Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Lion's craft beer ploy has rival brewers frothing

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A new craft beer by Lion has been banned by a retailer because its advertising material is "an insult to a great industry".

Liquorland Newmarket tweeted that it would not stock the Crafty Beggars range because of its marketing tagline - "A craft beer you can actually drink" - which has caused a backlash among beer drinkers.

But Lion brand marketing director Danny Phillips defended the campaign, calling it "tongue in cheek", and said the nine brewers inside Lion were real people.

Mr Phillips said Lion was catering to traditional beer drinkers who found boutique craft beer too challenging because of the strong hop flavour, and the company had as much right to be in the craft beer market as a microbrewery.

"Some of the craft beer guys say you have to be small to be craft. We disagree with that. We say regardless of your size, if you make good, flavoursome beer then that's craft beer and that's good for consumers."

He said the campaign was not meant to offend or upset and that beer drinkers should decide on taste whether to try Crafty Beggars, rather than other people's opinions.

"I guess we were a little bit validated at the recent brewing awards in the lager section."

Crafty Beggars Pilsner won a silver in its category at the International Brewing Awards in Britain, and Lion also picked up two golds for the Speight's Tri Hop Pilsner and Mac's Sassy Red.

Mr Phillips said he had not heard of any other retailers apart from Liquorland Newmarket who would not stock the beer.

The retailer did not return calls yesterday.

Brewers' Guild of New Zealand president Ralph Bungard said he was aware of the campaign, which was a bit "deceptive", but said it would be hard for small brewers to complain because they often took the same stance in their marketing. "They can be pretty cheeky about some of the ranges that the bigger brewers put out," said Mr Bungard, who runs Three Boys Brewery in Christchurch.

"For example saying, 'Why would you drink this bland fizzy brown stuff they call beer?'

"If you're willing to give [it] you've got to take a little as well," he said of Lion's campaign.

"Most brewery members realise it's part of the game and they wouldn't be shy about making some cheeky comments back."

He said having the "big boys" entering the craft market was a reflection of how well the microbrewers had created that market.

The marketing ploy

"Someone should make a craft beer you can actually drink. That's the conclusion we Crafty Beggars came to. A rogue society, hidden deep within the industry, made up of nine brewers of unsurpassed skill and fanaticism, who all agreed that beer had gone in two directions - either hopelessly middle of the road, or so snobbily crafty that one overpriced sip will blow your face off in a blitzkrieg of hops and whatever else has been arbitrarily thrown in. Something had to be done."

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