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Monday, December 22, 2008

MillerCoors caves in to New Dry pressure

MillerCoors has announced that they will "voluntarily" reformulate Sparks, their citrusy 'energy' beer...and take out the caffeine, ginseng, taurine, and guarana. A guy's gotta ask: if you do, what's the point? The stuff's packaged in a big orange can that looks like a battery, you called it Sparks. If it's not an energy/stimulo's just a fruit beer, and a lousy one at that. Crap.

I don't care for Sparks, never have, but I despise the thought of MillerCoors knuckling under to these slanderous hand-wringers. All that stuff is legal, this is just Red Bull/Rock Star/Monster with a little alcohol, which is also legal. There is nothing less legal about putting them together: bars do it all the time (I talked to a whiskey brand guy, who said part of his job was going out to bars to make sure that Red Bull and vodka isn't really the only cocktail nightclubs make any more...I think he was kidding).

But the New Drys leaned on a collection of state attorney generals (sic, as in yeah, I meant to pluralize it that way) to get them all fired up about how caffeinated booze was dangerous to children!!! And the AGs, rolled by planted newspaper stories (does anyone in the newspaper biz take the time to think about press releases anymore?), started pounding on the podium to get these dangerous drinks taken off the shelf.
"Attorneys general [sic...] from around the country are gravely concerned about pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks because these products are dangerous and look and taste like popular non-alcoholic energy drinks," Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe said in a prepared statement. "They're popular with young people who wrongly believe that the caffeine will counteract the intoxicating effects of the alcohol."
"Gravely concerned." Why don't they get "gravely concerned" about schmucks like Bernard Madoff, or sleazy jackoffs like Rod Blagojevich? Instead, the AGs are wasting their time issuing threats about fruity beer-based energy drinks, because of fears based on loose research and casual speculation from fanatical anti-alcohol groups. Why, they're gravely concerned about it!

But MillerCoors... Their statement rightly pointed out that there was no evidence or even indication that Sparks had been marketed to underage drinkers, and called the AGs allegations of such marketing "inaccurate." And then they turn around and pull the "energy" component out of their "energy beer", and agree to pay the AGs $550,000 in legal costs! WTF!

I don't drink energy drinks. I'm a man, I drink coffee. And when I want to catch a buzz with my buzz, I put liquor in my coffee. I don't think it's going to keep me from getting drunk, I think it's warm, I think it smells great. It also does balance out the sleepy-time effect of the alcohol to an extent: no kidding, AGs, New Drys, that's why we drink coffee. It tastes good, but it's also deadline in a mug, hot black zing.

If all the little posers who hang out at Starbucks pounding triple espressos and buzzing all night long suddenly started dosing it with flasks of Irish whiskey, would we hear a cry to outlaw that? MillerCoors has let us all down here. I was proud of them when they initially told the New Drys to take a hike on this issue; I'm correspondingly let down that they caved.

Easy for me to say, sure, but if the big guys continue to cave in, we will have no allies to fight the New Drys. Beer tax increases are being discussed in many states, despite the proven track record they have of being bad for both employment and revenue generation. We just celebrated 75 years of Repeal, but I can't help noticing that we got Prohibition by not taking the Drys seriously. Their descendants are well-funded, and they're not going away.


Anonymous said...

Well, I wonder if the continued globalization (read: dilution) of American business ownership isn't contributing to this whole corporate decision-making process. I agree that there are certainly MUCH bigger issues out there, but the neo-pros hang on to their agenda like pit bulls until someone pays attention.

And that jackoff Blagojevich is still another arrogant Serb making the rest of us Serbs look bad yet again. Sorry, America. We're all really not that ignorant, but you might be justified in thinking we are.

Matt Hendry said...

If Im going to drink a caffinated alcoholic beverage I would rather have Peak Organics Espresso Amber Ale a wonderful beer that has none of the gimmicky marketing put into their alcopops ....although Peak Organic do say the beer is good for you (Its organic) and its make with Fair trade coffee :p

Lew Bryson said...

Another good point, Matt: what's to stop the New Dry moe-rons from kicking up a fuss about coffee beers?

Matt Hendry said...

Coffee beers and various other microbrewery follies may not get the attention that the big brewers get from States AGs ,but you make a good point will they ban beers with chocolate because they might entice children or beers with chili peppers because they cold give you an extra buzz .

