I don't give a rat's about beer being more in touch with culture than craft ...
STEEL City. Still. Probably forever.
Steel City is the moniker of a beer label launched last week by some of Newcastle's colourful sporting identities from Newcastle's high-profile sports of rugby league and surfing.
Steel and blokes and surfing and rugby league and beer. John Meillon's ghost would no doubt be tickled pink to see the band back together. Although Meillon himself - who provided the quintessential beer voiceover immortalised in VB ads over four decades - might baulk at Steel City cans containing 355ml rather than the 375ml found in the green cans also known as "Boonies". The 355ml caper is a trending travesty that should be banned.
Steel City beer joins another footy player's beer launched last December. Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga's Goo-C is a locally-made pale ale and its name springs from Ponga's trademark play - the attacking goose step. Drink eight and you too may be able to pull off a goose step, albeit unintentionally down the steps.
Beer might appear to the casual observer to be an impossibly saturated market that paralyses consumers with purchase anxiety caused by an over-abundance of choice, but that didn't stop world surfing champions Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning building a beer brand in 2016 and flogging it off for a motza in 2019.
It was widely speculated that the sale of their Gold Coast-based craft brewer Balter to Carlton & United Breweries saw Fanning, Parkinson and their investors reap a windfall somewhere north of $150 million.
Remember Bluetongue beer? The tipple was founded back in 2001 by four Hunter Valley businessmen - Philip Hele, Bruce Tyrrell, Ian Burford and Paul Hannan. They sold a half stake to advertising giant John Singleton in 2005 and he took little time in adding his unique marketing touch.
Within five years the beer had gone from a boutique brand to being sold in every state of Australia. It was available in more than 5700 bottle shops and on tap in nearly 400 pubs.
Singleton and his partners cashed in just before 2007, selling Bluetongue to Pacific Beverages, for a price estimated around $30 million. The beer was discontinued in 2014.
And who can forget Pig Iron, the 2005 lager offering from Steel River Brewery? The television commercial offered the regrettably memorable tag line - delivered by ute muster master James Blundell - "Let's pull a pig at the pub tonight". Collective deep sigh.
The television commercial for Pig Iron remains available on YouTube and stands as a monument to incredibly dreadful moments in beer advertising.
Last Thursday's Herald ('Andrew and Matthew Johns among founders of new beer Steel City', April 15) article quoted the Steel City's marketing director connecting beer with culture.
"In today's crowded beer market Steel City is a brand more in touch with culture than craft," he said.
"It is a brand that delivers easy drinking beer, while recognising the unsung achievements of the hundreds of thousands of working-class people across the Hunter."
I don't give a rat's about beer being more in touch with culture than craft, although I do expect - for $65 a slab - that the brewer is in touch with a delicious yeast culture. And riddle me this: how, precisely, does easy drinking beer recognise unsung achievements?
Flowery marketing waffle and a nicely shot commercial of blokes in hi-vis and hard hats doing steely things in factories gives more than a little nostalgic nod to VB, and that beer remains one of Australia's best-selling drops.
Nostalgia underpins the retro marketing identity of Steel City. Nostalgic marketing relates to the creation of a brand identity strongly based on heritage and collective memory, even when that memory has overly romanticised the past.
The real risk of putting all the eggs in the nostalgia or retro basket is that young people don't experience the warm and fuzzy nostalgia connected with the product.
Steel City as a brand connected with Newcastle is not my schooner of amber, but there'll be plenty jumping on board. This city has spent millions engaging marketing and tourism consultants to position it as a smart, sustainable, global city of events.
The city's industrial past is nothing to be ashamed of, but it's just that - a past, what it once predominantly was. Not what it predominantly is. More importantly, not what it might be.
Just like Balter and Bluetongue, Steel City may sell for a motza in a few years. And best of luck to 'em.
At least they didn't call it Steel Town.