Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) is unmoved by a social media campaign calling on the brewer to be more transparent about its licensing agreement with boutique beer brand, Byron Bay Brewing Company.
CUB’s public relations agency, Liquid Ideas, last week issued a press release announcing that Byron Bay Brewing Co, a small northern NSW brewery that is independently owned by Barry Schadel, had released its Pale Lager in packaged format.
The bottled beer was in fact produced by CUB at its brewery in Warnervale under a new licensing agreement with Byron Bay Brewing Company.
But as with the packaging of the beer itself, the press release did not disclose that CUB had any involvement in the production or rollout of the new beer.
In an open letter to Carlton & United Breweries CEO Ari Mervis, beer writer Matt Kirkegaard called for the brewer to be more transparent in its marketing of the beer.
“When I read the media release, it seemed to be strongly suggesting that the beer was being brewed and bottled solely by the Byron Bay Brewing Company,” Kirkegaard says.
“Without an intimate knowledge of the Australian beer market, anyone reading the media release or seeing the beer’s packaging would be very surprised to learn that the beer is actually being made, marketed and distributed by Carlton and United Breweries, albeit under licence,” he says.
“The way that your company is marketing this beer, at the very least, lacks transparency. At its worst, it could appear that your company is actively seeking to hide your involvement from the consumer.”
But Byron Bay Brewing Company owner Barry Schadel told TheShout he didn’t understand why he should have to declare CUB’s involvement in expanding the distribution of a brand that he created and continues to own outright.
“It’s not their product, it’s my product. It’s ridiculous,” he said.
CUB spokesman Jeremy Griffith told TheShout that he would understand the reaction if Byron Bay Brewing Company was owned by CUB, but it’s still Barry Schadel’s brand.
“We are providing the opportunity for a small craft brewery to expand its distribution and bring its beer to a national market,” he said.
“We think this a positive step. The beer and brewery remain independently owned by Barry Schadel.”
A page entitled “Dear Ari Mervis: Please Fix It” has attracted 263 ‘likes’ on Facebook since it was created on Monday.
The incident continues an international debate over transparency in labelling of beers.
The Brewers Association – which represents small and independent American craft brewers – recently said large, multinational brewers “appear to be deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today’s small and independent brewers”.