Bud Light loves its new “Dilly Dilly” campaign so much it appears it’s expanding the catchphrase to labels.
In the same way Anheuser-Busch this summer branded its Budweiser cans and bottles with “America,”it appears to be plotting new Bud Light labels that carry the signature Bud Light blue background and block-white text. The only difference: they swap “Dilly Dilly” for “Bud Light,” according to an application it submitted to federal regulators.
Bud Light can thank Ben Roethlisberger for helping take “Dilly Dilly” beyond its commercials. The Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback earlier this month used the phrase in an audible during a game, prompting a spike in “Dilly Dilly” mentions among sports fans on social media channels and in traditional media.
Bud Light’s creative chief Andy Goeler told Beer Business Daily the nonsensical phrase is a “good opportunity for Bud Light to have a nice rally cry” that’s based on a toast. “Dilly Dilly” and its associated messaging campaign, he said, has pleased distributors and appears to have accomplished what was intended: thrust Bud Light back into public conversation.
Bud Light volume is down 5.4 percent year-to-date through Nov. 5, according to IRI data cited by BMI. It’s down 4.7 percent in the most-recent 12 weeks, the period roughly encompassing what BMI called “the ‘Dilly Dilly’ era.”
What’s more, Bud Light slipped even more in the last four weeks, according to Nielsen all-outlet data. Case volume and sales dollars were each off 8.6 percent in the four weeks ended Nov. 18. That compares with year-to-date figures where sales dollars are down 5.1 percent on a 5.9 percent decline in case volume.
Still, Goeler told Adweek he’s optimistic the brand is breaking through. He told the publication that “Dilly Dilly” accounted for some 100,000 Google searches and about 45,000 YouTube searches for the phrase per week. Those figures have been helped with media pick-up. In addition to beer industry trade press, Bud’s “Dilly Dilly” campaign has earned mentions in male- and sports-centric websites, such as Brobible and Barstool Sports, as well as Adweek and a chain of daily newspapers. Other brands, such as Southwest Airlines, have jumped on the bandwagon as well, using the phrase on social media channels.
Comparing “Dilly Dilly” to Budweiser’s “Whassup?” campaign used between 1999-2002, Goeler told Adweek, “As a marketer, you live for a moment like this.” He said “Dilly Dilly” “will be a permanent piece of what people talk about for the brand moving forward.”
But even the “Whassup?” campaign wasn’t able to reverse the fortunes of The King of Beers, which has been in decline since 1988, Beer Marketers Insights notes.
Bud’s decline moderated amid that campaign, the publication wrote, but the brand was still off another 5 million barrels by 2003. “Any moderation in Bud Light’s decline from “Dilly Dilly,” BMI wrote, “would be most welcome for AB.”
The two largest U.S. brewers and longstanding competitors are each trying to crack the Mexican import market.
MillerCoors, which in October assumed control of U.S. sales and marketing for Sol under a 10-year licensing agreement with Heineken, plans to re-launch the brand in 2018 with a national advertising campaign. Anheuser-Busch is planning a push of its own behind Estrella Jalisco for 2018, including an expansion of distribution and tie-ins with the sports and entertainment industries.
It’s of little surprise that both companies are making a play in the Mexican import space, one of the beer industry’s few bright spots amid an overall market slogging through a downturn. While sales of American premium and economy lagers have tipped into the red, Mexican imports have booked double-digit growth.
With a category still on the rise, favorable demographic trends and a robust sales and distribution network, the top two U.S. brewers have a path to success with their entries, says Kevin Lane Keller, professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. But they’ve got to thread the needle on marketing and branding.
“There are opportunities for them, but they’re going to have to find a space, a reason for being, a reason for drinking,” Keller says. That means “executing well against that with total brand communications and packaging.”
Mexican imports with authenticity or a heritage story to tell can capitalize by reaching target consumers with something that appeals to them, he says. “The notion of trying to tap into heritage, roots and really, the authenticity, that’s the angle where I think there’s the biggest opportunity.”
From ‘the heart of Mexico’
That’s also the exact spot MillerCoors is aiming for with its Sol re-launch, says Matt Reischauer, director of brand marketing for the MillerCoors economy portfolio and Mexican imports.
“Sol is a beer with a very rich history and a compelling story that’s real and true,” he says. “It’s from the heart of Mexico and it’s steeped in the culture of the country. There’s no world in which I could envision Sol not having a right to play in this market.”
MillerCoors views Sol as a unique proposition that’s incremental to the Mexican import segment, meaning it will try to bring in new legal-age drinkers who may otherwise be drinking premium lights, wine and spirits and so on.
Reischauer’s team is particularly focused on connecting with bicultural Mexican-American drinkers between ages 21 and 29 with a message grounded in authenticity and optimism. These legal-age drinkers, who value their heritage and seek a connection with their home country (or their parents’ home country), “want a beer that connects with them and represents the values important to them,” Reischauer says.
“We’re brushing off a hidden gem,” he says. “It’s a marketer’s dream to be able to engage with a brand or discover a brand that’s been a little bit latent in America and give it its opportunity to shine.”
The Corona-Modelo juggernaut
There’s a clear role model for how to successfully build a Mexican brand over the long haul: Corona Extra.
