Well, This is Totally Shocking
See added note at end of post.
I am a fan of the cinema. Give me a new Jarmusch or Scorsese and I am a happy man. Movies are a popular art form and, as such reside in the awkward space between commerce and high art. The director wants to make art; the studio head sees only dollars. Somewhere in the middle ground exists the movie. There is a right way to strike this balance and a wrong way, and the distinction has to do with respect. It’s possible to appeal to a viewer’s desire for low-fiber entertainment without treating them with contempt. Guardians of the Galaxy gets it right; it’s ultimately fluffy fare, but executed so well that we feel real engagement with the characters and an emotional investment. In contrast, there is dreck like The Emoji Movie, which was less a failed commercial adventure than a metaphor for the derangement of Hollywood’s executive class.
Which brings me to recent news: Two Hats is dead.
Two Hats, an economy-priced beer with a hint of natural fruit flavors that made its debut in February, will exit the market by early 2019.
It was a fraudulent product from the start--not a beer but a collection of marketing tics. Even the announcement was fraudulent, as poor Peter Frost was forced to write in the obit that MillerCoors wasn’t killing off a failed venture but was canceling production “in order to shift more focus on growing other brands in the company’s portfolio.” At least they didn't say Two Hats was retiring to spend more time with his family.
The failure was not just that the beer was terrible—though it certainly was—but that the whole concept was the malt-based version of The Emoji Movie: it treated the ostensible audience, young drinkers, with contempt. As I wrote when it debuted:
Like a checklist, the different elements tick off a tactic to attract younger drinkers. Fruity like wine or cocktails? Check. Low octane for the alcohol-wary and health-conscious? Check. A marketing campaign conducted entirely via social media through the use of memes in a bid for virality? Check. Cheap? Check. The gamble is that by making a cheap beer that tastes very little like beer, MillerCoors can get a piece of Gen Z before it's lost to craft, Cabernet, and cocktails forever.
MillerCoors is on the hook for this turkey, and drinkers will hold it against them for years—appropriately, it has to be said. But the kind of calculation that led to this debacle is hardly rare or confined to the conference rooms of industrial beer companies. Smaller breweries, increasingly desperate to grab the attention of a fickle drinking public, routinely make gimmick beers that fail to respect their customers. And they, too, are rewarded in kind. Beer is a wonderful craft (it’s not art, honestly), and when made to delight customers, can be brewed with weird and wild ingredients and processes. We will applaud if your kumquat Mosaic sour IPA works. We are Groot, after all--or is it froot? But when you forget your pact with us—making tasty beer—and treat us like open wallets, you will feel our wrath. Let the tombstone of Two Hats serve as a warning.
Update. This post was unnecessarily harsh, a fact Twitter took note of. In particular, I regret the shot at Peter Frost, whose work at the MillerCoors blog has been fantastic. It's definitely one of the most interesting beer blogs out there, and Peter, an actual journalist, manages to convey a lot of analysis within the confines of the company blog. I stand by the main point of the post, but apologize for the tone--espeically to Peter.