Secret Swillionaires Summit Reveals Big Beer Plans

What with all the hubbub surrounding the NSA leaker Snowden and his impersonation of a refuse barge adrift at sea with no taker or safe harbor I thought it might be good time to publish some equally sensitive and potentially embarrassing information regarding a couple of Big Beer’s black bag projects.  I’ve known about them for a few months but been hesitant to reveal anything for fear of reprisals from the corporate goons of ABInBev and MillerCoors.  But before I expose their plans and enter the craft beer bloggers protection program I want to get back to this Snowden idiot for a second.  How screwed is this guy?  He’s being hunted by multiple U.S. intelligence agencies and even Putin, Chaves, and Kim Jong-un won’t grant him refuge.  Unless Jason Bourne is his BFF, he’s going to end up living out whatever days he has left hiding in some remote shack in the Andes hoping not to be eaten by descendants of the Uruguayan soccer team that crashed in 1972.

Impressive show but the real action was in the shadows

Impressive show but the real action was in the shadows

So, back to the Big Beer secret projects.  Not long ago, MillerCoors held their annual distributors convention in Orlando.  As you’d expect, lots of glitz, glamour, showmanship, charts, and puffery (i.e. lies) regarding how well the business is doing and confident predictions of a bright future.  Nothing salacious, exciting, or remotely interesting there.  Kind of like their beer.  Anyway, it seems the real action was taking place behind the curtain.  Late on the second day of the convention there were rumors of Carlos Brito sightings throughout Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.  Odd.  Why would ABInBev’s CEO be anywhere near a major convention held by his chief rival?  The rumors had to be simple cases of mistaken identity.  After all, he does bear a striking resemblance to Maleficent, Disney’s reigning queen of evil deeds (in action, that is).  Well, the rumors turned out to be true.  Carlos Brito really was there and so was his CFO and a handful of other top ABInBev marketing and operations execs.  Something was up.

ABInBev's CEO & CFO before heading to the secret summit

ABInBev’s CEO & CFO before heading to the secret summit

A warren of interconnecting tunnels and underground facilities – practically an entire subterranean metropolis – underlies Disney World.  A perfect setting for alighting well concealed spies to discover all manner of planned and nefarious subterfuge.  Just a quick scan of the event schedule revealed an odd reservation.  A private Disney character breakfast had been reserved in the Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace for 3:00 in the afternoon of the second day of the convention.  A late afternoon breakfast was strange enough but stranger still was the fact that the parties on the reservation were blocked.  The guest notation only revealed that 24 would attend.  Nothing else on the schedule looked out of the ordinary so it seemed as if something special, something unpublicized and unspoken might take place over late afternoon home fries, bacon, and pancakes with Cinderella and her princess clique.

What better way to infiltrate the breakfast and gather intelligence than to plant a listening device and what better listening device than something with huge ears that doesn’t stand out?  Something like this:

A Fish out of water at Disney

A Fish out of water at Disney

Not that! This:

NSA's Echelon has nothing on this listening device

NSA’s Echelon has nothing on this listening device

That’s it.  A hidden Mickey.  They appear in all sizes, textures, and colors down there and are far more ubiquitous than Abe Vigoda.  Micky Mouse himself might have done a fine job but the princesses tend to get a bit skittish around rodents, especially extremely large ones like these:

 Mickey and Minnie better take the day off or take cover if Cary Elwes ever walks through the gates of the Magic Kingdom.  Anyway, with a little help from Ariel, a listening device in the shape of a hidden Mickey was planted near the desert table in the Crystal Palace just before the group was