Constellation Brands “really nailed it” with Corona’s “beach-in-a-bottle” premise and the ritual of forcing a lime wedge down a clear, long-necked bottle, Keller says. “The momentum they’ve had is incredible.”
The company has succeeded in part because of demographic tailwinds, says Benj Steinman, publisher of the industry publication Beer Marketers Insights. “But they’ve obviously gone way beyond that, especially with Corona, which has broad general-market appeal. They’ve also benefited from a very consistent marketing platform and they’ve applied consistent pressure on marketing with messages that have stayed consistent and resonated with consumers.”
It’s not just Corona. Modelo has been growing even faster and is on pace to overtake Corona if current trends hold. Modelo sales are up 20.7 percent on an 18.8 increase in volume year-to-date, according to Nielsen all-outlet data, including convenience, through Nov. 18. Corona, meanwhile is up 6.5 percent on a 4.7 percent rise in volume.
Replicating this kind of success is not going to be easy, he says.
A 2018 turnaround?
That’s something AB knows first-hand. The brewer made a push into the space in 2014 with Montejo, a brand that carried some authenticity and made an initial splash, but never established an enduring connection with consumers, Steinman says.
AB has since invested very little in the brand, appearing to shift its attention to Estrella Jalisco. Sales of Montejo are down 72.4 percent on a 72.6 percent drop in volume year-to-date through Nov. 18, per Nielsen. It is one of the smallest Mexican import brands sold in the U.S., per Nielsen.
Company spokespeople did not reply to a request for comment.
Estrella Jalisco, meanwhile, is down a more-modest 6.2 percent on a 7.7 decline in volume year-to-date. But AB has said it plans a major investment in the brand in 2018; it already got substantial media exposure during the 2017 World Series with a giant in-stadium sign at Dodger Stadium.
Sol also is down for the year; sales are off 17.3 percent on a 17.7 drop in volume, per Nielsen.
“You’re both going to have to come up with something exciting to make it a decent proposition” for retailers, wholesalers and, of course, consumers, Steinman says. But if any companies have the wherewithal and heft to pull it off, it’s MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch.
abst Brewing Co., the owner of heritage beer brands such as PBR, Schlitz and Old Milwaukee, is getting into the spirits business.
The privately owned company on Tuesday said it launched a whiskey brand under its Small Town banner called Not Your Father’s Bourbon in Wisconsin and Illinois with plans to push the brand nationwide in early 2018.
The 43 percent alcohol-by-volume, contract-distilled bourbon contains a “touch of Madagascar vanilla” and carries a suggested retail price of $29.99 for a 750-ml bottle. Pabst said in a news release the spirit was “crafted for veteran and novice bourbon drinkers alike.” Adding vanilla, it said, is “an exciting spin on the centuries-old spirit for a new generation of whiskey drinkers and cocktail connoisseurs.”
The move to diversify its beer-centric portfolio comes amid a down year for Pabst and its Not Your Father’s flavored beverage franchise. Case volume company-wide is down 2.1 percent and sales dollars have slipped 1.3 percent year-to-date through Nov. 4, according to Nielsen all-outlet data. Not Your Father’s, maker of hard root beer, ginger ale and other hard sodas, has been particularly battered, off 55 percent in sales dollars on a 53.7 percent drop in volume.
Pabst’s foray into spirits also comes amid broader pressure on the beer market, which continues to shed share to wine and spirits, particularly among younger legal-age drinkers. The beer industry has lost some 35 million barrels of beer, or 11 billion servings, to wine and spirits over the last 20 years, Heineken USA President Ronald den Elzen said in an October speech. Over that period, beer’s share of the total alcohol beverage market has shrunk to 50 percent, down from 62 percent, den Elzen said.
Other brewers already are dabbling in distilled spirits, including Michigan’s New Holland, Delaware’s Dogfish Head, Oregon’s Rogue Ales & Spirits and Indiana’s Three Floyds.
Among big brewers, only Constellation Brands has a significant presence in the industry, but Anheuser-Busch InBev, through its craft acquisitions, is eyeing an entry. The company in July applied for an Oregon distillery license for its 10 Barrel Brewing craft brewery. Its Devils Backbone brewery in Virginia also has expressed interest in distilling.
Prior to being bought by InBev, Anheuser-Busch flirted with spirits, creating a unit called Long Tail Libations that tested a shooter product for bars and clubs called Jekyll & Hyde. It also struck a deal a decade ago to distribute a line of spirits in the Northeast.
It has also outsourced marketing, sales and distribution rights of the brown spirit to Chicago-based Innovative Wine & Spirits, Brewbound reported.
According to company filings with the Illinois Secretary of State, Innovative Wine & Spirits is owned by Phusion Projects, the maker of the high-gravity flavored malt beverage Four Loko. Phusion jumped into the spirits space this year with its “Four Loko Shots” brand, an attempt to move its brands more into on-premise accounts, the company told Crain’s Chicago Business in a July report.
A spokesman for Small Town Craft Spirits said he was not able to provide more information.
