Beer & Brewer on Colonial’s name change

19 June, 2020 by Andy Young

Colonial Brewing Co has been centre of a media storm over the last week regarding its name and the decision of one Victorian bottle shop chain to pull the beer from its shelves. Beer & Brewer Editor, Gifford Lee, has shared his views on the matter.

Outside of a GABS beer release, the Colonial Brewing Co – Blackhearts & Sparrow imbroglio is turning in to one of Australian craft beer’s greatest controversies. And it’s extremely upsetting to see that happening. The issue has been turned into a political football, and the truth of the matter has been severely muddied by people wanting to use it for a wider purpose, writes Gifford Lee.

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Let’s get this straight, the name change debate has not come as some “knee-jerk reaction” that several prominent voices have claimed it as such. It hasn’t come about because of an individual’s social media campaign either (everyone needs someone to blame though right?).

This debate is a highly sensitive one and Colonial know it. They’ve been having it for a long time and they need to be left alone to continue that process – like they are commendably doing so. And Blackhearts & Sparrow are absolutely entitled to make business decisions that they choose. They’ve made this decision, on their own, after long and hard deliberations.

The last few days have been quite gobsmacking to witness actually, and the level of garbage spouted off on radio, TV, print and “social” media has been ugly at times.

But nonetheless, it has raised the issue far and wide and the conversation is being had.

When was the last time an independent Australian craft beer got so many miles of commentary from everyone from shock jocks to the six o’clock news? And when was the last time politicians, apart from Anthony Albanese and a select few, were seen in public drinking craft? They are usually only seen sipping something generic and foreign owned.

But people in the beer and brewing industry and the indigenous community have largely been silent on the matter.

Just in terms of ringing around figureheads in the industry over the last few days, it didn’t take long to realise the normally happy to chat people weren’t touching this one.

A large part of that was out of respect for the matter and wanting to allow the breathing space for all parties to consider their positions without the noise from outsiders. Everyone needs to be doing that right now.

For me personally, it never crossed my mind, whether I drank Colonial product or dealt with them on a professional level, that their name was in anyway offensive. Perhaps that’s because I knew where their name came from. It’s in reference to their beer colonising the Margaret River wine region. It’s cheeky, not imperialistic.

This is ultimately a decision solely for Colonial, and where they want to take their fantastic brand and range of product in the future. I am 100 per cent going to support them in that.

But the conversation needs to be had and we should all commend them for their stance throughout this.

Without difficult conversations, and ultimately the change that comes from them, where would we be? And yes, believe it or not, beer and its associated products in Australia are part of the equality conversation.

By its very nature, the Aussie craft beer industry is a minority in itself. The little brother to the big guys. Fighting to have its message heard above majority rule, while delivering a more tribal, bespoke voice of its own.

If anyone is going to have conversations, it will be the craft beer industry.

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