Now THAT's what I call an effective spy

Now THAT’s what I call an effective spy

scheduled to arrive. Soon enough, she relayed via text that the players were streaming in and it was, indeed, a cast of Big Beer characters rivaling the gown-festooned starlets clearing their plates and refilling their glasses.  A who’s who of global ABInBev & MillerCoors execs from the C Suites including marketing and R & D honchos.  Arch rivals breaking bread and tonging bacon? After an hour or so of small talk and one up-manship regarding the size of bribes one another handed out to secure prime spots at the front of every line in the park they got down to the business that brought them together for this secret summit.  Not surprisingly, craft beer was very much on all of their minds.  A full transcript of the meeting would be too lengthy to post here (anyway, Julian Asange might take exception to my doing that and I don’t want to risk his exposing my recipes for Unholy Hand Grenades or Schlomo Kameamea’s Sliders so I’m only going to publish an excerpt here.  If I pass under his radar I’ll post more excerpts later on).  Because Ariel and the rest of the princesses were asked to leave the room before they got to the serious stuff it’s impossible to always identify who’s talking so speakers are often only identified by company where possible.

Transcript of the Swillionaires Summit

Unidentified MillerCoors Exec (MC):  Good luck with that.  I saw you strike out with Aurora and Jasmin.  Your Adam Sandler schtick is priceless – and dateless.

Carlos Brito (Brito):  Alright. Enough of that.  We need to deal with this craft bullshit once and for all.  We like our Shock Top numbers and Black Crown is right there but I know they’re crap and I think we all see the same thing.  Your Third Shift and Batch 15 imposter (cut off)

MC: Batch Nineteen!

Brito: Whatever.  It’s crap – they’re all crap and we have to acknowledge that too many beer drinkers outside of this room know it too.  More and more every day.  We’re not fooling them anymore with the glitzy packaging, knock-off craft labels and nonsense commercials.

MC:  Agreed.  I guess we knew the party had to end.  We’ve crammed so much cheap shit into our top line beers that they might as well all be Natty Light.  We thought we’d regain some market share with our punch top can but the high school kids would rather jam a pen into a can of Keystone and get the same effect for less money.  Probably smarter than all of us because it tastes just as bad anyway.

Unidentified ABInBev Exec (AB):  Our bowtie can is iconic and masterful.  You guys went in the wrong direction with yours.

Brito:  Let’s not not go there.  We were way over budget with that fool’s errand and it’ll do little more than slow the obvious trend.  Look.  We’re losing.  The craft segment has gained steadily and impressively every year since at least ’02 and we have to change course or end up remembered as the brewing equivalents of Ratt or Winger.

MC:  Or Haircut 100

Unidentified: What’s wrong with them?

AB:  Seriously?

Brito:  We’ve tried everything.  Worked the Statehouses and DC, choked micro distribution and shelf space, bought into some of crafts, acquired Goose Island, and launched a more aggressive knock-off campaign

MC: The craft segment calls it “crafty”.  Kind of works

Brito:  Well it doesn’t f’n kind of work for our bottom line or your’s either!  You’ve seen the same numbers and focus data we have.  They want real flavor – good flavor.  They don’t want bland factory beer anymore.  We’ve lost the narrative and we’re going to lose more than that.  We’re here to brainstorm new, bold ideas so let’s hear them!

MC:  OK, we’ve had a small group in Promotions looking at potential co-sponsorship opportunities,  Strategic alliances between brands and external consumer goods and services.  Through relational database analysis we’ve identified a strong correlation between our bargain brand drinkers and arrests.  We think a potential value proposition for that customer would be to offer discount bail bond coupons with every volume format purchase like our 30 pack.  Perhaps a punch card which could be presented at checkout allowing buyers to accumulate points towards a bail coupon.  Something like the free latte customer cards at Starbucks.

AB:  (unintelligable)…. I can only imaging the legal and regulatory BS that kind of concept would entail.  The revenue limiting divisions … compliance and legal and governmental relations will have a field day.  We’re greasing the pols but not richly enough to make that kind of thing fly.

MC (possibly CEO Tom Long or high ranking exec):  We’re among friends…for now…so I’ll tell you what we’ve had in R&D for several months.  We’ve been trying to mimic them for years with our knock-off lines while we should be mimicking their model.

Brito:  We’re both much too big for that and you know it.

