The Future of Beer

Stephen Beaumont has an interesting post that got me thinking.  He sussed out an Advertising Age article describing the panic that has forced the cabal of macro brewers to huddle about saving their product:
According to Ad Age, new BI chairman, MillerCoors ceo Tom Long, hopes “to bring energy and ideas to the many programs and plans that tell the story about beer being the right choice for consumers and retailers alike.”
Uggh, what dismal corporatespeak.  The big breweries then go on to mis-analyze their own situation:
The scope of the new effort is unclear, but there seems to be a consensus that beer needs to emphasize its positioning as the beverage of "moderation," which Anheuser-Busch VP-Marketing Paul Chibe said "gives it a distinct advantage" over other booze options. 
Wine and liquor aren't the problem--big beer is.  When you look at the long history of brewing, the wholesale dominance by a single style is totally unprecedented. It’s even more bizarre that it happened during this amazing period of market freedom.  Offering customers one flavor was unsustainable ("welcome to Baskin-Robbins Single Flavor; can I get you some vanilla?"), but this isn't the problem the big companies have identified: no, to them, it's the encroachment of chardonnay and gin.

If they're smart, the bigs will instead think of making chocolate and maybe even strawberry.  Take the example of Blue Moon.  Keith Villa started brewing craft beer for Coors and now Blue Moon is the best selling ale in the US [edit: I'm speaking of Belgian White here, not the entire line]. That brand alone sells well over a million barrels a year. (Even by the standards of the bigs, nothing to sniff at.) Villa didn’t backward-engineer it, though; he brewed a standard witbier and found a market halfway between Bud and craft beer drinkers (discovering, indeed, a market made of people who never drank either one of those). It helped to have the muscle of Coors to put it on supermarket shelves around the country, but it sold because it was a different, interesting, and pretty tasty product.

But the big companies keep trying to peddle the same old crap in new packages and wonder why people are reaching for something else.