The 'trendy' rebranding of Victoria Bitter fooled hipsters and judges alike.

3 November, 2014

CLANCY OVERELL | Editor | Contact

Carlton & United Breweries, a subsidiary of Foster’s Group in Melbourne, have today confirmed that the winner of last month’s Sydney Craft Beer Festival was, in fact, one of Australia’s oldest and highest-selling beers, Victoria Bitter.

The undercover infiltration of the festival took out number one place by an undeniable margin, which in turn, embarrassed the entire craft beer community of Australia.

Rebranded under the trendy guise of Vaucluse Bitter, the judges and punters could not stop talking about this “amazing beer from a tiny microbrewery in Sydney’s east”. However, those present at the Festival in Surry Hills were completely unaware that they had all been made for fools in a bold marketing ploy by one of Australia’s biggest brewers.

After sending in two undercover sales reps to offer tastings in a quiet corner of the Giant Dwarf Theatre in Surry Hills, VB presented itself as a family recipe created by ‘two brothers from Byron Bay’.

The revelations have enraged all that were present on the day, with both the competitors embarrassed to lose to a mass-produced ‘corporate beer’  – and many venue-owners left red-faced after having stocked their venues with ‘Vaucluse Bitter’ taps.

All present at the festival were fooled by VB's cunning strategy
All present at the festival were fooled by VB’s cunning strategy

Victoria Bitter (more commonly known as simply VB) is Australia’s only billion dollar retail beer brand, selling the equivalent of one slab every second. At one time VB sold twice as much as any other full strength beer and was the only Australian beer brand that is in the top 3 sellers in every state. Victoria Bitter held the highest market share of all beer sold in Australia for more than two decades.

It is these kinds of mass-produced products that many micro-brewers feel are a dying breed when it comes to Australian beer. VB have proven that this is not entirely true.

The espionage was a simple yet clever intrusion into the contrived community of capitalist hipsters, with the VB logo slightly altered to look less establishing, using a cartoon-style version of the original branding.

The red and green colours were swapped and ‘Victoria’ was replaced with ‘Vaucluse’ – presenting the beer as the product of basement microbrewery from Sydney’s East, created by ‘two brothers from Byron’.

The undercover logo (right) was not too different to the original (left)
The undercover logo (right) was not too different to the original (left)

Inner-west craft beer enthusiast and former microbrewer, Banjo Clementé, was one of five judges on the day. He has since spoken out about the embarrassment.

“It is just so typical of these big corporations. They couldn’t cop the idea that our microbreweries might begin to compete with them on the main stage… They had to come in and cut us down to size,”

“Looking back, I was mainly impressed by Vaucluse Bitter as a rags to riches story, it wasn’t necessarily about the taste… turns out they weren’t as cool as I thought.”

Clementé has explained that the ‘suits’ from Cartlon & United went the whole nine yards to fool Sydney’s hipsters by wearing plain T-shirts from Rivers and torn jeans.

“They even grew their beards out to look the part. It’s disgusting see the lengths these corporate pigs go to keep us down,”

“They won by fluke, we are interested in a recall.”

A spokesperson from SAB Miller, the parent company to Carlton & United, was very keen to give comment this morning

“It just goes to show how much of a joke this microbrewery ‘culture’ is. Everyone knows there is only one way to tackle a hard earned thirst,”

“We won this round, and we will win again. This craft beer bullshit is just a phase. Long live the green demons.”

If you are interested in some Vaucluse Bitter-themed merchandise. Visit their online shop here!

The other prizewinners from the night included

AIBA Champion Pale Ale
Norman, Yulli’s Brews (Sydney, NSW)

Labelmakers Champion Amber/Dark Ale
Former Tenant, Modus Operandi Brewing Company (Sydney, NSW)

Champion Porter and Stout
Black Lung IV, Moon Dog Brewing (Melbourne, Vic)

Champion Speciality Beer
Taco, Two Birds Brewing (Melbourne, Vic)

Beer and Brewer Champion IPA
Zoo Feeder, Modus Operandi Brewing Company (Sydney, NSW)

Champion French and Belgian style
Saison, La Sirène (Melbourne, Vic)

Hopco Champion Small Brewery (up to 49,999 litres/per annum)
Yulli’s Brews (Sydney, NSW)

Cryer Malt Champion Medium Brewery (50,000 to 299,999 litres/per annum)
Nail Brewing (Perth, WA)

Bintani Champion Large Brewery (300,000 to 40m litres/per annum)
Joint winners: 4 Pines Brewing Company (Sydney, NSW) and Two Birds Brewing (Melbourne, Vic)

CBIA Services to Australian Craft Beer
Willie Simpson


    • Although it’s been utterly hilarious to read the comments below (full cred to the writers and editors), it’s important to know your source (ie Australia’s response to the satirical Onion). Try to choke down your indignity with your VB.