Chris Furnari, the Boston-based editor of Brewbound, said in an interview that beer companies are seeking ways to diversify their portfolios amid the current turbulence in the market. But, he said, he’s “struggling to wrap my head around this one because it doesn’t feel like they’re all-in on it.”
“I understand the rationale behind wanting to leverage the brand equity they’ve already built with Small Town,” Furnari said. But the fact that Pabst is outsourcing the production, sales, marketing and distribution of the brand “doesn’t tell me they’re dedicated or super serious about investing in the space.”
MillerCoors Earns 100 percent on Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Annual Scorecard on LGBTQ Workplace Equality
MillerCoors proudly announced it received a perfect score of 100 percent on the 2018 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. MillerCoors joins the ranks of other major U.S. businesses which also earned top marks this year.
“We are incredibly proud to receive this recognition from the Human Rights Council,” said Karina Diehl, director of community affairs for MillerCoors. “It truly is a testament to the inclusive culture we have created and initiatives we have put in place to support LGBTQ employees and communities across the country.”
The 2018 CEI rated hundreds of businesses in the report, which evaluates LGBTQ-related policies and practices including non-discrimination workplace protections, domestic partner benefits, transgender-inclusive health care benefits, competency programs and public engagement with the LGBTQ community. MillerCoors efforts in satisfying all of the CEI’s criteria results in a 100 percent ranking and the designation as a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.
This is the 15th consecutive year MillerCoors has received a 100 percent ranking. The company was also awarded the 2016 Corporate Equality Award from Human Rights Campaign and named Corporation of the Year in 2015 by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
For more information on the 2018 Corporate Equality Index, or to download a free copy of the report, visit www.hrc.org/cei.
Through its diverse collection of storied breweries, MillerCoors brings American beer drinkers an unmatched selection of the highest quality beers, flavored malt beverages and ciders, steeped in centuries of brewing heritage. Miller Brewing Company and Coors Brewing Company brew national favorites such as Miller Lite, Miller High Life, Coors Light and Coors Banquet. MillerCoors also proudly offers beers such as Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy from sixth-generation Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, and Blue Moon Belgian White from modern craft pioneer Blue Moon Brewing Company, founded in 1995. Beyond beer, MillerCoors operates Crispin Cider Company, an artisanal maker of pear and apple ciders using fresh-pressed American juice, and offers pioneering brands such as the Redd’s franchise, Smith & Forge Hard Cider and Henry’s Hard Sodas. Tenth and Blake Beer Company, our craft and import division, is the home to craft brewers Hop Valley Brewing, Revolver Brewing, Saint Archer Brewing Company and the Terrapin Beer Company. Tenth and Blake also imports world-renowned beers such as Italy’s Peroni Nastro Azzurro, the Czech Republic’s Pilsner Urquell and the Netherlands’ Grolsch. MillerCoors, the U.S. business unit of the Molson Coors Brewing Company, has an uncompromising dedication to quality, a keen focus on innovation and a deep commitment to sustainability. Learn more at MillerCoors.com, at facebook.com/MillerCoors or on Twitter at @MillerCoors.
What’s driving the proliferation of satellite taprooms and brewpubs?
We don’t have to travel far back in our beer time machine to revisit the year when Goose Island Beer Co. still had only one brewpub, its venerable but not exactly cutting-edge Clybourn Street location. That was 2014, three years after Goose Island’s sale to Anheuser-Busch InBev. Just a few years later, the brewery has seven locations including pubs and taphouses in London, Sao Paolo, Toronto, Shanghai, Seoul and one on the way for Philadelphia, with more future openings likely. Right now in Shanghai, a pub visitor could be snacking on Sofie-battered baby squid washed down Wujiang Porter while the Clybourn brewpub sits shuttered, waiting for a remodel that’s slated to be complete in the coming months.
According to Goose Island International president Ken Stout, the biggest fan of all these new outposts is brewery founder John Hall himself.
“He was out in Shanghai and Seoul this year and he came back positively stoked about the quality of the beer and food, the design, the service. He was like, ‘The new Clybourn has to be as good as Soeul.’”
Wrap your head around that. Also wrap your head around Stone Brewing’s campus in Berlin, BrewDog’s dozens of global pubs and breweries, a coming-soon brewpub in Lincoln, Nebraska from West Coast stalwart Green Flash Brewing Co.; a forthcoming Chicago brewpub from Ballast Point Brewery; and an in-planning Maryland brewery and taproom for Guinness; a joint Victory/Southern Tier brewery/taphouse in Charlotte, North Carolina; not to mention 10 Barrel’s six spots including Denver and San Diego.
In the past five years, breweries have been playing at a giant Risk board, pushing brewpubs to corners of the country and world that seem to drift further and further from their original territories.
In 2017, taprooms rule. More breweries are opting to focus on taproom sales, which usually increase profits by removing the distributor’s cut. As a bonus, drinkers who visit a brewery are more likely to buy that brewery’s beer on shelves or from a bar, too. Larger, nationally distributed breweries are realizing that it’s crucial to foster regional and local connections to drinkers, who are presented with ever more competition for their beer bucks. A brewery, even if it’s owned by a larger company, can become your neighborhood hangout, complete with a regular bartender who knows your name and remembers that you always order the chicken pizza.