MC:  Yes but here’s where we use our size and resources to finally beat them at their own game.  They love to pal around with one another and do these ridiculous collaboration brews.  Seems they don’t understand the concept of competition.  If we combined forces we could brew a collaboration beer to end all beers.

AB:  (unintelligible murmurs)…. and that’s exactly what it might do to both of us.  What are you suggesting?  We brew something that combines the cheap beer factory flavors already leading to our huge losses? Insanity.

MC:  No. We mimic another of their pet brewing concepts and brew something that will revolutionize not just a beer style but will change the way consumers shop for beer in the retail stores while diverting their attention away from all of the craft competition.

Brito:  We thought we did that with Strawb-A-Rita.  Go on.

MC:  Even more elegant.  We brew a “tripel imperial light beer.”  The craft segment would bottle imperial water – a wetter version – if they could.  Why not take a page out of their pet project books and brew a beer so light…so massively light…that it actually floats?!

AB:  What the f… are you talking about? Do you have one of those on-line degree diplomas tacked to your cubicle particle board?

MC:  Hear me out.  We’ve done some preliminary due diligence and we’re moving along with a proof of concept.  It can be done.  The beer will be light enough to make the cans float to the ceilings of the retail outlets.  Imagine going to the local Costco or BevMo to shop for your beer with a long net or grappling hook?  The hell with those shelves of craft beer – nobody will be looking at them.  They’ll all be staring straight up.  The promotional opportunities are endless.

Unidentified:  Um…  outside events…picnics whatever….airplanes….mylar balloons get the Greenpeace PETA activists all worked up as it is.  Pretty sure stray six packs in the glide paths of a few planes won’t go unnoticed.

AB:  What about thick lead cans or even lead pellets?  We could set up Chinese factories to brew and can it.

MC:  That defeats the whole purpose!  Anyway, we’ve got the brewery angle covered too.  Even our (and your) best and biggest beer factories aren’t capable of creating something like this.  Only one facility in the world can do it.  The large  hadron super collider at Cern.  It’s off line for a couple years now anyhow so we offer to lease it. They need the money.  There’s no market for God particles these days anyway.  Straightforward process.  We load Miller light into one end and Bud Light into the other and flip the switch.  They collide at near light speed and Eureka! Higgs-Boson Light!!

Brito:  You’re right.  It’ll be a beer to end all beers….and everything else!

MC:  Wait…wait.  Think of the myriad of revenue opportunities aside from the beer itself.  That Cern place is HUGE!  We could fit out a section of it as a hotel – a Beer & Breakfast.  Multiple lounges and themed bars.  The Americans come to Germany in droves to see their Bimmers and Benzes being built and take delivery.  We can offer them the same thrilling experience!!

Brito:  Let’s break.  This is outrageous.  I need a beer right now.  Someone tell Cinderella to go off site and get me something.  There are no decent beers in Disney….

(transcript ends)

Not a silhouette.  These people actually look like this

Not a silhouette. These people actually look like this

Seems Big Beer has big plans for a very big brewery.  The next Bud branded floating thing you see up there might not be this thing:

Light enough to float one of their blimps (blood funnel at foreground)

Light enough to float one of their blimps (blood funnel at foreground)

Cheers! (now I’m off to the Snowden Circuit)……

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“Nice Cans!” (you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but you can judge a beer by it’s can)

It was a really long day.  A really long day at the end of a really bad week.  I didn’t realize just how frayed I was until I noticed, after more than a few sips, that there was no glass next to my beer bottle.  Not a big deal.  I was just a bit unfocused and I must have simply forgotten where I put the glass.  Plausible but for the fact that I know I hadn’t stood up from the table in several minutes and I’d just taken another sip.  Then it hit me.  I was drinking straight from the bottle.  Once I came to grips with that I became paralyzed with the fear that I might do something else equally devastating – like ingest something containing mayonaise (look, I can’t even spell it correctly).  Thankfully this momentary bout of insanity appeared to be limited to the bottle problem.  The last beer I drank straight from the bottle was a Yuengling at a birthday party for a friend of my middle daughter’s three plus years ago.  It was 90 something degrees and so humid that I swore it felt as though we were being showered by sweat from the underbelly of a herd of giant pregnant yaks.  There were no red Solo cups to be had so I had no choice.  All I remember about the 3 or 4 of them I had back then was that they were spectacularly tasteless.

