In an effort to continue carving out coveted shelf space in an overcrowded craft beer segment, MillerCoors, via its Tenth and Blake craft and import division, will introduce a new year-round product: Blue Moon White IPA.
It’s the first year-round product that Blue Moon Brewing Company has rolled out since 2012, when it introduced Farmhouse Red, a brand featured in the company’s “Expressionist Collection.”
The new brew, a hybrid of two popular craft styles, IPA and wheat beer, will receive a bit more attention and market activation than its ‘expressionist’ counterparts have, however.
White IPA is being released on draft this week in five select cities – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin and Nashville – and will debut nationally on April 1.
“From a marketing standpoint, we are building a little bit of anticipation for this beer by putting it into focused accounts early,” said Mark Rasmussen, a spokesman for Tenth & Blake. “We wanted to build up some early demand and word of mouth for it before we launch it nationally.”
To do so, Blue Moon encouraged consumers to “hunt” for White IPA launch parties by locating and decoding GPS coordinates which were posted to the popular foodie website, Eater. The partnership with Eater is part of a broader digital marketing strategy that will also include mobile and desktop video advertisements, targeted banner placements and sponsored social media posts, the company said.
Wholesalers like Manhattan Beer, who see the new beer as one that will help “expand the Blue Moon drinker,” believe the Blue Moon’s push into a crowded IPA set is a smart one.
“I think it’s a good move,” said Rob Mitchell, Manhattan’s vice-president of sales. “It helps the overall Blue Moon family and gives them more of a presence, especially at convenience stores. It puts shoulders on the brand family.”
White IPA is the first “IPA” varietal that the brand has offered with any kind of scale. It previously made a double IPA, Pine in the Neck, that was distributed with limited availability.
Mitchell said he does have reservations about the decision to go after a White IPA style that many craft brewers were tinkering with back in 2012.
“I personally think White IPAs have come and gone already,” he said. “It’s not a far stretch from where they were but sticking with a wheat base is a smart move.”
Indeed, many craft brewers, including the likes of Deschutes, Harpoon, F.X. Matt and even Boston Beer were exploring the White IPA style three years ago; each company introduced their own takes on the hybrid style. But in recent years, brewers have focused more attention on session IPAs as a way of offering hopheads more variety within the fast-growing style.
“This is a beer that we think will speak to people throughout their craft journey,” said Rasmussen. “When we decided to do an IPA, we wanted to do something that was definitively Blue Moon.”
But will it sell?
“I think it will do pretty well, especially in the beginning,” said Mitchell.
In the long term, however, it’s not clear if Blue Moon White IPA will be a solid number two punch for a brand that, over the years, has relied heavily on sourcing volume from light beer drinkers just getting into craft beer.
“It’s hard to think about sustainability for anything in craft right now,” said Mitchell. “The window’s seem to be turning so fast and it is harder to get a good foundation.’
Rasmussen said White IPA will roll out slowly, adding that the company doesn’t see the brand as a “massive volume play.”