The International Beer Club has just issued a clarification (??) about their newsletter entry reproduced below. I have included this first to make sure that their apology is read…As I said in my initial post, no one else I spoke to reported the same conditions…it seems that they were never made. Still, apart from the deletions, the comments on Crown itself are still pretty relevant…
Shame on us!
Unfortunately during the editing process (and perhaps caught up in the spirit of the name and shame), some of last weeks newsletter ended up on the cutting room floor, and some of the intended messages were “lost in translation”, and subsequently what ended up in your inbox was quite different (or converse) to what was intended. We’d like to clarify a few of the finer points:
As written, the statement “[Ambassador] is not available to bottlestores without a purchase of 5 pallets of Crown Lager” is false. This was only requested of some small independent stores that were not already selling a substantial volume of the beer. We apologise to Fosters for the mistake, and hope that in the future better communication (both with Fosters and within our small team) will prevent any further drama.
We entirely appreciate what we perceive to be Fosters position, and, despite last weeks comments, believe that 12 months in a display cabinet is an excellent use of the visually stunning Ambassador – though we would prefer someone was drinking it!
A couple of posts ago I talked up the Crown Ambassador Reserve as being a beer worth buying…I still hold to that ( I still think it shows that when they want to Fosters can brew interesting beer) but I received a copy of the International Beer Shop’s newsletter this week, where they said this…
Shame on you Fosters!
Crown Ambassador, the beer that (according to Fosters) pioneered and defined luxury beer in the Australian market is not available to bottlestores without a purchase of 5 pallets of Crown Lager – posing the question: luxury lager or simply a subversive marketing strategy? Our apologies to any members that had requested the beer (this year and last), we simply couldn’t convince Fosters that we deserved any. I guess to Foster’s credit they did give a lot away to celebrities and sports/media stars – a better investment/advertisement than having it sit for 12 months on a store shelf (and yes we’ve heard of some stores with last year’s vintage still in stock).
Thankfully, we have plenty of other limited release strong beers, all crafted with passion and without any input from any marketing department. Those interested in the style can check out (in no particular order):
- Mikkeller Big Worse
- Rogue XS Old Crustacean Barleywine (+ the rest of the Rogue XS range)
- Nogne O #100
- BrewDog Isle of Arran Imperial Stout
- St Ambroise Vintage Ale
- Fullers Vintage Ale
- Murray‘s Anniversary Ale
- Unibroue 17
- Cooper’s Vintage Ale
I have checked with a couple of smaller Brisbane retailers and they didn’t have the same conditions put on them, so I’m not sure how widespread this requirement is, but I’m not surprised. Even though CAR is a pretty good beer – and a very impressive gift (two very different things) – it is still a marketing exercise. IBS pose the question, “luxury lager or simply a subversive marketing strategy?” Why can’t it be both? Six thousand bottles of a beer is (excuse the pun) extremely small beer for a brewer producing billions of stubbies a year, even one selling for $70 a bottle. They do it as an attempt to put a halo around the Crown brand, which has diminished greatly over the last half decade.
Ten years ago there was what I called the “Crown ceiling” for most restaurants’ beer lists, where the most expensive beer on the menu was pretty much Crown. You couldn’t put another more expensive beer on the menu because it wouldn’t sell. The general appreciation for beer - or at least the perception of beer – was that Crown was as good as you could get in Australia so you couldn’t charge more for a craft beer or an import.
Tastes have changed, and you will regularly see beers costing more on a menu these days. I’m not sure that you can say that the average drinker is much more informed though because the beers that have broken the Crown ceiling include international brands brewed under licence such as Stella and Becks, but that just shows how important marketing is. Crown Ambassador Reserve is designed to give the ailing Crown brand a lift – and if that means requiring retailers to buy huge amounts of the regular Crown, then that’s what Fosters will do. After all, beer is their business and marketing is central to that business…although the business Fosters is in is growing their business by selling shitloads of beer, not building a sustainable business – and hopefully making a living – by brewing great beer, which is the modest ambition of many of the smaller brewers springing up.
Mind you, that’s where Foster’s strategy of requiring mass purchases of Crown may hurt them. If it is common practice, there are going to be retailers all over the place with their storages stocked with Crown. Lagers of that type don’t last very long and so the beer either needs to be sold – and that means discounts – or it will sit around unrefrigerated until sold, which could see it age. Even worse, if the retailer’s storage space is really full the pallets will be pulled out of the storage in the morning to sit around in the sun until close up time when it will be wheeled back in – a common sight at the big liquor retailers. Either way, discounting or aged, stale beer will hurt the brand further…but that’s never really been the concern of accountants and marketers – after getting a pat on the back for a short-term lift in sales – will just come up with a clever way to try and mend its tarnished crown in 6 or 12 months time. Watch out for specials on Crown in the coming months – something that you never saw in the past as Fosters maintained its “premium” branding.
All that said, I think I’d pretty much prefer any of the beers that the International Beer Shop recommended too. But I also know a lot of dads who will be more impressed – and more thankful – for “a $70 bottle of Crownie” because to them it has more cachet – and a nicer box – than some Scandinavian beer that he can’t pronounce. But that’s the power of marketing for you. And that is something that Fosters does very well.
Still, if Mikkeller Big Worse or Unibroue 17 mean more to you than Crown – you’re my kind of beer drinker. You should check out IBS
if you haven’t already…