Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hansa Gold. Coming soon, in a green bottle?

There are not many big events in a beer drinkers life in South Africa.

We don't have hundreds of micro-breweries. The few we do have aren't all that spectacular despite my enjoying the Pickled Pig Porter and other stuff from the Nottingham Road Brewery.

We don't have much change in the standard fare.

Every now and then we get a decent new addition to the fold. Pilsner Urquell, for one. More often that not we get repackaged urine, as in Peroni.

So what events have we had:

  1. The change in shape of the "dumpy" disposable bottle to that of the "handi".
  2. The change of the lable on the Castle Lager bottle in about 1989.
  3. The Castle Lager centenary in 1995.
  4. The brief re-ermegence of Ohlssons Lager. Not bad that.
  5. The end of Lion Ale, now that was a good dop in the last outpost in the '70s.
  6. The frigging ridiculous Lion Lager++ fiasco, where SAB added 2 tablespoons of suger to each bottle and repackaged it into a trendy shiny silver-blue bottle in the vain hope of reaching and snaring the impressionable teen market. As usual the SAB marketing speak was at its best. "New Lion will become an accessory to these hip and happening young adults, and will offer them a quality beer that speaks their language." Ultimately resulting in the demise of the Lion brand altogether. I really hope someone lost his job over that.
  7. Gladly the current plan by SAB to produce a new quart bottle does not include a plan to reduce the size of the bottle like they did with my pints last year. Good thing that. This country is not yet ready for the next revolution.
So when I posted nearly 2 months ago on SAB-Miller's losing the rights to brew & market Amstel in South Africa, I was eagerly awaiting the new turf war, the new brews etc. But things seem to have gone quiet on that front and by now the poor Amstel drinkers have been forced to try other brews. The lonely restaurant and bars that haven't run out of stock yet are probably not worth visiting. We had a quick flurry of ads promising that the new stuff was being brewed in Amsterdam (from canal water?) and some trite and wounded apologies from SAB, but that was that. Still no Amstel. Still no replacement from SAB.

I understand that Brandhouse will be specially bottling 650ml versions of Amstel to try and pick up the market share that SAB left behind. But, it will take some remarkable distribution efforts to compete on that turf. I suspect that the mass-market who had recently acquired the Amstel taste will as quickly find an alternative (if they haven't already) when their brew is not readily available. Amstel will be left to the miniscule market who frequent establishments that have see-through counters, lumo-blue backlighting and barmen who think they're Tom Cruise, despite probably not even been born when he began juggling cane bottles.

The whisper I heard from the friendly dame at the NBS + the other day was that SAB was bouncing back with a premium version of Hansa, "Hansa Gold", but that that release was being delayed by some objection to them bottling it green bottles with gold foil trim. Chicken on them for not going ahead with that idea. This has received virtually no media coverage at all, bar an oblique reference in Beeld.

The boring bean-counter that I am, I am rather interested to see if the new brews are one up on my existing tipple (Hansa normal).

But I am disappointed that SAB have seen fit to import the rights to a new brand when a golden opportunity existed to resurrect a true South African brand, perhaps in the guise of a premium brand. Lion Lager Gold?, Ohlsson's Cape Premium?

+ "Nearest Bottle Store"
++ I note that Lion Lager is still being brewed in Zimbabwe. Hurrah. And in researching this note found this Lion Lager ad from 1984 on Zoopy. A laugh and serious blast from the past.

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