With more beers fighting for tap and fridge space than ever before, the challenge of capturing beer drinkers' attention has never been greater. Whether it's eye-catching new beer styles – just look at the rush to hit the market with a Brut IPA right now – or bold rebrands, it's a long time since brewing quality beer has been enough to succeed in the local marketplace.
One brewery that's constantly trying out new methods of attracting new drinkers or keeping existing fans coming back is Bridge Road Brewers. So it comes as little surprise the Beechworth brewery's founder, Ben Kraus, has been the first to express an interest in new augmented reality (AR) technology showcased at last month's BrewCon in Sydney.
He's working with Multi-Color ANZ to animate the label of Beechy Summer Ale – one that features the brewery's signature Ned Kelly helmet lying on a beach towel by a High Country swimming spot – using a new app and technology developed by the manufacturer.
"I just think it's interesting. I don't know if a platform like this is the future but it's a glimpse into the future," says Ben, adding that the brewery had already explored creating its own app and, within that, the feasibility of utilising AR.
"We've used QR codes in the past to take drinkers to tasting videos for each of our beers and we could have just done that: turning the label into a TV screen with the tasting notes."
Instead, he favours looking to bring the brewery labels that already tell a story – the Celtic Red and Robust Porter are others in consideration – to life.
"It's just a bit of fun and a little bit of a novelty – less me talking about the beer, more animating the story. That's probably the most basic idea; I'm sure people will have come up with different ideas about what they can do with it."
Augmented reality is appearing in ever more walks of life, with Multi-Color ANZ hoping it finds favour in the local beer world. Their app-based LabelMotionAR uses triggers on a label to "unlock" an animation or video the user can view on their phone.
"We developed the app and are now offering it as a service to brewers," says business development manager Elliot Boylan, who brought a bottle featuring the name of every attendee at BrewCon to the trade expo. "It's competitive doing printed labels," he adds.
As things stand, they can work with animations or videos supplied by brewing companies or develop content alongside brewers. And, should a brewer wish to switch to new content, they don't need to design a new label; their existing designs can be switched to trigger a new video.
"It's still early days," says Elliot, "but I see it as a crossover with breweries using social media. I can see it going in other directions [and we're] looking at other technologies to link into it."
As for the first brewer to sign up, Ben says: "For us, we're always keen to explore new technology and new ways to market. It's good fun and interesting so we'll have a crack and see how it goes."
The Collaborators features businesses operating in new, fun and interesting ways in tandem with the local craft beer industry. You can find other entries in the series here.