How Would Jack Daniels Or Maker’s Mark Do A Beer?

Hopefully, you’ve been following the emerging story about MillerCoors’ latest attempt at recapturing beer sales through the release of Miller Fortune, a bourbon-like lager aimed at the Spirits buyer. For me, one of the funniest aspects of this is a quote from David Kroll, who according to Bloomberg News “was brought to MillerCoors from Dyson in 2012 to shake things up as its head of innovation.” Here’s what he said.

We asked, “How would Jack Daniels or Maker’s Mark do a beer and why?” We tortured every aspect to say, “Are we falling back on what beer would do?” Because this brand is intended to play in a spirits occasion.

That’s a funny question because the answer is already out there. I’m amazed at how often people ignore history, recent history even, because we know precisely how Jack Daniel’s would “do a beer” for the simple reason that they already have. How could Kroll or Miller, at least, not remember that?


In late 1994, Jack Daniel’s announced they would be building their own brewery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and by the following year they had six-packs of Jack Daniel’s beer on store shelves. During its run, they produced seven different beers under the label Jack Daniel’s 1866 Classic, which included Amber Lager, Oak-Aged American Ale, Oak-Aged Honey Brown Ale, Oak-Aged Pale Ale, Oak-Aged Pilsner, Oak-Aged Summer Brew, Oak-Aged Winter Brew.


A Jack Daniel’s collector put up a website with lots of photos of both the beer and the marketing and advertising, which makes it pretty obvious they spent a lot of money on the brand. I don’t remember exactly when they stopped making the beer, but I believe it was around 1997 or so, if memory serves. I tried a couple of the flavors once, but don’t remember being particularly impressed, although I also don’t recall that it was bad for any reason, just that it didn’t stand out.


As for a Maker’s Mark beer, if you take the distillery tour in Loretto, Kentucky you’ll learn that sister company Jim Beam once made a failed attempt of brewing beer. Maker’s Mark, in response, created an ad claiming they’d never make that mistake.


It’s amazing to me how forgetful people can be. I can’t help but be reminded of George Santayana’s famous quote from Reason in Common Sense. “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”


  1. says

    Actually I’m not amazed at their forgetfulness. If you say (out load) stuff like “We asked, ‘How would Jack Daniels or Maker’s Mark do a beer and why?’ We tortured every aspect to say, ‘Are we falling back on what beer would do?’ Because this brand is intended to play in a spirits occasion”, then I’d want to be very forgetful too.

    MillerCoors utter cluelessness is really amazing.

  2. says

    I remember trying the contracted-out Jack Daniels beers and it wasn’t special. It had none of the bourbon-barrel aged character that today is de rigueur for craft breweries. I smiled a little at that Miller quote as it was clear the person had no idea.

  3. Greg says

    A voice of dissent – I remember that 1866 Lager very fondly. It was actually aged with bourbon barrel wood, and it had a lot of interesting subtle and delicate undertones, and a really interesting finish. I’ve actually been recreating the recipe thanks to all of that stuff that guy posted – I’m not sure how close I’ve come to what they did, but I’ve created some pretty good stuff. I only wish I knew what yeast they used.


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