Blue Moon

Caveat Emptor

Brad Tuttle of Time magazine has a warning for beer drinkers: What you see on the label might not be true.

One example is deception as to a beer’s provenance. Tuttle mentions beers that are advertised as “Vermont ales” when in fact they’re brewed elsewhere. One brewer of “Vermont ale” is located in Berkeley, California; another is based in upstate New York.

“American” is a time-honored way to make products more appealing, and Budweiser exploited this tactic to the hilt by renaming Budweiser “America” last year. Problem is, the brand is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, a conglomerate headquartered in Belgium.

Some beers try to pass themselves off as “imported”. Even though they bear foreign breweries’ names, they’re brewed in the U.S. A couple of years ago, Anheuser-Busch got slapped with a lawsuit over domestically-brewed Beck’s beer. A-B didn’t admit fault, but agreed to pay Beck’s drinkers up to $50 in the settlement; and the suit apparently made it more careful about advertising claims.

“Craft” is another possible source of deception. Here the legalities get trickier: the Brewers Association has laid down criteria for what breweries qualify as “craft”, but the BA’s definition isn’t universally accepted in the industry. That said, the mega-brewers behind Blue Moon (launched as an experiment by Coors Brewing) and Goose Island (acquired by A-B) haven’t gone out of their way to disclose those brands’ current ownership.

The Empire Strikes Back

The mega-merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller will give the combined business a 30-percent share of the world’s beer market and control of eight of America’s top ten brands. And, according to Time magazine correspondent Brad Tuttle, it will pose a serious threat to the growing craft beer sector. The big brewers’ campaign against craft is being waged on several fronts.

Big Beer’s first line of attack on craft brewers is “crafty” beers such as Blue Moon and Shock Top. Critics call these products “crafty” because many, if not most, consumers are unaware that they’re made by big breweries.

The big breweries are also buying craft breweries whose products have a following, such as Goose Island, Elysian, 10 Barrel, Golden Road, and Blue Point. Even though there are 4,000 breweries in the U.S., Tuttle points out that strategic acquisitions of key craft breweries make it much more difficult for other craft brewers to succeed.

Advertising is another weapon in the mega-brewers’ arsenal. The craft-bashing Budweiser commercial that ran during the last Super Bowl, poking fun at hipsters who fuss over pumpkin peach ale, is the most notorious.

The big brands still dominate distribution, and the three-tier system isn’t going away anytime soon. In some states, such as Colorado, A-B InBev has bought distributors outright—a practice that may lead to antitrust investigation by the Justice Department.

Finally, consolidation helps offset the big brands’ sagging sales growth by cutting costs. Advertising is one such cost. A-B InBev and SABMiller spend billions on sports sponsorships to promote their brands. Now that the two companies are no longer competing, they’ll have more negotiating power with the sports industry and will demand lower fees for their “official sponsorship” status.

The Friday Mash (Mickey D Edition)

Seventy-five years ago today, Richard and Maurice McDonald opened a fast-food restaurant in San Bernardino, California. Businessman Ray Kroc bought out the brothers’ equity, and turned it into a world-wide franchise operation.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Greater Detroit, where Griffin Claw Brewing Company has brewed an amber ale for the Detroit Zoo. It hopes to distribute the ale statewide, with part of proceeds going back to the zoo.

Can Belgian beer help you lose weight? Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London contends that it contains bacteria that keeps people slim. Junk food, on the other hand, kills these bacteria.

Many craft beer lovers hold Blue Moon in low regard. However, investment firm executive Charles Sizemore believes the beer is a winner for MillerCoors: it appeals to high-income casual drinkers who want a beer or two after work.

Munich’s Hofbrauhaus is franchising another American location. The latest is a historic dining hall in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, which will be given the HB look and feel.

In her ad for [redacted] Beer, comedian Amy Schumer unleashed a snark attack on beer commercials. Fair warning: the video in this link is not safe for work.

The next-to-last episode of Mad Men showed Don Draper in an Oklahoma watering hole, listening to veterans telling war stories while drinking Lone Star beer and other adult beverages.

Finally, YouTuber Dave Hax shows you how to turn a box of tall-boy beer bottles into a picnic cooler. Cut open the top of the box to make a lid, pull all of the beer out, line it with a plastic bag, and put the beer back in. Add plenty of ice…and voila!

You Be the Judge

Once in a Blue Moon, lawsuits like this get filed. Evan Parent, a San Diego man, has filed a class-action lawsuit accusing MillerCoors of false and deceptive advertising—namely, by holding out Blue Moon as a “craft beer.”

Much of Parent’s argument rests on Blue Moon being brewed by MillerCoors, which is too big to meet the Brewers Association’s definition of “craft brewery.” Further, Parent contends that the big brewery fails to identify itself on Blue Moon products. He also attacks the MillerCoors trademarked term, “Artfully Crafted.”

The Brewers Association has stayed out of this litigation, emphasizing that it only defines “craft brewers,” not “craft beers.”

Today’s Debate Topic: Is Your Beer Overrated?

