On Second Thought...

FILED DECEMBER 13, 2013

Dear Client:

Today we take a departure from the norm and decided to look at brands we've observed over the years that, after they failed to have staying power, caused their creators to say, "On second thought..." We sat around brainstorming what were the most ill-conceived beer brands and beer concepts. Some of these brands were popular for a fleeting moment, but like a shooting star they burned themselves out, while others never made it much past the opening bell.

1. Miller Red

This was the brainchild of a former A-B exec who came to Miller Brewing Co. (Jack MacDonough) who wanted to recreate Miller into the image of A-B. What he thought Miller was lacking and A-B had was a flagship brand to "sit over Miller Lite like Budweiser sits over Bud Light," and apparently like Budweiser thought proper flagships should be red. So he shoehorned one in there. Miller Red also needed a point of distinction, which somebody came up with: it was made from the "heart of the hops", whatever that meant. Distributors were told to force distribution, which they did. It failed.

2. Miller Clear

This was Miller's answer to.... what? That was the problem. Other than Zima which was already on its way out, was there any proof that consumers wanted a clear beer? In Miller's defense, in the late 1990s anything "clear" was all the rage, from shampoo to lemonade (remember Crystal Pepsi?). But clear beer failed to make the cut.

3. Zima Gold

This was a flop from the start. It was created in 1995 in an attempt to add more male Zima drinkers but instead it not only didn't attract any males it repulsed males and females equally. Part of Zima's allure was the fact that it was clear (see above), so Zima Gold didn't have much of a chance. Zima Gold was parodied ruthless by comics, especially David Letterman who liked to say, "Zima zucks." We ought to mention Coors Gold at this point as well, which was also a doomed product. On a cold and gray Chicago morning in 2008, MillerCoors announced it would discontinue Zima.

4. Captain Morgan Gold

Do you see a pattern? Anything "Gold" really wasn't working at this point. CMG was also very much challenged in the taste department and the packaging was so bad I remember people physically recoiling upon seeing a display. DGUSA was lured into this gambit by the success of Smirnoff Ice, and shoehorned a lot of the stuff into distributor warehouses where it sat for months before having to be destroyed. The drainpipes of America were awash with Captain Morgan Gold where not even sewer rats would imbibe.

5. Doc Otis

I don't mean to pick on FMBs but there you have it. Congratulations to everybody on having to endure ten long years in a world without Doc Otis. Yes, it's been ten years since A-B discontinued this marvelous brand, which actually sold well in some markets for a few years. The brand was originally based on an incredibly annoying fictional character, "Doc" Otis, who apparently wasn't a real doctor as the "Doc" was in quotes. This character got himself into all sorts of shenanigans created by advertising people when he wasn't creating his hard lemon drink. Eventually this ridiculous character was dropped and then the brand itself.

6. Any Beer With the Word "Ice" or "Dry in it.

Molson Ice started the ice beer craze, and I think Asahi or Sapporo started the dry beer craze. Eventually every major brand of beer came out with ice and dry versions, even though nobody could really explain to anybody else what those terms actually meant. Today we see only the tailing remnants of that fad. Yes, you know who are are: Always watching you Bud Ice.

7. Rhino Chasers and Pete's Wicked Ale.

Ah, California in the late 1990s. Rhino Chasers, a surfing term referring to chasing big waves, was the craft beer to have. So was Pete's Wicked Ale but at least it had a decent run and Pete was a pioneer in craft. These were brands to have in your warehouse -- until they weren't. The meteoric rise and then fall was breathtaking -- literally breathtaking when distributors woke up to find they had 90 days inventory on hand. Rhino Chasers closed up shop and left town (although there's a newer craft brand by the same name now in Virginia); and Gambrinus tried to revive Pete's but ultimately discontinued the brand in 2011. I still have a signed baseball by Pete Slosberg, such was his celebrity.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I'm sure I've forgotten several brands. Let me know your horror stories at hs@beernet.com.

BEER BRIEFS:

THE LATEST all-channel IRI scans show that November wasn't as bad as we feared. In the four weeks to December 1, beer volumes were up 2.1% and dollar sales were up a huge 5.3%. Craft was the big winner over Thanksgiving, gaining 0.6 share points and up 17% in the period.

Until tomorrow, Harry

"The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear."
-Herbert Agar

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YTD sell days Over/Under: +0

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Twitter: @beerbizdaily

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