“I see the larger [breweries] expanding into these spaces to make them relevant in those markets and say ‘We employ here, we’re part of the community, we give back and we’re local,’” says Kimberly Clements, a beer-industry consultant and partner at Pints LLC. “They can finally say all those things, which does make them local to that community.”
Taprooms have a dual function in 2017: They’re a source of revenue, but they’re also a marketing tool, a way to sample new customers on a beer that they might not have picked up off the shelf or ordered at a bar with 25 other options.
“The taproom is more and more becoming the focal point of craft operations, creating the ‘face’ for the brewery. Neighborhood taproom volume grew 27 percent last year and this has not been lost on the larger craft brewers,” says Joel Hueston, director of commercial strategy at brewing industry consulting firm First Key. “Taprooms are where today’s growth is in craft and a lot of players will want to jump on this train while it’s rolling.”
Goose Island’s Ken Stout calls it “making friends for the brewery.” 10 Barrel co-founder Garrett Wales calls it “localizing the brand.” BrewDog USA managing director Tanisha Robinson says the idea is to “create beacons for craft beer lovers and disseminate our spirit out into the world.” They’re all getting at the same goal: To get drinkers in a city or region to connect with their beer on a face-to-face level, setting it apart from the dozens of other options bombarding customers.
That was much of the reasoning behind Green Flash’s recently announced acquisition of the defunct Ploughshare brewery in Lincoln, Nebraska, which will be transformed into a 10,000-square-foot production brewery and brewpub by the end of the year. Previously, Green Flash didn’t have much of a Midwest presence at all; the brewery’s sales rep serving Nebraska was actually based in Denver and visited that state maybe two to three times a year.
“We sell very little beer in the middle of the country and this brewhouse will give us a nice start. We’ll be able to grow sales there,” says Green Flash co-founder Mike Hinckley. “We don’t use TV commercials or sponsor major sports teams. The way we build our brand is one pint at a time.”
He says this Nebraska expansion, which is the fifth location for the company that owns both Green Flash and Alpine beer brands, “reframed” the search for new markets.
“I’m looking specifically into places where craft is not already fully developed, looking into younger markets even if they’re smaller markets. The Mississippis, Alabamas, Louisianas, Arkansases, Oklahomas, these are now going to become my primary focus,” he says. “The long-term plan for Green Flash is to be local or at least regional in as many places as possible.”
That’s one strategy. As some breweries inevitably go out of business (the rates of which have recently seen an uptick), better-established breweries like Green Flash are well positioned to acquire their assets and real estate at a discount, says Pints LLC’s Clements.
“Breweries are closing. They need buyers; and I think it’s a good model that somebody bigger comes in and buys them for pennies on the dollar. I think that you’ll see this more and more,” says Clements. “I’m sure there will be interest out there for breweries that want to expand and get their foothold in downtowns.”
But not everyone’s looking to smaller, developing markets. 10 Barrel (also a part of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s The High End division) last year built a flashy, 300-seats-with-a-rooftop brewpub from the ground up in Denver’s popular River North district and also has pubs in beer-heavy cities including Portland, Oregon and San Diego. Co-founder Garrett Wales says the idea is to offer 10 Barrel’s beers alongside the best in the country, be a part of beer-centric communities and see what savvy consumers think.
10 Barrel and Goose Island have the resources to be able to do this. So does Ballast Point, which is owned by Constellation Brands, and is planning a 12,000 square foot brewpub with rooftop bar in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, a meatpacking-turned-nightlife corridor home to the city’s hottest restaurants and bars. It’s the eighth locations for Ballast Point, which also has a presence in San Diego, Temecula and Long Beach in California; and a production facility with a brewpub outside Roanoke, Virginia.
“There’s no other specific expansion plans on the horizon but we’re looking for opportunities to do more with this model,” says Hilary Cocalis, Ballast Point’s VP of marketing. “It just always goes back to how can we best reach our customers, give them the best Ballast Point experience and get them familiar with the brand. So far our tasting room experience has proven to be successful in that.”
Fulton Market is already a beer-soaked corner of Chicago, home to Haymarket Brewery, Cruz Blanca Brewery & Taqueria, Great Central Brewing Co., Goose Island’s Fulton Street brewery and taproom, On Tour Brewing Co., All Rise Brewing, as well as scores of bars with decent tap lists. Ditto with the area surrounding 10 Barrel’s new Denver location. Obviously the new kids on the block think they can thrive despite the competition, but how do the existing neighbors feel about the arrivals?
“It really varies. For the most part, it’s 60-40 in favor of people being positive, people that know the brand and know we make a great product,” says 10 Barrel’s Wales. “Those that are younger to the industry or don’t have a good understanding of the bigger picture feel a little threatened and challenged. But we make a point to go in and get to know those folks.”
“When you try to force it, you’re nothing but a chain that’s trying to be fake.”
Ballast Point said their neighbors’ reactions had been positive; likewise with BrewDog’s new Columbus, Ohio digs.
