Divided we stand, united we fall?

Those who follow me on Twitter may be puzzled by the occasional tweet about Belgian football. It’s a result of having lived in a Brussels suburb and my local pub was a lively spot during league matches. The Belgian Pro League was simply referred to as the Jupiler League. The AB InBev mass produced, cheaply sold and even cheaper tasting lager has become synonymous with football. Jupiler has also become the title sponsor of the Dutch second division (no doubt to annoy Heineken).

This is a country where it used to be joked that the only Belgian was the King. But recently more and more Belgian flags can be seen. The current public displays of affection for the tricolour stem from a period spanning 2010 & 2011. For a world record 589 days, Belgium was without government. Once the initial hilarity had worn off, frustration and fear for the country’s future set in. A great many people took to hanging Belgian flags from their balconies or outside their homes.

Always check the hashtag to ensure that it doesn't say something else
#ALLINRED or FALLINRED – Always check the hashtag to ensure that it doesn’t say something else

Many of the flags, however, were Jupiler-branded. This is thanks to the beer’s lock on sports sponsorship. It can be hard to source an unadulterated flag. This has only been compounded by two Olympics and two major international football championships. The beer’s association with Belgian national football team has definitely capitalised on the recent patriotic trend. This has been in a similar vein to Budweiser renaming itself ‘America’ in the US over the summer.

Its recent promotion tying-in with the 2016 European Championships hits a little too close to home. The #ALLINRED campaign was stamped prominently on all its material. Unfortunately, the font left it reading a tad too close to FALLINRED. That’s precisely what the over-hyped and definitely under-performing de Rode Duivels, les Diables Rouges or die Roten Teufel (take your pick) did. The team flopped in the tournament that many tipped them to win.

The Aldi Irish Craft beer Festival: Winning Over New Craft Beer Consumers

The Aldi Irish Craft beer Festival kicks off on Sunday, 2nd October featuring 30 beers from across the island. This is the first time that beer has featured exclusively in promotional campaign run by the German discount supermarket chain in Ireland. Newspapers will be carrying the usual Aldi brochure but today’s features a two-page spread on beer.

The Aldi Irish Craft beer Festival line-up. Prices range from €2.49 to €2.99
The Aldi Irish Craft beer Festival line-up. Prices range from €2.49 to €2.99

The beers offer a good introduction to the quality and range of Irish beers being produced today. Prices start at €2.49 per bottle and for this low price you can enjoy the likes of Carrig’s always quaffable Pilsner or its chocolate-laden Coalface IPA. The majority of the beers are on sale for €2.69 per bottle including Mescan’s Westport Blond and Westporter Stout. A few also come in at €2.99 per bottle, including Dungarvan’s Mine Head, the award-winning Francis’ Big Bangin’ IPA and Brehon’s Stony Grey IPA. It’s not all glass by the way. Luminous cans of Rascal’s Wunderbar IPA will be standing out, alongside the brewery’s Big Hop Red.

Supermarkets have tended to include beer as a bolt-on to their wine offers but this is slowly changing. SuperValu, for example, have featured craft beer in both print and broadcast ads. Craft beer sales are up with Aldi alone experiencing double-digit growth in sales over the past year. Indeed, its Irish beer has grown over the years with an accompanying drop in imports stocked, with the exception of the likes of Hobgoblin and the odd German, Belgian or French offering. However, a Marston’s exclusive range for Aldi may start appearing on shelves from November. This will be similar to the tie-up that the brewery-chain does for Tesco.

A snapshot of the beers on offer during the promotion, including Golden Harvest Pale Ale produced by 12 Acres for Aldi
A snapshot of the beers on offer during the promotion, including Golden Harvest Pale Ale produced by 12 Acres for Aldi

It tends to be overlooked that Aldi has long-been a supporter of Irish craft beer. Its O’Shea’s range produced by Carlow Brewing has won a loyal following with customers. These beers happily sit alongside the O’Hara’s range on the shelves and given people a solid introduction into the world of craft beer. Aldi has followed this up with commissioning Laois’ 12 Acres to produce the fruity-finishing Golden Harvest Pale Ale. It remains to be seen if this will be a once off or will it be an ongoing collaboration.

Some orthodox craft beer snobs might turn their noses up at the thought of the large multiples, believing instead that independent beer should only be sold in independent retailers. This ignores the choice and freedom for the brewers to decide where their beer should be sold, whether on-trade or off-, independent or chain etc. Of course, it’s important that prices remain sustainable and they don’t seriously undercut other retailers.

Supermarkets remain an important sales channel for brewers wanting to reach new customers
Supermarkets remain an important sales channel for brewers wanting to reach new customers

Yes, these beers (with the exception of those brewed exclusively for Aldi) can be bought elsewhere. Thinking like that misses the point. The opportunity to access the widest customer-base for their products is nothing to be sneered at. The Aldi promotion will run across all its 126 in Ireland until stocks last. The beers will also feature in its media-buy. For the craft beer sector, a large client such as supermarket chain can buy a certain-degree of confidence with the banks or others in attracting finance, capital and investment. Brewing is hugely capital intensive, with pressures on working capital and the need to expand to satisfy a growing customer base.

Regardless, it’s great to see more attention on the sector.