A LEGAL bid that could have seen Ballarat Bitter brewed in Ballarat and available all year round has been rejected, but there is still hope for fervent fans of the iconic beer.
The Australian Trademarks Office this week rejected a bid by craft brewer Thunder Road to seize control of Ballarat Bitter and 58 other beer brands owned by Carlton and United Breweries.
Thunder Road talked up the possibility of getting Ballarat Bitter into pubs and in bottle shops permanently.
CUB only releases the brew periodically on “special occasions”.
But CUB on-premise sales director Paul Donaldson said from now on Ballarat Bitter fans could expect to see a lot more of the brand.
Demand had not met levels to offer the ale permanently in every pub, but if people called for it loudly enough CUB would look at expanding, he said.
“If the people of Ballarat want to make some noise about it, we’ll certainly take notice,” he said.
Mr Donaldson said it was encouraging that a limited release of the brand 18 months ago performed well and plans for the future were now in development.
“We’re going to look at putting in Ballarat Bitter at different times of the year,” he said.
"Ballarat Bitter is the one we get the most phone calls and correspondence on"
“I know there’s a lot of passion not far from the surface for it. Ballarat Bitter is the one we get the most phone calls and correspondence on.
“I’d be pretty confident we’ll see it within the next 12 months as well.”
Thunder Road, based in Melbourne, wanted to break free a long tail of CUB trademarks that carried historic names – particularly revolving around suburbs and locations – and that the craft brewer claimed had been neglected by CUB.
These included labels such as Ballarat Bitter, Richmond Lager, Kent, NQ Lager and Bulimba Gold Top.
But a decision by the Australian Trademarks Office on Wednesday confirmed CUB’s ownership of its famous heritage beer brands.
Mr Donaldson said CUB had spent many years creating the brands.
“We have been offering them on and off and will continue to do so,” he said.
Only a novelty drink
North Britain Hotel owner Peter Burton. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE
BALLARAT Bitter is a successful novelty item steeped in a nostalgia for the past, North Britain Hotel owner Peter Burton says.
But he believes the brew would fail to take off as a permanent fixture on tap today as drinking habits have changed.
When 18 months ago the brand was resurrected on a novelty release, the North Britain did a ripping trade of the limited release cans.
“It hadn’t been released for such a long time so there was a lot of nostalgia and blokes who said ‘I’m going to order a slab to take home for my father’,” Mr Burton said.
But when the draught version was released it did not attract the same fervour.
The North Britain already carries half a dozen craft beers on tap and Mr Burton believes the allegiance to local brands is not what it was in the past.
Offer worth taking
Royal Oak Hotel owner John Turner. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD
ROYAL Oak Hotel licensee John Turner would jump at the chance to offer Ballarat Bitter on tap .
The hotel, with its Ballarat “Bertie” Bitter sign proudly displayed on the wall, still attracts customers asking after the iconic brew.
Mr Turner said the pub reviewed 36 kegs of the beer during its limited release in 2011 and even he was surprised by its demand.
“We still get people that come in and see the sign on the pub and say have you got Ballarat Bitter?” he said.
“The taste is very good. Some like it and some don’t, but the majority did.”
Mr Turner believes there would be plenty of demand to put the ale on tap permanently in his hotel, if only the product was available.
He also thinks reinstating the brew would be a good tourist attraction for Ballarat.