“Density creates a lot of energy in neighborhoods that’s great for everyone. A big challenge for us is just finding the right place and finding the right neighbors that feel the same way about proximity as we do; which is that it’s not a zero sum game,” says BrewDog’s Tanisha Robinson. “We also really, we want it to matter that we’re here. Half of our beers on tap are guest beers. Our mission is not to make people passionate about BrewDog but to make people passionate about craft beer.”
And consumer response? As multilocation brewpubs and taprooms pop up like dandelions through American cities, do they risk becoming stale and chainlike? Or will they become blandly ubiquitous mainstays like Rock Bottoms, BJs and Gordon Biersches?
“I definitely think this is wave two. The breweries doing this now, they’re very beer-forward whereas others kept with that restaurant model,” says Clements. “They offer consistency while still bringing something new and being a clean, friendly place to go. As long as they keep it fresh, they’ll be successful.”
Breweries cite different methods for keeping it fresh, from allowing local brewers freedom to make pub-exclusive beers or switching the food menu up in different markets. The tight-rope walk between consistency and cool becomes more challenging with every location, but with these pubs spread across the country and world, it’s unlikely that most drinkers have been to more than one or two. They still feels special, especially when the brewery is new to town.
“We don’t have an employee playbook that says ‘Here’s what you say.’ That would ruin it all,” says 10 Barrel’s Wales. “When you try to force it, you’re nothing but a chain that’s trying to be fake.”
Is there a day when we could see 10 Barrels across the world like Applebee’s?
American beer sales have been trending downwards in recent years. After peaking at nearly 219 million barrels in 2008, total U.S. shipments have declined since, reaching just 211.7 million barrels in 2013.
The recent drops in beer sales have been especially pronounced at many of the nation’s top brewers. Total shipments of both Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) and MillerCoors have slumped as several of their major brands have lost substantial market share. According to data provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights, American sales of seven major brands, including Budweiser, declined by more than 20% between 2008 and 2013.
According to Eric Shepard, executive editor at Beer Marketer’s Insights, major beer brands can still point to the last recession as a contributing factor to their current slump. “The people that got hit hardest in the economic recession were your mainstream beer drinkers — lower- to mid-income males, 25 to 34 [years old],” Shepard said.
Another key factor in the weakening sales has been price dynamics. “Beer prices were increased more aggressively over the last five years than wine and spirits,” Shepard said. Many people in the industry believe that, as a result, some customers replaced buying beer with the now relatively less expensive wines and spirits, he explained.
Several other products were also gaining at the expense of big brand-name beers, Shepard noted. While some customers have been moving to wine and spirits, others were switching to imported beer, particularly Mexican imports. Indeed, in the five years through 2013, shipments of Mexican brands Dos Equis and Modelo Especial more-than doubled. Similarly, he added, “Some [drinkers] are moving to craft [beer]. Clearly, there’s been a trade-up in the industry.”
Craft beers have largely bucked the overall downtrend in beer sales. From 2008 to 2013, shipments of craft beer rose by 80.1% to a total of more than 16 million barrels, or 7.6% of the U.S. beer market. While the craft beer category now outsells Budweiser, it remains a relatively niche market. For comparison, the nation’s top-selling brand, Bud Light, shipped 38 million barrels in 2013, accounting for 18% of all beer shipped.
While the last few years have been difficult for many large brewers, they, too, have been introducing new products that combine well-known brand names with new concepts that appeal to consumers. In recent years, Anheuser-Busch has introduced Bud Light Platinum, a higher alcohol content beer with a sweeter flavor; Bud Light Ritas, a margarita-inspired malt beverage; and Shock Top, its own take on craft beer. As of last year, these three brands had captured 2% of the overall beer market.
To identify the seven beers Americans no longer drink, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights for all brands with more than 1 million barrels shipped in 2008. All of these seven brands reported a 20% or more decline in shipments in the five years through 2013.
Budweiser is one of the most famous brands in the world. Created in 1876, Budweiser quickly established itself as a national brand through, at the time, innovative production and distribution methods. These included introducing pasteurization to the beer industry as well as refrigerated rail cars. Today, Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, which was formed after Belgian brewer InBev acquired American beer titan Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion in 2008. The sale of an iconic American brand to a foreign company initially caused some outrage. However, Americans themselves are drinking far less Budweiser than in years past. Shipments of the brand fell nearly 28% between 2008 and 2013.
4. Milwaukee’s Best Light
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -40.6%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 1,010,000
Shipments of Milwaukee’s Best Light fell by more than 40% between 2008 and 2013. Previously quite small, Milwaukee’s Best Light held just a 0.5% U.S. market share last year. Whereas Budweiser and Miller Lite are considered premium brands, Milwaukee’s Best is part of the discount brand category. An improving American economy since 2008 may explain at least part of the drop in shipments. Americans’ buying habits shifted towards cheap beers during the recession. But now that the economy is stronger, the trend seems to be reversing again.
3. Milwaukee’s Best
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -57.0%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 580,000
MillerCoors describes Milwaukee’s Best as being “brewed for a man’s taste,” and as “Highly drinkable. Highly affordable.” The brand has also experienced a downturn in popularity over the last few years. From 2008 to 2013, brand shipments declined by 57%, or 770,000 barrels in total, and its market share slumped from 0.6% in 2008 to 0.3% last year. Like its light beer counterpart, Milwaukee’s Best is a discount brand, and some of its sales drop can likely be explained by customers switching to higher-priced brands as the economy has improved. Still, some discount brands have been able to retain, and even grow, market share in the improved economy. Shipments of Pabst Blue Ribbon rose 71.5% between 2008 and 2013.
