Thursday’s ad is for Miller High Life, from the 1950s. Miller did a series of these ads with sparse, minimalist decoration. In this one, it looks like the wall at the back was designed by Piet Mondrian, the Dutch modern artist. It sure looks like it’s going to be a great party, especially once someone picks up that acoustic guitar leaning against the staircase, next to some floor pillows, and starts jamming.
After much speculation, I got a press release this morning from MillerCoors clarifying what we all thought to be the case regarding their newest creation, Miller Fortune. Here’s what they had to say:
Earlier this week, Bloomberg News Service wrote a story (“MillerCoors Seeks Spirits Fans With Bourbon-Like Lager”) about a new beer from MillerCoors called Miller Fortune, that we are launching the week of February 10.
Since that story ran, there have been several follow-up stories that inaccurately portray Miller Fortune as being a bourbon-flavored beer. That is simply not true and we’d like to set the record straight for anyone interested in writing a story in the future.
WHAT IS MILLER FORTUNE?
Miller Fortune is an exciting new beer with a 6.9% ABV. It features a rich golden color, brewed with caramel malt and cascade hops to achieve layers of flavor and a distinctly smooth finish. Our beer was brewed to deliver the complexity and depth that appeals to spirit drinkers. Spirit inspired…yes. Spirit infused…no. As many of you know, the beer industry as a whole has lost seven share points to spirits (five) and wine (two) in the last 10 years. Miller Fortune was created to fight against these losses and take back legal-drinking age spirits drinkers/occasions. So, you can say it has been inspired by the success of spirits competition and it is a darker beer that may look more bourbon-like in a glass.
WHAT MILLER FORTUNE IS NOT?
Miller Fortune is not bourbon-like or a bourbon-flavored beer.
I almost feel sorry for MillerCoors. That they would have to send out this release says a lot about the state of mainstream journalism, because that’s who got the story so wrong. What I think this reveals is that the mainstream and business press is not capable of covering the beer industry any longer. For so many years, they talked about numbers, about market share, about marketing; almost everything to do with the business, except for the beer itself, its flavor. But now that beer with flavor is kind of a big deal, they no longer know what to do. The business press booted it all over the place on this one, though Time magazine’s assigning it to a health reporter was even worse.
If I may be so bold as to suggest, the mainstream press needs to hire people who know something about beer to cover it effectively and accurately. Not business writers, not wine writers, not health writers: beer writers. I know of at least 130 members of the North American Guild of Beer Writers who would be pleased to accept a paid assignment from Bloomberg, Business Insider, Time or any number of news outlets who for years have been, for the most part, not covering beer very well, assigning beer stories to reporters who did not, and apparently still do not, really understand it. With over 2,700 American breweries, and even more internationally, there’s plenty to keep us busy. Just call one of us next time. We know the difference between a bourbon beer and one inspired by it.
Okay, this is my third post today about Miller Fortune, the new “bourbon-like lager” from MillerCoors meant to address their loss of market share to distilled spirits. I’ll reserve judgment on the beer itself until my sample arrives and also until after it’s had a chance in the marketplace. Besides, it’s already been well-covered by Beverage Daily, Bloomberg, Business Insider and Time Magazine.
But there’s certainly some oddities in the way they’re presenting it, whether by the mainstream press or by MillerCoors. As usual, it seems like they’re focusing a lot on the packaging — ooh, it’s black — and other marketing and not as much on the beer itself. One account describes the packaging as “jet-black, angular bottles meant to ‘evoke a guy in a tapered, athletic-cut suit.'” Uh-huh, that’s just what I was thinking of when I looked at it. The beer is 6.9% a.b.v., closer to an IPA than the usual light lager, though humorously Business Insider claims Coors Light is 5.9% instead of its actual 4.2%.
Then there’s trying to get bars and restaurants to serve it in a whiskey glass. Apparently, “[t]he rocks glass is intended to set Miller Fortune apart the same way the orange slice has made Blue Moon one of the company’s fastest-growing brews and its answer to the craft-beer juggernaut.” The idea is, of course, to make it seem more spirits-like, but it just seems gimmicky to me. It’s one thing to design a special glass to enhance the flavors but quite another to just pick a glass meant for something else in the hopes that people will make the association between the two.
I don’t quite get the bourbon association, either. It wasn’t aged in a bourbon barrel, like many beers being brewed these days by smaller breweries, yet it’s referred to as a “bourbon-like lager.” The Bloomberg article says it has a “complex flavor hinting at bourbon” while Business Insider calls it a “bourbon-flavored beer.” The beer labels says it’s a “Spirited Golden Lager” while RateBeer categorizes it as an Amber/Vienna Lager while Beer Advocate has it listed as an American Amber/Red Lager. But apart from MillerCoors trying to draw an association to bourbon and spirits drinkers, and claiming bourbon makers as their inspiration, I don’t know where any bourbon flavors would be coming from.
Bloomberg brings up that they used some Cascade hops, saying it’s “a golden lager brewed in part with Cascade hops to give it a citrusy bite and caramel malt to impart an amber hue” and that “the flavor is moderately bitter with hints of sweetness, resting somewhere between a craft beer and a light lager.” So nothing about bourbon or being bourbon-flavored or bourbon-like, as far as I can tell. And the few people who’ve reviewed it on Beer Advocate and RateBeer likewise make no mention of any bourbon character. But perhaps the most hilarious statement was made by Time magazine, who states that “Miller Fortune is brewed with Cascade hops to give it its bourbon-like flavor.” That must be why Anchor Liberty and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale have all that spirited bourbon character. I can’t wait to see how this one plays out.
Tuesday’s ad is for Miller High Life, from 1968. In what looks like another hunting lodge, or at least a rec. room, a group of middle-aged men are playing poker, or maybe bridge or even pinochle. But one of them is leaning against the fireplace, by the dog, as if he’s sitting out a hand, or perhaps already folded. The reason I know they’re middle-aged is because nobody else would have dressed like that in 1968, with slicked-down hair, button-down collars and such subdued colors. I don’t think I even realize they still made flannel shirts in the late sixties, although to be fair that turquoise cardigan is rather flamboyant. Sparkling … Flavorful … Distinctive! Indeed.
Wednesday’s ad is yet another one for Miller High Life, this one from May of 1950. Showing cartoons of American leisure, and the many occasions when a beer might be in order, it’s a stylish, if a little chaotic, ad. I don’t recall High Life labels having “Old Original” on them, just below the word “Beer?” Anybody remember that?