The Mystery Of The Long White Cloud
Ever heard of a brewery called Long White Cloud? Unless you pore over beer competition results, I’m going to guess you haven’t.
The question of who they are tends to come up every time a major competition rolls around. Recently they picked up medals at the AIBA here in Australia, and a gold for their Saison at the World Beer Awards in London. With the NZ industry being incredibly tight-knight, the fact that no-one knows who they are piqued my interest.
Fortunately I managed to get hold of a bottle of their Black IPA recently (which wasn’t really black… more dark brown, but that’s well beside the point) and spotted that it was brewed at Good George Brewing in Hamilton NZ. So I did some digging.
And what I found was, to be honest, pretty mundane.
A big player in the mystery is the fact they have poor search engine optimization. That means an internet search for “Long White Cloud” and “beer” or “brewery” tends to bring up pages of results for a different brand. However when I did find the info I needed, it was all pretty clear.
Long White Cloud is the “competition” arm of SmartBrew. SmartBrew is a company created by Brian Watson (Brewing Director at Good George) and Peter Toombs (DME Brewing Systems). The system is designed for small bars/hospitality venues and is somewhat of a faux-brewery. SmartBrew supplies the fermenters and brews the beer. The venue receives the wort/hops/yeast and ferments it all to be served on premise.
The purpose of Long White Cloud is to pick up medals in competitions to be used as credentials for the system:
Really, it’s as simple as that. There isn’t really a great conspiracy here, despite this all feeling like I’m uncovering a big secret. Long White Cloud does leave things pretty ambiguous on their site – http://www.lwcbeer.com/ – with the only connection being the ads for SmartBrew. However, on the SmartBrew site, they are open about the medals:
The SmartBrew® Team is thrilled to announce that we have added a couple more medals to our continually expanding collection of accolades from International Beer Competitions. Our most recent acknowledgement of superior product comes in the form of two bronze medals for our HoneyWeizen and Black IPA beers, which were submitted through our Long White Cloud brand of beers which are available to all of our operators as of today.
At every step, SmartBrew are clear with who they are, what they do, and how they do it. And what it all boils down to is a business-venture to sell stainless, and ongoing product.
Is It A Brewery?
While I can see the appeal for venues who want an easy way to get a slice of the craft beer pie. I wouldn’t consider those to be using the system to be “brewing” the beer; and I wouldn’t call it a brewery. But I don’t really have an issue with the system itself.
Unfortunately the system is already being used to stretch the truth. For example, head over to the Australian supplier’s page, Dickson’s Mill, and have a click around. It’s a bit of a head scratcher as to what’s real and what’s not. From their bar and grill, to their two beer brands. None of it appears to exist just yet.
Dickson’s Mill are rolling the system out around Australia. So far one in Darwin at Six Tanks, and another at Bankstown Sporting Club in Sydney. Both Six Tanks and Bankstown Sporting Club are already giving customers the impression that they are “brewing” the beer.
In NZ, King Country Brewery are also using the system, with the tagline “Born, Bred and Brewed Here”. Given King Country, the region, includes Good George (geographically speaking) I guess it’s technically true. However no-less misleading.
Which is a shame. I think the product does have a purpose but that purpose shouldn’t be to play pretend brewery. Doing such does feel like customers are being intentionally hoodwinked. It stops the product being about a good way to get quality beer, served reasonably fresh (well, freshly fermented) and instead it becomes about tricking the consumer into thinking they are at a fully-functioning brewery.
The real mystery in the long run won’t be who Long White Cloud is, but rather who is using SmartBrew while playing fast and loose with the truth.