2. Miller Genuine Draft
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -58.3%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 1,175,000
In its advertisements, Miller Genuine Draft claims it captures a “the fresh taste of draft beer in a bottle.” According to AdAge, when launching the brand, Miller successfully “used advertising from Backer & Spielvogel, New York, that touted the brand’s cold-filtering process, a technique long used by rival Coors but not mentioned in its advertising.” Draft taste or not, interest in the brand has plummeted in recent years, as sales dropped 58% from 2008 through 2013.
Anheuser-Busch introduced Budweiser Select in 2005 as a full-flavored light beer. Select is one of a number of initiatives that have been tried over the years to revive the Budweiser brand. Other attempts included Budweiser Black Crown, an amber lager, and Budweiser Chelada, a beer and clamato mix. Budweiser Select, however, does not appear to have been the answer for falling sales. Shipments of Budweiser Select declined 61% from 2008 through 2013, more than twice the decline for traditional Budweiser in that time.
Want to improve your tasting notes? Practice, practice, practice.
Ilja Croijmans is a psychologist by training and a homebrewer in his off time. He’s a researcher in the field of psycholinguistics, which combines psychology and linguistics, obtaining his PhD at the Centre for Language Studies in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
His work is currently focused on the ways people describe the flavor and aroma of food and beverages. In this vein, Croijmans coauthored a 2015 study titled “Odor Naming Is Difficult, Even For Wine And Coffee Experts,” which found that “both wine and coffee experts were no more accurate or consistent than novices when naming odors. ”
When I read of this study via Sprudge, a coffee publication, I naturally thought, “OK, but what about beer?”
Croijmans was kind enough to answer my questions about how his research into the language of flavor and aroma could impact beer judging as well as everyday beer enjoyment. Some of his responses have been edited for clarity and length:
Why has your research until now mostly focused on wine and coffee?
It has focused primarily on wine, actually. Wine is, like coffee, an incredibly rich source of aromas, and can be experienced by smelling it, and by tasting it. In both cases, the nose is involved. Wines differ along a few dimensions–grape type, country of origin or terroir, and yet, there is so much variety. There are many wine experts available in the Netherlands, in shops (vinologists), in restaurants (sommeliers), and we even have a few wine producers now (oenologists). Additionally, wine expertise is well defined. To become a sommelier or vinologist, you have to go through intensive training and get a degree. Wine experts are interesting, because they talk and write about the smell and flavor of wines frequently–in shops, in restaurants and in reviews on the internet.
Have you considered applying your research to beer rather than wine or coffee? Beer is also incredibly interesting. Back when I started this project on flavor language, this whole “craft beer revolution” was just kicking off in the Netherlands, which is only four years ago. Back then, there were 200 breweries, already 40 more than in 2012. Right now, there are around 422 breweries in the Netherlands. While beer is an interesting and obvious choice right now, it wasn’t yet back then. There are beer expert communities in the Netherlands with incredible expertise, and at least 422 commercial brewers which I think are expert enough to participate in my studies, too. And I think beer is talked about a lot too. What you see for wines (wine menus, wine reviews online) you see for beers more often too. There now even is a Michelin-star restaurant in the Netherlands (de Librije in Zwolle) that has a beer menu to pair with their seven-course menu.
It is too bad we don’t teach our kids to talk about smells and flavors, but focus on what cows say (sound) and what color a sheep is (vision) instead. It’s speculative, but it might be possible people would be better at naming smells if they learned to pay attention to them when they were young.
What implications could your research have in terms of how we understand and value beer judging?
What we found in wine experts is that it matters how much you talk about smells and flavors in order to become better at describing it. If these beer judges talk a lot about beer, in addition to tasting and judging it, the findings for wine experts might apply to beer judges too. I think judges (for wine and beer alike) are very useful. It is hard to judge from a bottle of beer how it will taste, and some beers are quite expensive, so these pose a risk. If a beer expert has described the flavor in a way I can understand, this helps me in my decision process. I see sometimes online that people really don’t like a well rated beer, for example a Berliner weisse or a lambic or a black IPA. And it turns out they just didn’t expect the flavors in those beers, for example, in case of the Berliner weisse, they expected more of a traditional German weisse or Belgian wit. If they would have had access to a short description of the flavor, they might have given it a second thought, or not spent money on it in the first place. Expert descriptions are very useful, especially when novices struggle with finding the right words for the flavors
How can casual beer drinkers become more adept at describing aroma and flavor?
With practice, people can become better at describing aromas and flavors. A guided tasting can help: Let an expert explain what flavors they taste in a beer, and see if the casual beer-drinker can spot these too. Or a beer flavor wheel might help, seeing particular flavors occur in a beer. This is speculative, but in the beginning, it seems it is important to just get acquainted with the words that are used in beer contexts, and these wheels can help. After a while, it is more about practicing using them and applying them to new beers.
