a result of the craft market influence, and planning on converting their bored Speights Gold Medal drinkers to their version of “craft”, then marketing aside, that’s an objectively good thing right? Mainstream beer slooowly but surely getting better – isn’t that a win?

  12. Would just like to add that my partner picked up some beers for me today at the supermarket and saw the labels and low price tag and thought it would be something I’d like.
    Crafty Beggars Good As Gold is the most tasteless beer I’ve tried since drinking a Flame Beer.
    I tried to ignore it and just drink it, but it actually got worse the more you drank.
    Just one luckless punters chance encounter.

  13. Ahh !!!!! Beer is the stuff off great Discussion naff and not so naff, it is like an elixir of eternal youth, exhuberant ,emotional, and damn beautiful. Just like human personalities ,there are those that are weak and comply to mediocrity and through years of subliminal conditioning are accepted as the norm for successful living .
    Then you have strong unforgettable types with taste and impeccable character and the desire for more exhaltation with them can be revolutionary to say the least.
    And that’s the point of this DIscusion and Craft beer , we are experiencing great beer flavours from people who have passion about what they brew and dedicated to giving freedom to people entrapped in mediocrity ,a Taste of flavoursome beers.
    It now goes without saying that nobody likes a gate crasher at a party ,and that is now what the big breweries are doing with the craft beer scene here in N.Z. , they are deceiving their way into the minds of the consumer on the backs of other craft brewers achievements. Having tasted Coromandel Good as Gold , I have yet to taste Crafty Beggers Fools Gold. But let Solomon be the judge at the next beervana Awards , that’s if mediocrity gate crashes the party ?

  14. The difference between ‘Craft’ and ‘Mainstream’ debate is so redundent.
    Most craft brewers would love to be mainstream so the masses could enjoy their creation and I bet you most Mainstream brewers would love to escape the limitations of the corporation they answer to. But the fact is you cannot operate outside the system and in most cases it is a choice between being a brewer or a business person.
    And I can guarantee we all started out on a homebrew kit as equals.
    So the debate is more about business and how you wish to operate and to what level..
    It is clear that the independent ‘craft’ beer sector is a community. The brewers are visible, interactive and accountable. There is personal ownership of the product.
    I can easily pop down to a beer release and meet the brewer, discuss the beer and get honest answers. I can even contact the brewers via email or social media and some will even share recipes with you, not only sharing the love but sharing knowledge about how to create an amazing product – contributing to the community. It is this community that gets me excited for a new beer release – not a edgy marketing campaign.
    These are ideals that the big boys do not understand and until they do, they will never truely break into this ‘craft’ community.

    One of my favourite things about this blog is the comments. It is great to see the likes of Stu, Keiran and Greig contributing to the discussion – and this is the community I speak of.

    On a side note – it is debatable whether Stu’s pants are an edgy marketing campaign, but they are definitly edgy.

  15. I agree with Peter’s comment above: “craft does not necessarily equal quality, and mainstream does not necessarily equal shite”.
    But i’d go a step further and argue that neither term has anything to do with quality of product at all.

    The term “Craft beer” has unfortunately become a default way to communicate “good quality beer made with good intentions”. Similarly “Mainstream” is now a way to say “bad beer with no/negative flavours, made on the cheap by nasty people”.

    The problem is that both of these tacked on craft-community-driven definitions allow for subjectivity, meaning they’re not real ‘definitions’ at all. This subjectivity occurs when people attribute their opinions about the actual product itself (flavours, process, ingredients etc) to the “Craft or Not?” debate.
    While inherently good criteria to judge an individual beer on, don’t bring an objective term like “Craft Beer” into the fray as a quality descriptor. Just enjoy product or don’t.

    The question of “Craft or Not?” is actually very easy to answer as literally has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ACTUAL BEER! Craft ‘Beer’ is not actually a “thing”, per se. It is simply a product that is produced by a Craft Brewery. If a brewery meets certain criteria, it is a craft brewery (otherwise known as a microbrewery) – there ARE objective measures for this, first being that the brewery must be Independently owned, the second involving output volumes (the US brewer’s association figure escapes me), and third involving level of malt content across the range.

    So “Craft Beer” is simply a subset of “All Beer”, and has nothing to do with taste, or attitude, or anything variable like that.

    – Is Crafty Beggars craft beer? Nope!
    – Was Emerson’s craft beer before the Lion purchase? Yes! Is the very same beer craft now? No!
    – Is Black Dog on Blair St Craft Beer? Nope! But the beer’s great! – Irrelevant!
    – Is a tasteless, watered down beer from a craft brewery still craft beer? Absolutely!
    – Will Tuatara still be a craft brewery if they output 1Litre over the Craft threshold? Nope!

    You get the picture; beer IS objectively craft or not – I really don’t understand why there’s a debate about it. Embrace the black and white!

    Conclusion. We need to stop trying to subjectify a term that already has objective measures. I also think that breweries would do right by themselves to just drop the whole “Craft Beer” angle from their product marketing altogether – in terms of product quality, it literally means nothing.

  16. If you follow the American guidlines that breakdown what craft is, then none of the beer being made at Steam (including Epic) is Craft. Let’s just judge beer by whats in the bottle not who made it or who owns it.

    Phil, love your stuff, some of your stuff is out there but you make good points…..

  17. I first read this blog entry a while ago and it has obviously grown some legs since. I heard a “Crafty Beggars” ad on the radio this morning that described it as “honest” which seems particularly inappropriate for a product that has gone to such lengths to hide its corporate origin. I did try one (though it was so unmemorable I cannot recall which) bought by my American/Australian brother-in-law over here on holiday. He included it in a selection of New Zealand craft beers he bought to try and, perhaps understandably, didn’t realise that it was a Lion product.

  18. Wychwood brewery in Oxfordshire U.K. had an advertising campaign featuring their typical Hobgoblin style, “what’s the matter lager boy, afraid you might taste something”how very apt for the awful bland main stream wee wee water sold as beer in N.Z.

  19. something interesting i heard recently is that there is a media dept student at Vic doing a masters on Craft Brewing Marketing….. of course the first thing they have to do is develop a clear definition for what craft beer is…..

  20. Do you keep and collect the caps from the beers you drink? I am a cap collector and would be interested in purchasing some of the caps from you if you are open to it.

    1. Not really, no. So I’m probably not much help, I’m afraid. I’ve got a few souvenir-ish ones kicking around, but they get intermittently purged when I’m cleaning my desk to procrastinate from real productivity.

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