Fast forward to the beer in front of me last Friday and it was deja vu in a bottle.  Practically tasteless.  This time; however, the beer inside was a legitimate – if uninspiring – craft beer: Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA with Mosaic hops.  Compared to any craft beer, Yuengling is going to come across as tasteless (all due respect to Dick and his 7,000 year old brewery but oldest doesn’t equal anything other than oldest – better than Bud, Miller & the rest of the Big Beer swill but far from craft beer by a very long shot) but the Latitude seemed just as hollow.  Nothing there.  Zero everything.  Might as well have been drinking something that came out of a 30 pack with a discount coupon for bail bond services like  Keystone, Natty Light, or MGD.  In that moment Bud’s latest fanfare extraordinaire made perfect sense.  After all, they know their socially engineered subjects better than anyone: Big Beer drinkers ALWAYS drink straight from the vessel – they can’t taste the stuff and have no idea how putrid it really is.  And that’s exactly the way the industrial brewers want it.

Pre-crushed for your convenience

Pre-crushed for your convenience

Seriously? What the fuck is wrong with these idiots? ABinBev spent a few gazillion dollars trying to figure out how to manufacture cans that would obviate the necessity of Buford’s having to crimp his own can at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Party while he hits on his second cousin.  Hey Budweiser, you think you might want to spend just a little bit of effort on improving the stuff INSIDE THE CANS instead of prancing around like a brood of proud neon pheasants extolling the virtues of your iconically moronic can?  My buddy, Jim of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers wrote a fantastically satirical post on the Bud Bowtie can a few weeks ago.  Take a look at it (after you’ve read every post here, of course).

Is it just me? Or is it actually vomiting?

Is it just me? Or is it actually vomiting?

ABinBev has plenty of company in ranks of the stupid swill vessels.  Miller Lite is a close second with their sophomoric frat party punch top can designed to “reduce glug.” Huh? How about the nice marketers at Miller tell us what this can is really designed for: shot-gunning brews with the other high school dropouts in mildew-laden basements with mismatched ratty, threadbare plaid couches.  Duck Dynasty or Reality Swamp Wife Swap in standard def on the circa 1991 Trinitron optional.

Coors goes about it a bit differently with their “Super Cold” blue mountain labels.  Might as well be drawings of tongues on the labels because what they’re really aiming for is just that: frozen tongues.  Their beer is only safe to drink at ridiculously low temperatures to ensure frozen taste buds, otherwise they run the risk of having some of their disciples actually taste the stuff and, well, that would only contribute to the already growing flight to quality craft beer.

The constant theme behind all this malarky is simple: get the beer as quickly as possible and as frigidly as possible past the drinker’s tongues before he or she notices how awful it tastes.  Once Bobby Ray pounds 4 or 5 he won’t care what it tastes like anyway in the event he starts to slow down to compare tattoos and fishing scars as he tries to impress a redhead who didn’t notice that halter tops weren’t exactly in style in 1975 either.  Contrast that to the efforts of Sam Koch of Boston Beer who, along with others in he craft beer world, designed a can to enhance flavors and experience.  Sly Fox also introduced the disappearing top can to highlight the can’s contents – substance over sub-standard.

Let’s give credit where credit is due.  Industrial Big Beer has spent billions upon billions cultivating an impressively loyal base.  Market research has shown them that idiotic gimmicks like pre-crimped Bowtie and shot gun ready punch top cans will draw their core demographic to the flashy retail displays at the liquor stores, groceries, and gas stations.  This summer they’ll be installing these things at retail end caps as well:

Sure to look great above the Bud Lime-a-Rita displays

Sure to look great above the Bud Lime-a-Rita displays

If they brand it, they will come

If they brand it, they will come

Hopefully they’ll work out the hygiene issues before rolling these things out.  In the end, they know their customers really don’t care what’s inside the cans or bottles as long as it has the right name on the outside, a childish gimmick, gives them a buzz, and promises to make them attractive to scantily dressed bimbos or talking horses just like they see on TV.