There are apps in which you can choose a few flavor descriptors for each beer you drink. This is already easier than just coming up with your own, or type in your own description. Becoming an expert in any domain, like in music or in chess, takes time, on average around 10,000 hours, so it really just needs deliberate practice and time. But even practicing it a few hours can help. It is too bad we don’t teach our kids to talk about smells and flavors, but focus on what cows say (sound) and what color a sheep is (vision) instead. It’s speculative, but it might be possible people would be better at naming smells if they learned to pay attention to them when they were young.
Do you have a favorite beer style?
I don’t have a specific favorite. It depends too much on the context. But there are types of beers I like more than others. I am quite into the sour beers: gose, Berliner weisse, lambic, gueuze. Somehow the sourness keeps being interesting, while for example for with IPAs or stouts, these seem to become more similar to each other the more I try (although I also really like IPAs). I also like the crossover-type beers, in which multiple styles are combined, e.g., a sour stout, or experimental beers in which interesting ingredients are used.
Has your research changed the way you personally experience the act of drinking beer?
I don’t think my research has changed the way I am experiencing beer. Whether it changed what types of beers I drink, I think homebrewing is more to blame for that–if you know how something is made, you may find flaws and possible ways to improve it. But I am trying to be aware of the flavors and tastes in what beers I drink, and I try to at least write a few words on each beer I drink and rate it, even if I’ve had it more than once.
Sour beers has been on our radar for a while – they come in a ton of ridiculous, creative flavors and pair exceptionally well with food. Traditionally, sour beer was made by exposure to wild yeast and bacteria. Today, brewers add bacteria to turn their beer sour, mixed in along with fruits, herbs and spices.
Calling all coffee lovers! This flavorful sour is made with Ethiopian coffee and whole grain teff, a staple Ethiopian grain used to make sourdough bread. In fact, this beer was partly inspired by Tella, a traditional (you guessed it) Ethiopian brew. Drink with: spicy food.
If you love rosé, we’re betting you’ll enjoy this Belgian style pale ale – it gets a lovely pink color since it’s fermented with raspberries and aged in French Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. Drink with: Salmon or tuna.
Sip on summertime all year round with this mulberry sour ale, which happens to have a pretty memorable name. Carton Brewing uses a German technique that highlights the bright side of the mulberry profile. It has a low ABV, so it’s perfect for sipping alongside a leisurely meal or cocktail hour. Drink with: your favorite barbecue.
Don’t worry, this punny beer isn’t just for tennis pros! This gose-style brew features an infusion of house-blended “teas” made from fruits and botanicals, and comes in four flavors: tangerine, raspberry lemon, wildberry and peach. Drink with: French bread and soft cheese.
Open a grown-up lemonade stand with this delightful sour ale aged with strawberries and raspberries and finished with pink Himalayan salt. This kettle-soured wheat ale is equal parts sweet and tart, and has a lovely red color. Drink with: salty snacks or leftover Halloween candy.
This unique sour beer combines Citra and Belma hops with beets, carrots, ginger and apples to create a “pink vapor stew” with a flavor that’s equal parts earthy and tropical. Drink with: roasted root vegetables.
For anyone who loves pumpkin spice, this sour beer is for you. This one starts off with a spiced brown ale, aged in bourbon barrels along with roasted heirloom pumpkins. Drink with: Thanksgiving dinner.
This respected sour beer is made by combining two brews created a world apart: New Belgium combines lambic beer from 130-year-old Belgian brewery Oud Beersel with American sour golden ale. The Belgian brew is aged in oak and blended with tart Polish cherries for an intense, fruity finish that calls cherry pie to mind. Drink with: desserts made with fruit or vanilla.
This sour ale, inspired by one of my favorite cocktails (the margarita), features key lime beer aged in tequila barrels and finished with Himalayan salt. It has a very prominent lime flavor, and one Untappd reviewer says it tastes “like a margarita with a hint of oak.” Drink with: chips and guacamole, obviously.
But seriously: What is the difference between stouts and porters? It’s a question we get from our readers several times a week. Their confusion is warranted: Both beer styles are dark; both have flavors and aromas of coffee, chocolate and toast; both seem to fall within the 5-7% alcohol range. And with brewers putting their own twists on each style, differentiating them has become a challenge; there’s a lot of overlap. But there are subtle differences between these styles, and to understand them, it helps to first understand their history.
We’ll start with porter. Though we know the style washed over London in the 1700s, becoming the city’s most popular beer style and playing an integral role in growing its greatest breweries, its true origins are as dark as black patent malt. The most enduring tale about its invention involves threads, butts, and a brewer named Ralph Harwood. It goes like this: In the 1720s, beer in pubs was usually served from casks, which were also known as “butts,” and the beer poured from these butts was known as a “thread.” A single mug of beer commonly contained several threads blended by the bartender at the point of sale; a popular order among the porters who frequented a particular pub, in fact, was known as “Three Threads.” The man in charge of the pub, tired of all this blending, allegedly hired Harwood to create a beer that would recreate the flavor of three threads, and Harwood obliged, calling his pre-fab blend “Entire.” The name, however, wouldn’t stick; the beer became so popular with London’s working porters that it would eventually be named after them.
