Beer labels 'need more scrutiny'

Ben Kraus feature

Ben Kraus

Labelling changes in the wake of the ACCC’s investigation into brewers’ credence claims have not gone far enough, according to Bridge Road Brewers founder Ben Kraus.

In a wide-ranging interview with Radio Brews News to mark his brewery’s ten-year anniversary, Kraus said the consumer watchdog’s intervention was pleasing, but there arestill smaller players with beer labels that do not paint an accurate picture of their provenance.

As a result, he said all breweries are now “guilty until proven innocent” in the eyes of consumers.

“I think consumers do care where their beer comes from and they’ll make an effort to find out if the truth’s being told,” he said.

“My problem is I don’t think people should have to make an effort. One of the most annoying things I find here is people come to our brewery and ask, ‘do you make the beer here?’ and we say ‘yes we do it’s right behind you – that’s the equipment’.

“And they say, ‘do you make it all here?’ and I say, ‘yes we do, we make everything here, everything that’s got our label on it, unless it’s a collaboration that we’ve brought in from overseas’.

“Then when I’m not around I’ll see them go and ask a staff member, hoping to catch me out, thinking I’m not telling the truth.

“Where have they got this presumption from? Why do they presume that a brewery wouldn’t be making their own beer?

“It’s not isolated, we see it quite often. They’ve generated this perception from somewhere and I believe it’s from not being told the absolute truth in the past and they’ve found out.

“For me it is undermining people’s confidence in the industry.”

Bridge Road now employs 25 staff
Kraus said the simplest way to address the problem would be to require a label that clearly states where the beer was manufactured, “by this company at this address and it was manufactured for this company if it was manufactured for someone else”.

He said that the interests of companies that employ all their own brewing staff and produce all their beer on site themselves, with all the risks that entails, should be protected.

“There’s so much work behind that and I think there should be some recognition for the brewers that do it,” he said.

“Other people shouldn’t be allowed to create this weird assumption that they’re doing the same, or they’re in a location that they’re not.

“I’m from a small town… I think we have 25 employees now, I think that’s a pretty significant thing.”

Tell an authentic story
However, Kraus stressed that he has no issue whatsoever with contract brewing.

“People often misread that that’s not how I think beer should be made. I understand that that’s a great way to make beer, I’ve seen some awesome success stories and awesome beers coming out that way,” he said.

“It’s just the telling of the story and that misrepresentation that will in the long term undermine people’s confidence in the integrity of the industry.

“You can still tell a great story about how you and your business partner were fantastically into beer and you wanted to do your own thing and you used to have ‘x’ job and you gave all that up to start this brewing company and you came up with a recipe and took it to a production brewery and this is where it’s made.

“I think that’s an authentic story. I don’t understand why people would tell the story in another way, because you’ve got to back it up every day and if it is a bit misleading, it must be uncomfortable.”

Australia’s largest beer club?
Also in the podcast, Kraus said Bridge Road’s long-running Posse beer club continues to grow its subscriber base.

“I’m pretty sure we’d have the largest beer club from a brewery in Australia,” he said.

“It is a really good way for people to keep up with what we’re doing… I think we’ve got 22 beers on the cards at the moment.”

Posse members receive shipments of beers either every second or third month, including some exclusives. Further information is available here.

Episode 59 of Radio Brews News is available here.

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