    • Craft beer community…


  1. Happy to see it’s a winner.

    It’s been availabe for years on tap in the Sports Bar at the Watsons Bay Hotel. Even though the tap is cleverly disguised as a Victoria Bitter tap, you can ask for a Vaucluse Bitter and you’ll get one.

  2. Banjo Clementé is the pig in this instance. To make wild claims that VB somehow cheated at the craft beer game is ludicrous. They entered under a guise to prove a point. The craft beer super judge panel made the agreed and judged decision that VB won. Back flipping and saying it was all about the story that went with it is a cheap ploy at trying to recover face. Craft beer lovers should enjoy this as a fun story and an important lesson, if you’re going to be high and mighty when speaking about mass beer don’t be quick to judge. Pun intended. As an enjoyer of craft beer and mass brewed beer alike, I rejoice in all that is beer. Well played VB.

  3. Yes there is way to much hype about Craft Beer, which yes in some cases is great.But we should not forget what the bulk of the population is drinking?And what do we all think it is. Speights where I come from!

  4. Your style is unique compared to othuer folks I’ve read stuff from.
    I appreciate you for posting hen you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just
    book mark this site.

  5. I bought a case of Vaucluse Bitter after the event. Normally I like a latte after a beer, but suddenly I was driving home counting empty cans as I tossed them out the window (6 – it’s only a few blocks home to my inner city pad). Another six-pack down and I went shopping for a blue singlet and thongs. My girlfriend left me for the gay bloke next door, saying she was disgusted that I called her a good shiela. With just a six-pack left in the slab I had lost the urge to hug and caress men with manicured beards. By the end of the slab my beard had dissolved into a three-day growth and I was hanging out for a Winnie Blue. It has changed my life — and you can’t tell me a commercial brew can do that, surely?

  6. Majority of craft beer is made without the crap (preservatives etc) that VB put in their beer. VB may be ‘drinkable’ but drinking a beer as such believing it is ‘crap free’.. That is the issue. Lies. CUB do not make great beers, they just make a lot so it can sit on a shelf for years without going bad. Yuck.

  7. What 90% of people that read this article don’t understand that in the 2014 Australian Amateur Brewing Championship Style Guidelines there is a category 8.BITTER ALE and sub category for 8.1 Australian Bitter Ale. For a judge to drink a VB and say it is awesome is totally true for that category and sub-category. Hell they even mention it in the full guidelines of the style:

    Commercial Examples: The major Bitter Ale brand names have survived but the modern versions are all lagers and the term “Ale” has been dropped from labelling (eg. Victoria Bitter, Melbourne Bitter, Castlemaine XXXX Bitter, Toohey’s Red Bitter, West End Bitter, Emu Bitter, Cascade Bitter, Boags Strongarm Bitter).

    Before you take the piss KNOW THE FACTS!!!

    • Spot on mate. Craft beer isn’t a hipster thing. I’m a homebrewer who, after drinking the big brands (4X, Tooheys, no VB because it’s fucking disgusting) made the switch to craft beer. Sure, you pay more per schooner, but at the end of the day you’re supporting small business. For fuck’s sakes, I mean SAB Miller owns VB. Lion Nathan owns Tooheys. No Australian brewery is Australian owned any more, so all you are doing by buying these beers is supporting foreign interests! In my brewing club, there are 50 and 60 year old guys, who have been drinking stuff like gold for 40 years, and once they had a good, flavoursome beer, have never looked back! Even looking at GABF 2013, the American craft festival, there were over 3,000 individual entries. These might be from nanobreweries, microbreweries, but the beer they are producing is heads and shoulder above megaswill. Hell, the first All Grain brew I did wasn’t that great and I’d still go drink it over VB any day of the week!

      To the author, do your research. Nathan is right. There are style guidelines, and VB is the definitive beer for an Australian Bitter. It doesn’t make it a good beer. It’s just harder to get a “to style” beer with something with an actual complexity and depth of flavour, versus piss water.

      • Matt – do your own research mate, Coopers is 100% australian owned and operated, the last of the big boys who are independant and make a great unique product.

  8. Funny stuff. VB isn’t a good beer, it isn’t a bad beer. It’s entirely drinkable beer so it’s no suprise that this can and did happen. Sure it’s cool to be ‘alternative’, but drink beer with your mouth, not your eyes or ego..