That’s the story, anyway. Though Three Threads and other blended beers certainly existed, there’s little evidence that the particulars of Harwood’s Entire origin story are true. We don’t know much about how the porters of the day actually tasted, either; the flavors we associate with the style today—toast, coffee, chocolate, etc.—would have been impossible for brewers to achieve since reliable malt roasters wouldn’t be invented for another hundred years.
What is known, however, is that the stout style is porter’s direct descendant. In the 1700s, the word “stout” was used to refer to a bolder, higher-alcohol version of any beer style, much in the same way we use the word “imperial” today. Porter, as we mentioned, was the most popular beer of the day, and over time, “stout porter” became stout’s most common use. By the late 1800s, however, demand for regular porters had evaporated. Stout porter—shortened, simply, to stout—took its place.
So, judging from the history of these two styles, it would seem that stout should simply be a stronger, more intense version of porter. But more has changed between the 1800s and today than just our penchant for wearing top hats and big-butted dresses.
“Today, the true differences between the styles are constantly being debated,” says Bill Manley, brand manager at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s facility in Mills River, North Carolina. “Many brewers market beers as either ‘stout’ or ‘porter’ based on their personal preferences and perspectives rather than a notable stylistic difference.”
Generally speaking, he says, porters will have less roasted character than stouts and typically will not be brewed with roasted barley (a type of dark, highly kilned barley that is not malted and thus imparts no sweetness to a beer). Sierra Nevada makes highly regarded versions of both styles; Manley says they differ in that the brewery’s Porter is drier and slightly lower in alcohol, while the Stout is a bit sweeter but also features roasted barley for a sharper malt flavor.
While malt flavors are the focus in both stouts and porters, beer’s other major flavor-contributing ingredients—hops and yeast—also can contribute subtle differences that allow us to differentiate between the styles. For its Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup Competitions, the Brewers Association maintains and regularly updates a list of beer style guidelines to both show brewers the flavors expected in a style and give the folks judging the beers a rubric for making their decisions. Both porter and stout are represented in the most recent edition of these guidelines; we’ve set the specifics of each style up side-by-side, for comparison.
Malt Aroma & Flavor
Medium to medium-high. Malty sweetness, roast malt, cocoa and caramel should be in harmony with bitterness from dark malts.
Coffee-like roasted barley and roasted malt aromas are prominent. Low to medium malt sweetness with low to medium caramel, chocolate, and/or roasted coffee ﬂavor should be present, with a distinct dry-roasted bitterness in the ﬁnish. Astringency from roasted malt and roasted barley is low. Slight roasted malt acidity is acceptable.
Hop Aroma & Flavor
Very low to medium
Medium to high, often with citrusy and/or resiny hop qualities typical of many American hop varieties.
Medium to high
Medium to high
Fruity esters should be evident and balanced with all other characters. Diacetyl should not be perceived.
Fruity-estery aroma and flavor is low. Diacetyl should be negligible or not perceived.
Medium to full
Medium to full
The style guidelines produced by the Beer Judge Certification Program, meanwhile, actually contain short sections that compare the characteristics of similar styles. This section on the American Porter entry says the style is “less strong and assertive than American Stouts.” The American Stout entry, similarly, affirms that the stout is “stronger and more assertive, particularly in the dark malt/grain additions and hop character, than American Porter.”
So, to recap: Porters tend to be fruitier, sweeter and less bitter than stouts, with cocoa and caramel flavors in balance with dark malt bitterness; stouts are usually hoppier, drier, maltier and more coffee-forward, and may even have a touch of acidity.
But again, approaches by actual brewers vary—remember Bill Manley saying Sierra Nevada’s Stout was sweeter than the Porter above? With the most important factor determining whether a beer is dubbed porter or stout seeming to be what the brewer feels like calling it, we may just be splitting hairs in trying to determine dissimilarities. In the end, the difference between the two styles is clear as a stout. Or a porter. Whichever.
Beer is an ideal complement to food for a variety of reasons. The wide array of beers available offer excellent pairings for an incredible range of cuisines, from American classics to Asian fusion.
THE ABCS OF BEER AND FOOD PAIRING
The ABCs are a simple way of explaining how beer and food pairings hit our taste buds and create memorable—and shareable—experiences. The ABCs are easy for consumers to understand and immediately challenge their desire to explore options and create unique food and beer pairings. Another way to easily pair beer and food is to match lighter beer with lighter flavored foods and darker beer with bolder foods.
A stands for Accentuate
To create an easy pairing, match the flavors in the food and beer. For example, try pairing Stella Artois with fish. The light flavors in both will work together.
B stands for Bridge
To create a more advanced pairing, choose a beer and food whose flavors are similar, but not part of the same flavor family. For example, try pairing Budweiser with a hamburger. The light flavor in the beer will be complemented by the savory flavor of the burger.
C stands for Contrast
The most advanced pairing combines two flavors that are essentially opposites. While risky, this pairing has the most potential to blow diners away. For example, try pairing Stella Artois with a bowl of hearty chili. The light flavor of the Stella Artois will be offset by the robust flavors in the chili.
For specific beer and food pairing recommendations select a type of food below.