Then again, who doesn’t like an indoor communal salt lick?

Cheers!

Budweiser Bares it All with Black Crown (or is it Black Clown?)

So I’m minding my own business tweeting about craft beer and occasionally terrorizing my buddies at It’s Just the Booze Dancing with outrageous comments to their insightful and entertaining posts when I see that Big Beer’s biggest bully, ABInBev, is about to launch another “premium” label beer.  This time the pig skipped the lipstick and went straight to the tight black cocktail dress.  Unfortunately for Budweiser, the dress doesn’t cover the mud stains beneath its slinky straps.  You’d think they’d know enough to address the mud problem given how prolific they are at slinging the stuff at craft brewers.

Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Bud, MillerCoors or anything related to Big Beer.  Anyone who follows my twitter feed or who’s ever shared a pint with me knows that.  When it comes to Big Beer I like to think of myself as more of an educated hater.  In this case, education meant buying a bottle and pouring it through its paces as I would with any craft beer (just like the Schlafly Dry Hopped APA I’m enjoying as I write this).  With a marketing slogan like “Discover Taste”, how could I not rush out and grab a bottle?

Bud Black Crown.  All dressed up - nowhere to go

Bud Black Crown. All dressed up – nowhere to go

“Discover Taste?” Wait…what? What the…? Are they finally admitting that all the other Bud products are tasteless swill?  I guess so.  Well, the ridiculous Super Bowl spots didn’t shed any light on it.  They were almost as confusing as Stanley Kubrick’s farewell flick, Eyes Wide Shut, though, mercifully, not nearly as long.  I doubt even most of the Budweiser execs have much a clue what their own Black Crown advertising is all about.  Maybe you can figure it out because I certainly can’t.

I also can’t figure out exactly what they’re up to with this beer.  Most of their other tactics are pretty transparent (to anyone who isn’t already blinded by thoughtless brand loyalty).  As craft beer has enjoyed explosive growth and market share at the expense of Big Beer over the past decade, the industrial brewers have engaged in a dizzying array of methods to confuse less educated, less discerning beer drinkers.  Big Beer’s lineup of fake craft beers like Blue Moon, Landshark, Schocktop & Leinenkugel are the most obvious examples.  They’ve long exercised bully tactics by dominating distribution and retail shelf placement in many markets all but forcing their way into weekend shopping carts.  More recently they seem to be recognizing that since they can’t beat the craft brewers at actually brewing legitimate craft beer, they can buy them.  ABInBev’s purchase of Goose Island in 2011 was probably the first of what may be an unfortunate series of such acquisitions.  MillerCoors took steps in that direction with Tenth and Blake. So where does Black Crown fit in?

Nobody would mistake this beer for a craft beer.  First of all, its too well advertised to be a craft beer.  Too slick.  Oh, and then it has “Budweiser” slapped all over it so there’s that.  It’s an entirely unremarkable brew.  Looks reasonably good in the glass for the 7 seconds worth of head retention but after that it has little to offer.  It smells like Budweiser – but a tad stronger.  It tastes like Budweiser – but with a tad more assertiveness.  So it’s a Budweiser – maybe with a slightly larger capital B.  But it has something else that its little brother doesn’t: a 6.0 ABV.  The boys at ABInBev are so proud of its higher alcohol content that they have it prominently displayed on the neck and 6 pack packaging.  No other Budweiser product waves the ABV freak flag quite the same way.

So maybe that’s it.  Maybe I shouldn’t refer to it as Black Clown after all.  Perhaps Bud Buzzed would be a better name.  I guess it’ll appeal to a certain segment of their demographic that’s looking for a quicker buzz.  I just wonder if they’ll mind the mud stains on the sheets the morning after they peel off that sexy black dress.