I have worked in various microbreweries and at one brewpub they used to make a framboise style bock by adding cherry liqueur to the serving tank called BerryBlack that was sweet ,very cherry, potent and very deceptive that was sold in 4oz glasses .Im sure the AGs would have a field day with that one .

I still want to create a commercial beer on a Microbrewery level that has Guarana , Ginseng and other "stimulating" herbals .

Anonymous said...

i have never seen a ad for sparks anywhere . are they trying to say since it influences underage drinking that maybe kids found out about it from seventeen etc. the only reason i know about the stuff is because some musician said it was worse stuff he ever drank in a music magazine .millercoors not that i would ever drink orange beer but your pussys for caving to this group

Chuck Cowdery said...

Most of me is with you 100%, Lew, but another part things that combining stimulants with depressants is not what I would want my business to stand for, were I a beverage alcohol maker. The "protect the children" cry was always bogus and most of the claims made about the products were ridiculous, but that doesn't mean they were ever a good idea. Better we should say to the Red Bull and vodka crowd, "pick one."

Lew Bryson said...

Couple things, Chuck. First, Sparks is just a little bit of the business, not what MC stands for. Second, alcohol is not a depressant, it's actually much, much more complicated than that. Its effects have been simplified as "a depressant" because it's a convenient shorthand. Third, I do like drinking whiskey in my who am I to diss Red Bull and vodka? (Except on the aesthetics, that is...) So maybe you can be 80% behind me?

Chuck Cowdery said...

I hear you. It's not like nobody ever drank while doing cocaine, for instance, or other recreational stimulants. The reality is that alcohol consumption accompanies a lot of drug use. Even though it's not my thing, I should be more open-minded. I guess part of what I'm saying has to do with how small the market was. Do we need that grief? Maybe it's no great loss.

Rich said...

He's back! Yes! That's a Lew rant I like to see.

Here's an interesting article that was on the front page of our Sunday News last week. It's interesting to see that drug abuse and alcohol use are pretty much one in the same according to the article, and also that we should be executing people for a second DUI offense. Fodder. Enjoy.


Sorry off topic a little.

Anonymous said...

Cafe corretto is how I roll whenever I visit my in-laws in Rome. I would love to be able to have have that option in Wawas or Starbucks but it is like I am an addict or something

Lew Bryson said...

That's the real problem with the New Drys, jp: if you want booze, they're quick to characterize you as needing booze. I hate it when they always pop off with their "You don't need alcohol to have a good time!" line. Well, no, you don't. But having alcohol when you have a good time doesn't mean you need it. "You don't need sobriety to have a good time!" Far as that goes, "You don't need to have a good time!"

Anonymous said...

Right, and how about the pure esthetic of spirits. The fact maybe you just like the way it tastes doesn't not even count in their eyes. Coffee with whiskey tastes pretty good as does navel rum and tea or espresso with grappa. I mean who are they (we) to control what tastes good to a person. Last time I checked this was still a free country, sheesh.

roan22 said...

Hi Lew. The Cosi coffee shop downtown at 4th and Chestnut used to serve alcoholic coffee drinks after 4pm. For in house consumption only of course.

Don't think they lasted too long as a menu option...anybody know for sure?

Anonymous said...

So bars are free to continue serving Red Bull and booze. Restaurants can still serve you Irish coffee after dinner. You are still free to purchase rum and Coke in the same liquor store. And yet MillerCoors can't/shouldn't/mustn't make a damn 6 percent energy beer.

The rationale employed here has my head spinning. "Appeals to children." "Tastes like soda." "Drunks think it gives them superhuman powers."

We can take these arguments where they seem to logically lead:

It is no surprise that alcohol appeals to a sizable number of young people. Ever hear of teen drinking? Beer appeals to kids. So do Malibu and wine coolers and margaritas. So we better just ban all this stuff because kids like it.

We should also ban, as mentioned, fruit beers and chocolate beers and anything but Double IPAs, on the grounds that they might be too tasty for our innocent younglings to resist.

And if we think drinkers are too dense to know how some (caffeine and) alcohol will affect them, maybe we ought to just ban alcohol outright. Best not to risk it. Oops, tried that once.