Friday, December 2, 2011

Great news! I'm now drinking in the national interest!

I'm not a great beer drinker - the absence of grapes in the mix deters me. Nonetheless, when I do partake of the amber, my favourite brew is Coopers. And now, thanks to offloading Fosters to South African brewer, SABMiller, yesterday for a cool $10 billion, when I drink Coopers, I'm drinking in the national interest - crusading to keep the last great Aussie beer brand in local hands.

As I jump in my chariot of choice and drive over to Dan Murphy's to collect a carton, I know the crusade will be a long one. Coopers only has 4% share of the national beer market. So it will be guerilla warfare, with a few diehard defenders of Aussie brands sniping with their credit cards at the overseas behemoths.

The great thing going for Coopers is you can consume more of it, because you don't need to eat with it. All the food's contained in the bottle, with that familiar sediment churning through it to nourish you as you drink. Someone told me that you can never get a hangover from drinking Coopers because it's naturally top fermented - no added chemicals to give you the headache. Even though I heard this about 30 years ago, I find it hard to read the ingredients information with the bottle in my mouth, so cannot verify the veracity of this claim.

Yes, it's a comforting thought knowing that the internationals haven't really developed a beer that you can eat chilled. Chilling is mainly confined to what the Europeans would call lager. Beer they drink warm. Any pom will tell you that Aussies are not beer drinkers. We're all lager drinkers. So we've sold the South Africans a dud - they've bought a lager company when they thought they were buying a beer brewer. Aussies have never been good at disclosure.

Are we sad that another icon Aussie brand is heading overseas to live? Has Fosters gone the way of the Speedo? Will beer in stubbies go the way of men in Stubbies. Remember Stubbies? Those shorty cotton shorts that gave everyone a peek-a-boo at some of Australia's greatest nut crops on building sites? Let's hope we exported the roadshow as well as the brand!

Seriously though, it seems we're good at creating brands, but not good at hanging onto them. Doing that is a bloody hard exercise when your domestic market would fit in a schooner and you've failed to really make decent inroads internationally.

A Fosters spin-off, Treasury Wines, is now attacking the Chinese market and called for Aussie winemakers to resist the temptation to pour cheap crap into China and to build the market based on quality and, therefore, sustainable margins. With some of the brands, like Penfolds, in the Treasury Wines cellar, it's no surprise they're encouraging this approach.

In any event, I now have a job to do. Christmas-New Year beer will be there to be eaten, not drunk. Coopers is it and my 2012 Coopers Crusade will begin. Let's drink to save a great Aussie brand.

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