Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Media the Beer and the Bullshit –Part One

Hopping Mad

My interest was pricked by the promo for A Current Affair to be aired in Melbourne that Wednesday night. The all-too-serious voice over boomed out a warning to potential viewers that the show would expose the most heinous of corporate crimes, a well organised and overtly dishonest campaign aimed at misleading and ripping off the consumer. Bring it on, I says.

The bit that made me take notice was the self righteous condemnation of the evil doers responsible for this latest big business scam- the beer brewers – ripping off the poor old average aussie working-and-drinking average man. And how were they conning the drinker, you ask? Well, here’s the bit that really paled my ale.

I watched and waited to hear the apparently damning evidence against the breweries. ‘Hopping Mad’ was the headline – at least they are edu-ma-cated enough to research that hops are an ingredient of beer. This made their witty pun all the more attention grabbing. You see, it appears, according to A Current Affair, that those nasty money grubbing liars down at Foster’s and Lion Nathan – that’s Carlton and Toohey’s – are tricking the drinker into paying top dollar for IMPORTED BEERS that are really made HERE IN AUSTRALIA! (Cue dramatic music) DAH – DAH – DAH – DAHH!!!

Now I don’t think that I am an especially smart sort of bloke, and I don’t have any inside brewing information that the average bloke doesn’t have access to, but I knew that many ‘international‘ beers have been brewed under licence in many countries for about ten years. I just assumed that everyone else knew it, too. The report featured sound grabs from ’average’ drinkin’ blokes standing around the barbie and in the pub. I tell you, average is a generous label. These plonkers were dumber than a bag full of hammers. A Current Affair must have had a shed full of leftovers from the last dole bludger expose.

For a start, I can’t imagine any of these mental microbes being able to spell UK, let alone know of, or drink beer from there. They looked like VB and XXXX kind of guys. And I reckon that they might have struggled to spell those, too. But let’s give them a break and pretend that they have actually ever bought a Stella Artois or a Beck’s or a Guinness, a Kingfisher or a Carlsberg.

The first complaint against Big Brewer was that he was pretending that these beers were imported. But were they really being deceptive? The bit on the label that says Made Under Licence; right next to the bit that says MADE IN AUSTRALIA. Wasn’t that just a bit of a give away? "There it is in the FINE print", said the earnest reporter, as if there should be a law that states the country of origin must be in bold font at least twice the size of the brand name. "They’re trying to fool us", said Braniac #3. That wouldn’t be a three point play. On and on these whingers went, lamenting the fact that we are led to believe that "they’re from Europe", plodded Dufus #2. "They taste watery, like they’ve been topped up." What!?

Complaining about the brewers 'charging full import prices for stuff made with Sydney water’ these people need to ‘do a Kylie’ and take a step back in time. The primary reason that international beers like those listed above are being advertised, marketed and sold to Australian drinkers is that the licence brewing has made them cheaper!* Fair dinkum, how about complaining about the fact that you have to fork out the best part of forty bucks for a slab of VB! It’s VB, people! Or close to sixty dollars for Corona! CORONA! It’s Mexican for snake’s water! Wake up.

‘Ads say that these beers are from Europe etc, etc ‘, the reporter continued. No, they don’t. They say that they are European beers. Do we really believe that Lebanese cucumbers can only come from Lebanon? Does Chinese five spice become Wyong five spice if it is made by Masterfoods in NSW? Brewers have developed the technology to produce beer to almost the same taste using local water and highly developed yeast strains so that a Beck’s brewed in Pyrmont, NSW is a pretty good copy of the Beck’s brewed in Bremen, Germany. I stress that this is not always the case, but how many drinkers could honestly say they can taste the difference anyway?

Will ACA now run a similar story telling the Brits that Foster’s Lager has been brewed in Great Britain since around 1980 – no, they won’t, because CUB at the time spent a kabillion dollars and twenty cents on equipment to filter and adjust the water so that Foster’s tastes just like the one at home and took a yeast sample handcuffed to the executives wrist on the plane over there so that the strain would be pure and genuine. And because the poms know that the stuff is brewed over there, too. And they don’t care because it is cheaper than it was when it was shipped from Aus.

And let’s see if next week ACA can expose the fact that the Australian drinker forks over a ton of tax for every slab that he carries home – and we’re still better off than many European countries in this regard. In the mean time run some stories about all the blokes and blokettes who drink beer and DON’T drive home and DON’T beat their kids or who CAN find and keep a job and stop creating stories – in particular, anti beer stories – for the benefit of the four people who can’t exercise basic compulsion control or who don’t know how to read a beer label or who can’t remember how much imported beer used to cost? Hmmm?

*I am researching the price movements of local and imported beers over the past decade – vey slack of me to go in with all guns blazing and not be fully armed – but what the hey?

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