Canny Craft to Newcastle?

Posted on May 15, 2012

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Attempting to throw a spanner into the works of the “what is craft beer” argument Newcastle Brown Ale, are joining the melee with the launch of two Limited Edition beers, Newcastle Summer Ale (ABV 4.4%) and Newcastle Founders’ Ale (ABV 4.8%), that will be on shelf in Tesco funnily enough, next to  American Craft Beers.

Craft or not, Newcastle Brown Ale is a beer that deserves a grudging admiration for it’s staying power if nothing else. According to the OLN 2011 beer report it sits as the no. 26 beer overall and grew 3% in 2011, no mean feat for an 85 year old beer brand in a declining market. It might not be for you but with all the new bottled beers joining the market during its lifetime  it has held its own and is still the No1 packaged ale in the UK market with a 55% share – it must be doing something right.

Not to mention for big brewers limited edition brews are a logistical headache. Big breweries just aren’t set up with the level of flexibility to do small brews and short packaging runs so they deserve kudos for taking the pain to add some interest and difference into the category – that’s the kind of  risk taking that should be expected from a market leader and I think Newcastle Brown Ale have rather sat on their laurels for a long time.

Both limited editions have been on sale in the US and looking at ratebeer (if you care about such things) the Founders Ale has been better received than the Summer Ale – that said am not sure ratebeer members are the target audience so I’m interested to see how well they  do over here. Keen for tasting notes I followed their advice to go to www.livecanny.com or their Facebook page for more information….

Oh dear. Not only are the aforementioned brews not listed on the website but it appears to have been created by the work experience kid on his last afternoon. Poorly designed, lacking content and not containing the information I have been sent to find – an online basic folks – don’t publish the URL until you’ve loaded the content! The homepage lacks any enticing content, just an off the shelf Facebook plug-in, a link to buy a branded glass that I had to hover over half a dozen times to find the hyperlink and they’ve chosen to layout their own product image so half the bottle sits below the fold – not down to lack of space as there is no other content. Wasted space is a theme on all pages – the sparse content should mean that there is nothing below the fold and yet there is on every page. That along with mismatched fonts and the age verification gate popping up randomly in between page views make for a very unpleasant on-line experience. Facebook is better – at least they have mentioned the new beer launch with a timeline post but still no word on what the two beers actually taste like.

It’s early days for a launch for them but with the beers only planned to be available for 3 months they don’t have much time to get people to try and buy them. They need to create a lot more noise if they want to sell through and, crucially, stay on shelf – those Tesco range reviews are brutal!

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