To be clear, I wasn’t exactly expecting to be amazed by MillerCoors’ newest “premium beer,” however I was intrigued by it and the way it was being marketed. Bloomberg was first to put together a piece on the beer. Between the various interviews in the article, it is mentioned that the primary reason for this beer’s existence is to try and bring market share back to beer from spirits.
“We asked, ’How would Jack Daniels or Maker’s Mark do a beer and why?’” said David Kroll, who was brought to MillerCoors from Dyson in 2012 to shake things up as its head of innovation. “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 there’s the whole glassware thing. As you can see in the image above: “The 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.”
So it comes to no surprise that the perception of the beer’s flavor becomes altered quite a bit from how it actually tastes. None of the large breweries do a particularly good job describing the flavors of their beers; often using vague adjectives like “refreshing, crisp, and clean.” Here’s how Bloomberg described it:
Fortune is a golden lager brewed in part with Cascade hops to give it a citrusy bite and caramel malt to impart an amber hue. Bloomberg got an exclusive early tasting. Developed with guys aged 21 to 27 in mind, the flavor is moderately bitter with hints of sweetness, resting somewhere between a craft beer and a light lager… a more malty, complex flavor hinting at bourbon…
And here’s where things get fun. Every other news station started picking up the story and rewriting it using their own words; all of which focus on all the talk of spirits and bourbon. The best has to be from Time, MillerCoors Bets on Bourbon-Like Beer, that stated “Miller Fortune is brewed with Cascade hops to give it its bourbon-like flavor.” Even if you don’t know what Cascade hops are, the Bloomberg article (the article you ripped off) describes Cascade hops as citrusy!
After the internet news media is convinced that Miller Fortune is a 6.9% beer that tastes like bourbon, MillerCoors was then prompted to release their own press statement about the beer:
…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.
WHAT MILLER FORTUNE IS NOT?
Miller Fortune is not bourbon-like or a bourbon-flavored beer.
Beer writer Jay Brooks uses this as an example that beer has reached a point where news outlets need to have dedicated and educated beer writers:
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.
While that may be true, MillerCoors is definitely to blame for this as well. This to me is an example of what happens when you market a beer based solely on ideas, or feelings. Rather than truly describing the flavor of the beer, they instead focused on why they made the beer in the first place. All this focus on appealing to spirits drinkers, and marketing it in a rocks glass, leads everyone to believe that this is a bourbon flavored beer; when in truth it is just an amber lager. They’ve actually done themselves a disservice by essentially promoting a beer that doesn’t exist, continually comparing it to bourbon, and then having to correct themselves and clarify that it is an amber lager. I’ve never tasted the beer, but if I was hired to write a description, it would probably look something like this:
Miller Fortune is a flavorful full bodied amber lager with 6.9% alcohol by volume. The increased alcohol content allows this beer to showcase the caramel malts that are used to give this beer its dark hue. The beer is brewed with Cascade hops, giving the beer a light bitterness with a dry citrusy bite in the finish.
How’s that? I kept it short and vague, but it is still a (likely) accurate description of what types of flavors to expect. Hell, all you need to do is hand me a beer and say “it’s a 7% amber lager brewed with Cascade hops,” and that would be enough to make me want to try it. No need to confuse me by telling me that it doesn’t taste like bourbon, but that I should drink it instead of bourbon.