Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Miller Fortune: Sorry and misleading

Why bother with a mega-conglomerate beer?

Because it's an obvious ploy to grab small-brewery 'craft' beer 'cred,' which is, in and of itself, a sorry commentary on the state of un-innovation at the international brewing/beverage conglomerates.

And, it's patently misleading.

MillerCoors "Spirited golden lager": misleading and untrue

Hold the chaser. MillerCoors is bringing a dash of hard liquor to the beer market by introducing a brew flavored with a hint of bourbon.

MillerCoors is hoping that the new “Miller Fortune” will tempt drinkers of hard liquor back to a glass of suds, according to Bloomberg News. Beer sales have lost 6 percent of market share to spirits drinkers since 1999. The brewer plans to widely distribute Miller Fortune in the next couple of months, hoping a sleek black bottle and 6.9 percent alcohol content attracts the prized demographic of male drinkers aged 21 to 27.

Miller Fortune is brewed with Cascade hops to give it its bourbon-like flavor. Bloomberg describes the taste as “resting somewhere between a craft beer and a light lager.”

TIME Business & Money on-line
Alexandra Sifferlin
27 January 2014.

  • 1) "brewed with Cascade hops to give it its bourbon-like flavor."

    Cascades are a variety of hops; hops are herbs; they add herbal flavor and aroma to beer, and bitterness. No herb (be it oregano, basil, parsley, or hops) tastes anything remotely like bourbon. Saying hops add bourbon flavor to beer is like saying grapes add oak flavor to wine. What adds bourbon-flavor to beer? Simply put, bourbon barrels do. Aging beer in barrels that formerly held bourbon, or adding bourbon barrel chips to a maturation tank, or mixing in artificial flavoring, are all methods to add bourbon flavor. I would guess that MillerCoors chose the last course, considering the cost and labor of the other two. Small American breweries have been aging their beer in bourbon barrels (and other spirits) since the early 1990s, when Goose Island first re-introduced the concept with its Bourbon County Stout.

    UPDATE: When I originally posted this, I mentioned below the jump that it was the reporter who erred on Cascade hops and bourbon. In hindsight, I should have put that up here, big and obvious. So, to be clear, MillerCoors has NEVER stated that hops taste like bourbon. It was the reporter for TIME who wrote that. As Lew Bryson wrote in a comment below:
    Miller actually sent out a corrective press release to try to clear up some of these mistakes...to which I thought, so what? You blew this one. I think the current ad campaign supporting Fortune is an even bigger mistake than the launch press; it seems to consist mostly of an actor urging men to go back into the bar and have another beer after they'd decided to go home. Brilliantly responsible. This is SO Miller; just so clueless. They haven't done anything right since Lite beer.

    So, abashed, I did blow it. I've edited this piece (and its title) to reflect that, and I apologize to MillerCoors. However ...

    I do find it strange that TIME has never corrected the piece, at least on-line. A request from MillerCoors would not have been unanswered. And, I believe that my other points, #2 and #3, remain valid. The 'big' boys, such as SAB MillerCoors, are losing market share to wine, spirits and 'craft' beer; they seem to be flailing about trying to solve the problem.

  • 2) The logo reads" Spirited Golden Lager. Undistilled."

    That's clever, but misleading. It plays off the word "spirited" as in spirits —distilled liquor— without actually saying so.

    Beer is fermented. No beer, as beer, is distilled. If it were, it would be spirits, and regulated as such. In fact, the higher alcohol of the Miller Fortune (6.9% alcohol by volume) comes not from any added bourbon-barrel-chips, but simply from the fermentation of an additional amount of fermentable starch, which in MillerCoors' case is additional high-fructose corn syrup.

  • 3) From Bloomberg: “Resting somewhere between a craft beer and a light lager.”

    The gulf of difference between those two extremes makes such a statement ludicrous. 'Craft' beer is brewed to emphasize flavor to create interest; American light lager is brewed to de-emphasize flavor so as not to offend. And, why hard liquor drinkers would be expected to put down their 40%+ alcohol shots of bourbon, whiskey, scotch, etc., for a beer of 6% is hard to fathom ... except, obviously, for international conglomerate marketeers.

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Now, compare all that with this from Lagunitas —a 'craft' brewery in Petaluma, California— that always seems to be having fun with its marketing.

Fractional humor


With its Day Time Ale, Lagunitas seems to be poking (good) fun at All Day IPA (a hoppy pale ale of 4.7% alcohol-by-volume) from Founders Brewing (of Grand Rapids, Michigan). (Day Time is only 4.65%, after all.) And, by styling the beer as a "Fractional IPA," Lagunitas is poking fun at the neologistic style designation of session IPA, a current hot thing in the 'craft' beer world.

The 'big' boys are losing market share to spirits and 'craft' beer (and wine). I suspect that being a marketeer at SAB/MillerCoors is not a fun thing —albeit a lucrative job. I suspect that the good folk at Lagunitas wake up every morning eager to go to work.

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1 Attempts to contact Ms. Sifferlin, soon after her Miller Fortune was posted, proved futile.

5 comments:

  1. So about half of your complaints are not Miller's fault (not that this beer isn't a terrible idea) but rather the fault of an incompetent writer at Time who lacks basic reading comprehension abilities. Look at the original article instead of the sad attempt to pilfer and summarize: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-27/millercoors-seeks-spirits-fans-with-bourbon-like-lager.html

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    1. Well, yes and no. I should have been more precise in blaming the reporter for her error. (After the jump, I did mention attempting to contact her to correct the record. And I've since added to the post to reflect this.) However Miller/Coors does appear to be misleading via clever marketing, and does seem to be grasping at cornstalks to bring back drinkers. That the story still remains on TIME's website, incorrect as written, speaks volumes. I don't believe a complaint from the brewery to TIME would have gone ignored.

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  2. Miller actually sent out a corrective press release to try to clear up some of these mistakes...to which I thought, so what? You blew this one. I think the current ad campaign supporting Fortune is an even bigger mistake than the launch press; it seems to consist mostly of an actor urging men to go back into the bar and have another beer after they'd decided to go home. Brilliantly responsible. This is SO Miller; just so clueless. They haven't done anything right since Lite beer.

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  3. Miller has a very long history of being disingenuous. Remember when they began brewing Lowenbrau they tried to package it like it was still an import. You had to look long and hard to find the brewery info on the bottom of the six-pack holders.

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  4. I don't thing you have to be quite that abashed, Tom! This is just another in a long string of failures by big brewers to understand what it is that's appealing about craft beer. They keep trying to reduce it to non-important factors. "It's funny names and labels!" they thought, and gave us Red Dog. Fail. "It's cute little companies!" they thought, and gave us IceHouse, Elk Mountain, and Red River (Stroh, just before they blew out of existence). "It's flavors!" they thought, and gave us Wild Blue, and Chill, and shandies. "It's wheat!" they thought, and gave us Crossroads (good beer, actually), Blue Moon, and ShockTop. "It's STRONGER!" they thought, and now we get Bud Light Platinum and Fortune.
    Guys...it's that it's NOT YOU MAKING IT. That's a lot of it. And it's variety, NOT a bunch of minor variations on the same thing. It's substance, not marketing. Oh, hell.

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