Deadspin’s Will Gordon, who writes about adult beverages, has decided to rattle a few cages with his list of 18 overrated beers. He cautions that “overrated” beers aren’t necessarily bad, but “they’re not as good as their ubiquity on reputable beer menus or their cult status will have you believe.”

After going after obvious targets like Blue Moon, Killian’s Red, and Corona, Gordon ventures into more dangerous territory. He calls Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale “generic strong ale overdosed with vanilla,” and complains that Magic Hat, the makers of #9, “seems to be more interested in marketing than brewing.” He pooh-poohs the idea of waiting in line to buy Heady Topper, which is “only marginally better than Dogfish Head 90 Minute,” and dismisses North Coast Old Rasputin as “not as transcendent as its reputation suggests.”

Gordon’s most intriguing comment is about your local brewery’s flagship ale. He says, “In most cases, the beer that put a brewery on the map way back when—even if way back when was two years ago—has since been surpassed in-house. They may need to keep the sales workhorse around to keep the ship afloat, but the brewers themselves know that they’ve gotten better at their craft since creating that first hit recipe.”

At last count, Gordon’s article has attracted nearly 1,000 comments.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Barrels of Blue Moon sold in 2012: 1.98 million.
  • Blue Moon’s share of the beer market: 0.9 percent.
  • Increase in Blue Moon’s market share since 2007: 300 percent.
  • Average cost of a case of national-brand beer in Ontario: C$35.56.
  • Average cost of a case of the same brands in Quebec: C$25.95.
  • Expected increase in beer sales next year in Brazil, which hosts the World Cup: 3 percent.
  • Historical average increase in World Cup host nations: 1.7 percent.
  • Barrels of water needed to brew one barrel of beer at MillerCoors: 3.82.
  • Change in water-to-beer ratio from the year before: Down 6.1 percent.
  • Persons who have achieved Master Cicerone status: 7.
  • Who have achieved Cicerone status: about 900.
  • Who have become Certified Beer Servers: about 27,000.
  • Employees at New Belgium Brewing Company: about 500.
  • Weekly beer allowance for New Belgium employees: One 12-pack, plus one “shift beer” after the workday.
  • Daily beer allowance for construction workers at Egypt’s Pyramids: One gallon.
  • The Friday Mash (Wizard of Oz Edition)

    On this day in 1939, the film version of L. Frank Baum’s classic story, The Wizard of Oz, opened at Loew’s Capitol Theater in New York. The film won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture; and, thanks to its re-introduction to the public on television in 1956, became the most-watched motion picture in history. Ludwig, however, has panned the film for its depiction of lions.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Philadelphia, where the American Beer Blogger documentary has been nominated for an Emmy in Mid-Atlantic region’s Entertainment/Program-Special category.

    In an effort to boost sales in a flat economy, some Czech brewers are committing beer blasphemy by brewing Radlers, beers mixed with drinks such as Sprite and lemonade.

    Stereotypes die hard, especially when gender is involved. Naomi McAuliffe, writing in The Guardian, calls on British women to demand their pint of Real Ale.

    “Craft beer” has earned a place in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Feel free to enjoy it in a “man cave” while compiling your “bucket list.” Both of those terms have also been added.

    A “blue moon”–a second full moon in the same month–will occur on August 31. MillerCoors, the makers of Blue Moon beer, will celebrate the rare event with a special-edition Caramel Apple Spiced Ale.

    San Francisco’s Toronado beer bar opened 25 years ago today. Russian River Brewing Company will celebrate with a special sour beer, to be served at the legendary establishment.

    Finally, here’s your invitation to predict the future. The topic for Session No. 67 will be How Many Breweries in 2017?. Derrick Peterman, who blogs at Ramblings of a Beer Runner, is your host.

    The Friday Mash (NFL Pre-Season Edition)

    Ninety years ago today, representatives of several professional football leagues and independent teams founded the American Professional Football Conference, which later became the National Football League. Which, eventually, led to the invention of the sports bar.

    And now…The Mash!

    The opening kickoff is taken by Logan at Blog About Beer, who’s picked out ten Oregon beers you need to try.

    It’s August, much of the country is still sweltering, and Oktoberfest beers are already on the shelves. MusicMook at thinks we’re rushing things a bit.

    This isn’t exactly the publicity MillerCoors craves, but Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater swiped a Blue Moon from the plane before sliding down the chute and into infamy.

    James Fallows of The Atlantic assesses President Jimmy Carter’s role in bringing about this country’s craft beer revolution.

    Baltimoreans of a certain age remember National Bohemian. Well, “Natty Boh” is back, and their children and grandchildren are discovering the beer “From the Land of Pleasant Living.”

    German craftsmanship at its best: a group of architecture students at the University of Applied Sciences in Detmold have built an experimental pavilion out of more than 2,000 beer crates.

    Before the final gun sounds, here’s one more item:

    Jay Brooks tries to make sense out of a post that links the discovery of brewing to monogamy and a whole crazy train of consequences that inevitably lead to war. Ludwig recommends having a pint of imperial something before reading it.

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