  9. For the benefit of “Nope” above and anyone else who cares, VB (or any other CUB beer) hasn’t had preservatives since being brewed the “SAB Miller way” post takeover.

  10. Funny. Don’t mind a VB if I can’t get a decent beer. People like what they like. Judges or no judges.

    But the Sad Sacks here are C&U. Being a little paranoid.

  11. I’m not a VB drinker, but if you want any credibility when slagging it off, drop the ‘it contains preservatives’ whine. It doesn’t contain preservatives – full stop!

  12. I Cannot Understand The Popularity Of V.B. It gives You The Most Violent Headaches of all time along with the A Good Dose of the The Edgar Britts
    The green death as is known by many is aptly titled

  13. If C & U are so confident of their beers, perhaps they would like to burn all their tap contracts? Surely, all mainline beers should be allowed to enter these festivals, with blind tastings. I drink craft beer because I prefer to support small companies, but also because I get more variety. Some are better than others.

    I was pleased to read that at least VB no longer contains preservatives – my feeling is that this was related to those horrible hangovers.

    I prefer to buy proper craft beers than Matilda Bay beers (or James Squires), but will at least try anything new they brew, or Red Back, if I see it.

    Where does the tasted beer come from – bottle, can or keg?

  14. Vb. Isn’t even bitter, it’s sweet and thin, this just highlights the obvious amateur tasters. Not surprised a bunch of bearded scenesters don’t know beer from piss.

  15. How dumb were the judges? To be so fooled? Didn’t the logo give it away or at least raise suspicion??
    They must be so up themselves that they honestly don’t know the famous VB logo.

  16. Hey fantastic blog! Does running a blog like this require a lot of work? I have absolutely no understanding of programming however I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyhow, if you have any suggestions or techniques for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject but I simply needed to ask. Thanks!

  17. goes to show that the judges aren’t judging beer on taste and quality but who is making the beer!
    if it taste good, drink it!

  18. VB is brewed by Carlton & United which is owned by SABMiller which is a South African multinational. I prefer to drink beer that is Australian made and owned.

  19. VB was first brewed in 1854 by Thomas Aitken.. Its origins are not ‘Corporate’ and all the crap you are all carrying on with.. It’s a Aussie beer with a true and lengthy history. It has Senn us through world wars and remains a favourite down the pub today, and it’s now brewed to the original recipe of 1854 as it should be. You hipsters need a lesson on culture, long live VB, the green monster has had its knockers before, and will soon dispatch with skinny jeans and bearded faces as it is a beer with true Aussie iconic roots which cannot be questioned.. Long live VB!

  20. I’m not sure how the comp was structured but as was seen in VicBrew comp some categories get smashed with entries and others get only a few. There are so many variables that influence the judging that this result is not surprising at all.

    VB is not my go-to beer (I make my own) but if I’ve done a tough day on site and someone offers a cold VB , I will accept gratefully.

    As others have discussed, style guidelines are there to guide the judging and VB is true to style.

    After chewing their way through doppelbocks, strong stouts and crazy double IPAs then a VB would probably be a breath of fresh air….

    Let’s just be thankful that someone found something of merit in something that is an Aussie institution. Despite the fact that there is somewhat of an awakening happening in the beer scene…

  21. It just goes to show that SHIT beer still wins at these so called judging events…wtf has a brewers story got to do with the Merits or Taste of a Craft Beer?
    You only have to look at Australia’s top 100 list voted for at The Local Taphouse by a majority of Pilsner Drinkers or “The Critics Choice Australia’s Best Beers’ to see how out of touch they are when it comes to exploring & valuing Real Craft Beer!

  22. It proves CUB who by the way invented pride of Ringwood hops, have the science & engineering to make a quality product for a mass market.
    Craft beers beverage of quasi bogan chardonnay greenies ?

  23. I was LMAO when I read this story. The thing that is even funnier than the story is that people actually believed the story and wrote into slag off at the craft beer market. Fantastic paper guys I hope your lecturers give you high distinctions for this.

  24. VB it just goes to show the judge’s of that comp don’t no the difference for dogs piss and craft beer my brother gets Vb now an then last time I was over there I ran out of coopers he gave me a vb wasn’t that a mistake but if you are die in of thurst on a stinking hot day and it’s icey cold you will drink i’ll drink it but I wouldn’t bye it Carlton must threaten to do that

  25. I once drank 52 beers on a flight from england to sydney. So pretty sure I’m the best beer tester around. Coopers went under cover at my house once and I gotta say the snuck up on me and it definately is the best beer in Australia. They’re the ownly major aussie owned brewing company left


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