Though it was way back in 1994 that Goose Island released its trailblazing Bourbon County Stout, it’s only more recently that the barrel-aging trend has exploded in the craft-beer market. Now, it seems as though SAB Miller is hopping on the bandwagon with its latest release, a bourbon-flavored golden lager called Fortune.
But hold up: That bourbon-flavored description is key. Fortune is not aged in bourbon barrels, nor does it have any actual bourbon in it; rather, it is brewed with a malt background meant to resemble bourbon, reports Beer Street Journal.
Big Beer’s swagger-jacking of craft-brewing ideas has been well-documented, from the faux-artisan posturing of Blue Moon, to the appropriation of beer-wine hybrids popularized by smaller outfits like Dogfish Head. But in this case, Miller—which has been fighting to reverse slumping sales of late—has bigger plans than taking back the small (but not insignificant) market share of craft competitors nipping at its heals. (After all, Anheuser-Busch did a much better job of that by acquiring Goose Island, which is still leading the barrel-aging charge.)
What Miller really wants this time around is a chunk of the lucrative spirits sector. Miller Coors EVP Andy English says, “Everything we do on Miller Fortune is very much aimed at spirits occasion, and its very much positioned to go against spirits.” In other words, the megabrand is trying to get that Jim Beam and Jack Daniels money, and it thinks that people can be convinced to sip a beer where they might have taken a shot. To help push this idea, the roll-out will include branded rocks classes which will be used to serve Fortune (see below). We’ll say this: Toasting with a $6.99-per-sixpack beer would be a lot easier on your wallet, not to mention your liver.
Of course, the other big trend to watch here is the continued alcohol-by-volume creep of mass-market beers; Fortune comes in at 6.9% ABV, putting it in line with Anheuser-Busch offerings like Bud Platinum and Black Crown (both 6%). Ironically, this move comes as more craft brewers—who have traditionally pushed big, boozy beers—set their sites on low-ABV session ales.
As always, we won’t knock it until we try it. But on the surface, Fortune looks a lot more interesting as a business move than a beer.
[via Beer Street Journal]