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Technology is Not Always a Good Thing

Today’s Denver Post business section has a profile of Outlast Technologies, the company that’s making the gimmicky “Cold Wrap” labels that are designed to absorb the heat from your hand rather than warm the beer to a temperature where you might be able to actually taste it. It took Outlast a full year to design the label and goodness knows what amount of money, which is ironic because I can solve their problem for a fraction of whatever Coors spent. Here’s how. In order to keep heat radiating from your hand from warming your beer, open the bottle, take it in your hand and gently pour it into a pilsner glass. Voilà, no more problem. If only they had consulted with me first.

Here is Coors’ press release about the cold wrap, which also explains the “Stay Cold Glassware,” another part of the strategy to keep the beer from having any discernable taste.

So it appears that Coors’ main focus in selling their beer is all about how cold it is and how they’ll use technology to make it stay cold. This is good news, of course, if you know how it tastes warm. But do a taste test for yourself. Get Pilsner Urquell, Czechvar, Lagunitas Pils, Victory Prima Pils or similar good pilsner beers. Let them and your Coors Light warm to between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (7-10° C). Now taste them. Which ones still taste good? That should tell you everything you need to know about which beer is right for you.

At the risk of repeating myself, beer that’s too cold chemically alters the beer and change its taste. The reason you generally don’t notice it is simply because drinking any liquid at that temperature also numbs many of your taste buds. Several volatile components in the beer aren’t released in your mouth and disappear undetected down your throat. The beer’s flavor profile is considerably narrowed and some tastes disappear completely. Cold beer also effects the beer’s balance because hop character survives better than malt or fruity esters. This is the reason bland lagers, which are generally less well-hopped, do better at cold temperatures and explains why ales are generally served at warmer temperatures. A good rule of thumb is the colder the beer, the less of it you can actually taste.

This is why all the big breweries emphasize the coldness of their beers as a selling point. The warmer you drink their products, the less likely it is you will enjoy them. And it’s why they spend millions to persuade you that you should drink their beer as cold as possible. That would be fine except that now millions of people belive that cold beer is a desirable thing, when in fact it’s not. It’s a remarkable success story for adveritising and marketing, and tragic failure for those of us who actually like the taste of beer.



But the gimmicks don’t stop with the bottle. Coors also spent a fortune developing the “Frost Brew Liner,” a “blue” coating inside the beer can that is supposed to keep the beer colder. There is very little actual information about this, and their press release reveals only the following:

In order to protect the Rocky Mountain taste of its beer, all Coors cans contain a Frost Brew Liner. With new graphics this summer, Coors Light is making it easy for consumers to identify the liners by making them visible with blue pull tabs and rims. The Frost Brew Liner cans with the blue rims will be on shelves May 1, 2006.


But an anonymous insider involved in the manufacture of the product says “in fact the blue colored lining is a potential threat to flavor and product compatibility, but their [Coors] marketing department insisted. We would really like to discourage the idea!” As I understand it, the chemicals in the blue dye they had to use to make the lining blue — which was done strictly for marketing reasons — actually has the potential to be harmful to the beer. This is particularly troubling as several dozen craft breweries put their beer in cans, taking advantage of improved technology for the can linings. This new technology removes the former problems with canned beer insofar as there is no longer a problem with leeching or metallic flavors being imparted to the beer. So along comes Coors and essentially puts the problem literally back into the can.

So marketing concerns trumped common sense, the stability of the product itself, and has created a situation with the potential to harm the image of canned beer at a time when good beer is starting to be put into it in growing numbers. Of course, the real solution again is that beer should never, ever be consumed out of the delivery vehicle (bottle, can or keg) and should always be poured into a glass. There are myriad reasons for this is but now there’s one more to add to the list. Keep in mind that almost all advertising is mere propaganda and especially ignore any that suggests cold beer is better.

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