Much of an Australian’s everyday life is dominated by an ‘opoly of some sort. Monopolies, duopolies, quadopolies (thinking banks here). The duopoly of Coles and Woolworths is particularly pervasive. Not only do they dominate the supermarket scene, they’ve extended their tentacles into petrol, bottle-shops, hardware and now brewing. It isn’t a big secret that bottle shop chains like Dan Murphy’s, First Choice, BWS and Vintage Cellars are owned either by Woolies or Coles. Their increasing proximity to the supermarket in NSW is the giveaway and in Melbourne – the licensing laws appear to be different, and you don’t have to go to a separate checkouts to buy your grog and groceries. Interestingly, my local ALDI has the jump on Coles and Woolies in NSW and is selling grog and groceries at the same check-out and is beating Dan’s on the case price of Cooper’s Pale Ale – $41.99 if you don’t mind. A new depressing trend is the creation by each of a “craft beer” brand that will be distributed exclusively through the respectively owned bottle shop chains. It’s depressing because the beer is as craft as Foster’s and the cynicism of the marketing and branding is breathtaking.
Have a look at the photos for a start. Looks a lot like James Squire. Quirky name, trying to pretend that there’s some history, branding theme etc. The most offensive is the Coles initiative. Steamrail Brewing Co is located at 800 Toorak Road, Hawthorn East. Do you really think that there is a craft brewery in the headquarters of Wesfarmers and the Coles empire? Is there truly a back story behind the “Ghost of Eyre” for whom their Pale Ale is named, or has some youngster on a marketing graduate rotation programme been thrown a bone to come up with something that will fool 25% of Aussies that shop at Coles bottlos for grog? At least Sail & Anchor has a heritage of brewing. Geez, I even owned a Brass Monkey Stout t-shirt in the last 90’s. Steamrail has as much heritage as Pinterest. I drank my three Steamrails on the Back of the Ferry and they kind of tasted the same – bit more hops than a lager, but with a finish that holds as much interest as a Big Bash League 20/20 game.
I think that a classic response came from Australian Brews News on Monday, which can be found here. Matt of Australian Brews News (if you haven’t subscribed, you should) is fighting the good fight to stop the majors pretending to be craft brewers. He’s onto a real doozie with Byron Bay Brewing and SAB Miller – read about that here and here. It’s a free country, but if you’ve got $14.99 and you are in a Coles owned bottle shop and you want a six pack of craft beer – there’s probably still enough real craft beer choice available without having to go faux craft.
I tasted the Steamrail pale ale. Big mistake and waste of hard earned craft beer funds. All I can say is that the Pale ale will only be enjoyed by lovers of CUB’s and lion nathan’s many tasteless options. It offers nothing at all .. nothing … a craft beer it is NOT … ( love the comment about having as much interest as a cricket game ) … sadly i bought a 6 pack for a dinner party … did not finish my first bottle and left the rest of the beers there …
though like yourself i expected nothing more from our friends ( not ) at Coles.
Nice post, and thanks for the shout out.
I actually thought the beers weren’t too bad, they were as you’d expect for beers that are targeting the broader market rather than hardcore niche. As with everything, when it comes to the taste of the beer – drinkers know what they like. If people like it, well and good.
Still, both brands are trying to wrap themselves in the emotional cloak of a defunct and non-existent brewery respectively. Despite what they say out loud, these guys know that people don’t just buy beer for flavour and so the big retailers and big brewers are doing their very best to play to the emotional attraction that people have for small breweries. As you point out, the level of authenticity behind the two differs greatly and isn’t entirely true for either. For Coles, not at all..
It seems that big companies have modified the classic line to “The secret to success in craft beer is authenticity. If you can fake that, you got it made.”
I willingly paid $15 for a 6pack of Steam Rail Amber Ale and I actually would drink it again. I’m not a beer snob so any flavours and colours being put out in the mainstream works for me. I refuse, however, to pay $15 for a 4pack of woolies brew so I wont be able to give a comparison any time soon.
I don’t mind the fakery by Colesworth breweries (I would class the same ‘fakery’ by a big brewer as ‘wankery’ from a small one) but my wallet has as many tastebuds as my mouth and neither care for the spin!
All that being said, I can taste when a beer goes the extra mile. These are beers you can smash straight out of the bottle and when the flavour doesn’t linger…. you go get another one!
Nice to know whats in it?….no preservatives? has preservatives?….brewed naturally???…what?…nothing on the bottle or anywhere…. other breweries have it proudly displayed “brewed naturally, barley, hopes, water & no preservatives”….so I presume its just like the usual commercial stuff that will give you a headache??
I’ve tried the amber and the pilsner . Both are realy good especially the pilsner.It doesn’t taste like a classic european pilsner it has a more rounded fuller flavour of it’s own. Putting the morality of a mass produced beer being passed off as a niche crafted beer aside it gets a 4/5 ffrom me. At the end of the day it’s got to be about how good the beer tastes rather than how it was produced . Bit pricy though .
The amber and golden is great tasting and would put it as a equal to James Squire but costs less. Love it for $40. It’s a steel.
It’s very hard to find a good australian beer and they are over priced at $60+.