Beer News

News by | Oct 2007 | Issue #10

Coors’ New Blue Moon?

Chalk it up as another sign of the success of the craft beer revolution. America’s third largest brewery recently announced plans to form a specialty beer unit that will develop high-end beers. As part of an internal news release, the Molson Coors Brewing Company informed workers and distributors of the creation of a new “brand incubation company,” called the AC Golden Brewing Company, LLC. While the brewery filed its incorporation papers in April, a Coors spokesperson refused to comment on when or where any new brands might be released.

Coming at a time when craft beer continues to enjoy steady growth, the announcement is another example of how Coors is directing greater focus and resources to the changing American beer marketplace. The brewery has a long history of developing and nurturing better beer brands. Created in 1995 at Coors’ own brewpub, the SandLot Brewery at Coors Field, the company’s Blue Moon Belgian White has enjoyed substantial success. Through a quiet and almost covert cultivation of the line, which now includes several seasonal brands, Blue Moon now accounts for more than 650,000 barrels of production.

Rejecting the grand, national rollouts that have plagued craft-style brands from other large breweries, Coors plans to follow the Blue Moon playbook by slowly and stealthily developing new brands under the AC Golden Brewing Company label. While the company refuses to discuss brands under development, several recent trademark and label application filings have raised speculation about the unit’s possible new offerings. Coors’ latest filings include applications for Pale Moon and Pale Moon Light, which are possible offshoots of the Blue Moon brand. The brewery has also filed a trademark application for Herman Joseph’s. Named after Coors co-founder Adolph Herman Joseph Coors, the brand was first released as an above-premium ale in 1980 before being discontinued in 1989. Buoyed by its success in the craft beer category, the brewery may be ready to take another run with this namesake brand.

The SATs of Beer

If you’ve ever secretly dreamed of becoming a sommelier but worried about having to wear one of those ridiculous “tasting ashtrays” around your neck, a new beer education program may interest you. Created by author Ray Daniels, the Cicerone Certification Program will soon be available to test the knowledge of individuals who sell and serve beer.

The Cicerone program will certify beer industry employees on a variety of subjects, including beer styles, culture, tasting, ingredients and how to pair beer with food. To encourage students of varying interest levels to participate, the program will offer three separate levels of certification, including Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone, with costs ranging from $49 to $495. “Only those who have passed the requisite test of knowledge and tasting skill can call themselves a Cicerone,” Daniels says.

As a past director of craft beer marketing for the Brewers Association, Daniels is no stranger to the brewing industry. A graduate and faculty member of the Siebel World Brewing Academy, Daniels has written, edited and published more than a dozen books related to beer, and organized the now defunct Chicago Real Ale Festival.

While the concept of a beer sommelier is not new, beer enthusiasts have never been able to find a word that captures the essence of a certified beer expert. Daniels chose the word cicerone, which means a guide who explains matters of archaeological, antiquarian, historic or artistic interest, after rejecting several other possibilities. “My hunt covered a good bit of ground from things like ‘Savant de Beer’ to made-up words like ‘Cereviseur,’ but none rang true,” Daniels says. “As many in the beer industry who I talked to objected to association of the word ‘sommelier’ with beer, some new word was needed.”

With the development of his eccentrically named certification program, Daniels hopes to foster a greater sense of respect for beer while avoiding the snootiness and pretension associated with wine stewardship.

InBev to Brew in Hoegaarden Again

Many beer lovers still have a sour taste left on their palates when InBev, one of the world’s largest brewing conglomerates, decided to restructure its business in 2005, which included closing down Brouwerij de Kluis—built and made famous by Pierre Celis, who resurrected the popular Belgian white-beer style (Witbier) under the name Hoegaarden in 1966. The news of the closure also brought brewery staff walk-outs, boycotts and much outrage from locals, but despite the opposition all production was moved to Jupille.

Though this might not be a palate cleanser for some, residents and “Hoe” fans will be pleased to hear that this past September InBev quietly announced plans to move the production of its famous Witbier from Jupille back to the town of Hoegaarden. The reversal of the 21-month-old decision is part of €60 million investment to expand InBev’s Leuven, Jupille and Hoegaarden breweries over the next year in order to meet an unexpected surge in demand for three of its core Belgian brands: Stella Artois, Jupiler and Hoegaarden.

There’s no doubt that this expansion is also related to InBev’s current partnership with Anheuser-Busch, who in February 2007 became the exclusive importer for many of InBev’s leading premium European brands: Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Beck’s and Bass Ale, amongst others. Market watchers point at poor US sales, caused by a rising level of discerning consumers looking for more, as the reasoning behind shifting distribution to A-B. Long-term, they believe A-B’s well-established network will help them deliver their brands to a much greater audience in the US.

Are You the Next Beerdrinker of the Year?

Think you have what it takes to win free beer for life at the Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, Colo.; a $250 tab at your local watering hole; clothing so you can proclaim yourself as the “Beerdrinker of the Year” to all who gaze at you; and have your name grace the legendary Beerdrinker of the Year trophy?

If so, start typing out that beer résumé and send it in by December 31. You might want to hit the beer books too, as this competition is about beer smarts vs. liver failure. Judges will be looking for beer knowledge, humor and what you’ve done for beer lately. And, after going through an initial weeding out of the unworthy, the top three candidates will be flown out to Denver for a formal judging ceremony on February 23, 2008—paid for by the competition’s organizer, the Wynkoop Brewing Company.

Last year’s winner was Diane Catanzaro, a homebrewer, beer judge and college professor from Norfolk, Va. Past winners include fellow BeerAdvocates and husband and wife, Ray McCoy and Cornelia Corey out of Clemmons, N.C. The next one could be you, but you must be 21 years or older and not currently employed by a brewery. For the complete rules and more info visit

Snow to Become the No. 2 Beer on Earth

Our guess is that most of you have never heard of Snow (the beer), but with its current growth rate the brand will easily beat InBev’s Skol and Grupo Modelo’s Corona, which would put it behind Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser—who incidentally owns 50 percent of Grupo Modelo—as the second largest beer brand on Earth.

As for Snow, it’s owned by China Resources Group Ltd. and SABMiller (49 percent). Brewed as a joint venture under CR Snow Breweries, the brand sold 3 billion liters (793 million gallons) in 2006 and has already reported being up 77 percent in the first six months of 2007 with 2.3 billion liters sold (608 million gallons). If growth continues, or possibly even if it flattens out, projections suggest that SABMiller could take over InBev’s spot as the world’s largest brewer by volume with ease. Additionally, CR Snow recently acquired four more Chinese brewers and is already the largest brewer by sales in China, overtaking Tsingtao last year, which A-B has a 27 percent share in.

Even though the China market equals roughly 18 percent of SABMiller’s total sales by volume, beer in China is sold at a very low price, which means that it’s not as profitable as it seems, accounting for only 5 percent of the profits, with most of the profit landing in the wallets of retailers and wholesalers. Despite poor profits, China is viewed as a long-term growth market and a strategic must for companies like A-B and SABMiller, as it’s currently the fastest growing beer market in the world with upwards of 300 million hectoliters (8 billion gallons) of beer consumed annually.