Why classic beers are making a comeback

Brewers are celebrating surging sales for their classic beers as a pandemic-led nostalgia trend continues to influence buying habits across Australia.

The enthusiasm for classic beer gathered pace during the first lockdowns of 2020, with retailers reporting a swing away from craft beer towards mainstream brands such as Tooheys New and XXXX Gold made by Lion, and Victoria Bitter and Carlton Draught made by Carlton & United Breweries.

James Brindley, then managing director of Lion Australia, told the Australian Financial Review that in tougher economic times ”people tend to gravitate towards established brands they know and trust”.

“While pubs and clubs are closed, we’re seeing well-known and loved classic brands like Tooheys New and XXXX Gold performing well through the off-premise channel,” Brindley said.

CUB experienced similar trends in liquor retail, with brands such as Victoria Bitter gaining extra sales, leading the brewer to revive heritage brands such as Resches and Powers to capitalise on the nostalgia.

And now a CUB-produced Reschs Real Lager is making a return to shelves.

The beer was brewed from 1992 until 2000, with a passionate campaign by the NSW Reschs Appreciation Society (pictured main) leading to the heritage beer’s revival across NSW.

Brand Director Sarah Wilcox said “Reschs is a NSW local favourite and is attracting a wide range of drinkers who want to reminisce about the good times.

“We’ve listened to the fans. The Reschs Appreciation Society have been strong supporters of the brand and continue to shine a light on how much NSW loves this famous brand.

“There are two strong drivers. First, we’ve seen that consumers are reverting to what they know and love and want to support their local areas.

“Second, Reschs is attracting a new generation of beer drinkers who love classic beers and the nostalgic stories behind them.’’

Featuring the slogan “New taste. Real beer.” the revamped Reschs Real is 4.2% alcohol content and will be sold in 330ml stubbies.

Wilcox said CUB also added a new variant of its classic VB beer – higher strength VX – last month to capitalise on the nostalgia trend.

“The VX launch comes as VB enjoys a resurgence, after beer lovers reverted to trusted brands during COVID,” she said.

Last year, CUB brough back three iconic brands that haven’t been brewed for decades for a limited run – Reschs Dinner Ale,
Melbourne’s Richmond Lager and Cairns Draught.

CUB marketing manager Marc Lord said: “During the uncertainty of the pandemic many beer lovers have felt a strong sense of nostalgia, and that is set to continue.”

Powers beer makes a comeback

CUB also relaunched iconic Queensland beer Power’s across the state in February.

Passionate publican Bernie Power (above, middle) decided to built a brewery back in the 1980s and produce his own Power’s Bitter. The first bottles were brewed at Power’s Brewery in Yatala in September 1988 and the brewery was subsequently sold to CUB in 1993.

Two years in the planning, the new Power’s Ultra Smooth Lager is being sold at pubs, clubs and bottleshops – decades after it was last widely available.

CUB Queensland State Manager Ian Giles said: “The relaunch of the Power’s brand marks the return of a Queensland icon that celebrated our underdog spirit and showed the rest of Australia there was nothing we couldn’t do.

“It was so popular that it sold out on day one and never returned to full stock, smashing all expectations to eventually capture about 20% of the Queensland beer market.

“People are yearning for simpler times; the pandemic is almost over and Queensland is well and truly open for business. Now is the right time to relaunch the Power’s brand so a new generation of beer lovers can enjoy this uniquely Queensland beer.”

Australia’s biggest selling beers for 2022

Late last year, market research company IRI Australia revealed the biggest selling beers at liquor retailers in 2022, with classic beer XXXX in third place, behind Great Northern and Carlton Dry.

XXXX is one of Queensland’s most iconic beer brands, with a rich 144-year history.

Lion Brand Director Chris Allan told Australian Associated Press last year that the brewer’s “legacy brands” had also experienced strong growth relative to beers such as XXXX and Hahn.

Swan Draught experienced 31% growth in two years, during a time when the rest of the category had been in single digits.

“I think consumers are looking for stuff that just gives them what they need and does what it says on the tin, so to speak,” he said.

“Good value, great quality and actually reflects a really honest representation of what are Australian values.”

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