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Blue Moon vs. Craft Beer Rivals: MillerCoors Strikes Back

Small brewers blast the brand’s big-company lineage
A worker pours granulated orange peels into a brew kettle for Blue Moon beer at the Molson Coors brewery in Golden, Colo., in 2009
A worker pours granulated orange peels into a brew kettle for Blue Moon beer at the Molson Coors brewery in Golden, Colo., in 2009Photograph by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

Aficionados of craft beer long ago dismissed Blue Moon, owned by MillerCoors, as a phony artisanal brew created by a mega-company to exploit a rapidly expanding market. In recent months, small beermakers have stepped up their attacks, calling suds such as Blue Moon “crafty” for not spelling out their corporate parentage in ads or on their packaging. Microbreweries have reason to be defensive: Blue Moon, a Belgian-style white beer, had sales equal to 15 percent of the 13.2 million barrels of craft beer sold in the U.S. last year. Its success has even prompted Anheuser-Busch InBev to introduce a white beer of its own called Shock Top.

Now, after years of quietly building its brand, Blue Moon is fighting the naysayers. It’s adding more artisanal brews, including a wine hybrid, and new marketing emphasizes the beer’s provenance and Belgian-trained brewmaster. Blue Moon is even taking credit for helping popularize the craft beer movement. “We should be proud to make beers that grow and are popular—that’s the American way,” says MillerCoors Chief Executive Officer Tom Long. “Being small and unpopular, what’s the utility in that?”