Three Kings walk into a bar ...

I met Ben and his mates the other day. Ben is 22 and has 831 Facebook friends, but if you ask him he only has a few real ‘mates’. How many? Well, if you really need a number then let’s say three. Three mates. Just three ordinary blokes who are — dare we say it — ‘Kings of their domain’.

Three Kings_bottle X 3

The distinctive black packaging

Now there’s a good hook for a marketing campaign, which is exactly where Ben and his mates fit in. They are exactly the blokes that a new suite of products is aiming to target. And if Ben and his mates take the bait they could find themselves at the forefront of a new beer frontier; at least that’s what Independent Distillers is hoping for with their new Three Kings range.

Three Kings is the name of the latest offering from the Laverton-based drinks producer and the very first to come from their own drawing board. But, as I was to discover, Three Kings is more than just a drink. It is part of a three pronged attack aimed, not just at enrolling young drinkers in the Three Kings brand, but also giving them choices within the brand. Three Kings is a trio of drinks comprising a dry lager, a cider and a vodka ginger pre-mix. With a classy label wrapped around an Australian-first black glass bottle, Three Kings is aimed squarely at the young drinker who is yet to settle on ‘his brand’ but, at the same time, might change from one drink category to another depending on the occasion, the company or the mood.

Ben (not his real name) and his mates (possibly not really his mates) can move easily from a beer at the start of their evening to a cider for a change and then to the vodka when they need something sweeter and Three Kings aims to provide for him whatever he wants, packaged in a nice ‘badge’ that tells those around him that he has style and taste but doesn’t need to be tucked into a single category pigeon hole.

Independent Distillers’ Marketing Director Steve Williams sees the cross category strategy as a bold one but one which also shows confidence in the predictable habits of its market.

“We need to acknowledge the expanding repertoires of this generation. They are no longer just beer drinkers, they drink different products for different occasions,” Steve said.

“There is a need for such a brand in a rapidly evolving market and IDA has created Three Kings to appeal to this generation of men. For them, it’s not about the malt, the regionality of the water or the personality of the brewer.

“It’s about good times, good mates and stories that eventuate when these elements unite,” he said.

I’m not going to tell you too much about the beer’s taste. Let’s face it, there are plenty of identical beers on the market and they all have a pretty similar unchallenging flavour profile. It is clean and simple with a little fruit on the nose and a finish that is arid enough to earn the ‘dry’ tag. Still, I can’t help thinking that the Hersbrucker and Nelson Sauvin hops, while a pleasant addition, are wasted on a beer that is clearly designed to by-pass the olfactory nerves and be necked straight from the bottle. It was nice to see them there nonetheless.

It is interesting to see just how this product is designed to appeal and how it aims to ‘speak to’ the prospective drinker. The slick styling and funky black bottle will strike a chord with a drinking mass that has been conditioned to accept ‘less is best’ when it comes to flavour and are happy to have a badge on the bar table in front of them rather than a beverage. It won’t challenge the developing palate but it might just recruit a few new drinkers into Beer World with its inoffensive nature and its slightly blokey but regal allure.

Three Kings Dry Lager should find favour easily in a market that monitors its social media in order to catch the next big thing. I’m equally sure that the cider and RTD vodka will slot neatly into the fast growing sweet flavoured alcohol sectors as well.

The only question I pose – and I hereby offer myself up to ridicule as getting old – is this: Back in my day, when you drank spirits, you knew you were drinking spirits. I ask why, if a product is good enough to promote to an inexperienced drinker, do we feel the need to smother the ‘kick’ in sugar syrup?

Maybe it’s the parent in me coming out but I remember that the spirits I drank in my youth had built-in speed humps in the form of a tough little alcoholic bang in each mouthful, which reminded you that you were not playing in the sandpit anymore. For many of us it kept the experience in check and we could regulate lest we regurgitate. I’d like to see the speed humps come back before my kids start drinking.

Independent Distillers has been brewing various beer brands under licence in the past and this first foray into brewing their own will see their $10million state-of-the-art brewhouse kept busy. A range of alcoholic drinks like this one, which asks little of the drinker and won’t set out to carve a slice of the craft beer market, will have a fair amount of advertising behind it. So expect to see plenty of the Three Kings soon.

Three Kings Dry Lager, Three Kings Cider and Three Kings Vodka & Ginger will roll out nationally on October 11 in 330 ml bottles with the lager and the cider at $14.99 for a six-pack and the premix at $21.99 for a six-pack. All Three Kings have a 4.6% ABV. Expect to see Three Kings (but not Ben and his mates) on billboards and online in the next few months.

Author Pete Mitcham was a guest of Independent Distillers Australia at the media launch of their Three Kind range.

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