Carlton Draught has recently been given a makeover with a new design for its beer cans. Why? Possibly to rejuvenate a sector of the market that’s currently in a slump. Ultimately, it seems to be a classic case of beer marketing wank for the sake of sales.
Gone is the red radiance of the former cans, replaced by a silver look and embossed hoops, apparently designed to mimic a beer keg (…see image at the bottom of this post for what Carlton Draught kegs actually look like).
Of course, I need to attach to this post a disclaimer that I really dislike Carlton Draught. Hence, negativity will ensue.
There is no good reason for my strongly adverse feelings towards this mass produced Australian adjunct lager, other than I simply do not like the brand or the beer’s taste. Brewed by Carlton & United Breweries (CUB, aka Fosters) under the ownership of SABMiller, Carlton Draught constantly suffers my jeers, sneers and disdain for its existence and marketing, despite the brand scoring some of the most amusing and effective advertising for Australian beer. Even I believe Carlton Draught’s modern tagline of “made from beer” is a stroke of marketing and writing genius, notwithstanding its lack of respect for my enjoyment of good beer through the art and science of brewing and flavour.
Further discrediting my disapproval of Carlton Draught is my enjoyment of VB and Melbourne Bitter, yet the difference between these three CUB beers is minimal.
There’s a running joke (or is it a myth with substance?) that Carlton Draught, VB and Melbourne Bitter all come from the same tank but just at different levels (VB at the top, Carlton in the middle, MB from the bottom…?) or are simply run-off through different pipes. Something silly like that. What is almost certain is that these three beers surely use the same recipe of adjunct malt, cane sugar, yeast and Pride of Ringwood hop extract. Their differences (mainly colour and slight variations in sweetness) come from post brew processing. But, I speculate.
What I’m trying to contextualise is that I, a fervent craft beer geek and with all my distaste for Carlton Draught, can still enjoy VB and MB because I consumed them heavily during my formative beer drinking years. The pairing of dirty loud pub rock and harsh but sweet Melbourne Bitter made perfect sense to a sweaty 20 year old. Consequently, today I posses something of an immunity to those two beers and hence am still comfortable with drinking them in the right time and place…if necessary. Carlton Draught is different though. I find its taste tinny metallic, and it hurts my mouth and head (and that’s in any form, whether on tap or from bottles or cans). Yep, to me, this beer is gross.
Anyway, I’m writing this to recall a funny moment of failure that these new silver “keg cans” offered up last week.
This new design drastically failed at least one loyal consumer.
I was in my local BWS store (the bottle shop attached to Woolworths supermarkets), standing at the beer fridges, typically taking my sweet-ass time to select which beers to buy. This decision was prolonged by the fact that a number of local craft beer brands were on special, taking advantage of Father’s Day that coming weekend. There were also a number of new local craftys appearing for the first time in BWS, such as the Bridge Road Brewers Golden Ale and Celtic Red Ale, which is always exciting to see.
The lady behind the counter obviously thought I was lost and needed help, as opposed to being a picky beer geek.
“Are you looking for Carlton Draught?” she asked.
“They’ve changed the can.”
“Oh no,” I replied, “I’m more interested in the craft beers. I’m just trying to decide between Mountain Goat and Bridge Road.”
She then proceeded to tell me about how an earlier customer came to her frustrated because he couldn’t find any Carlton Draught.
All he could find was the “Diet Carlton Draught“.
With his short glance, that customer thought the new silver cans were actually a new diet or low carb version of the beer.
The story made me laugh out loud, with my laughter not directed at that customer or the beer, but at the CUB marketing department and all their market research and testing.
Take away the bold, highly visible, red and yellow design, strip it back to simply the logo on a silver background and you have a diet product. Redesigned fail!
The Carlton Draught marketing manager is quoted as saying that the new can was about championing the Aussie pub experience. “You see a keg and instantly think having a beer at the pub.”
But who sees kegs when they go to a pub? Maybe some people see empty kegs sitting out the back of the building. However, inside the typical Aussies pub, kegs are out of sight. They are stored under or behind the bar.
When I think of “having a beer at the pub” I think of beer taps, or pint and pot glasses, or even a pool table. Not kegs.
So yeah, I wonder how long this design will last.
As for my selection, I was after something sessionable for the mid-week, since all I seem to have at home is big hoppy beers and imperial stouts. I walked out with a 6-pack of the old reliable favourite, Mountain Goat Hightail Ale, plus two bottles of the new Bridge Road Golden Ale to try.
For more dissection of the new Carlton Draught design, check out the Australian Brews News story: Of shiny things and mixed messages