At MillerCoors headquarters in Chicago, brewmaster Manny Manuele pulls a black bottle of the company’s newest beer from an icy bucket. He pops the cap with a showy reverence honed by countless tastings during a 35-year career. This time, rather than tilt the brew into a tall pint glass, he pours it into a stubby rocks glass usually reserved for whiskey. If MillerCoors has its way, bartenders across the U.S. will repeat Manuele’s ritual after the company unveils the beer, Miller Fortune, over the next two months. With a malty, complex flavor hinting at bourbon, the amber brew will be distributed wider and faster than any beer MillerCoors has introduced since the Molson Coors Brewing and SABMiller venture was formed in 2008.
The rocks glasses bartenders will be encouraged to use are intended to set Miller Fortune apart the same way the orange slice has made Blue Moon one of the company’s fastest-growing brews and its answer to craft beer’s popularity. Miller Fortune is the most overt expression yet of the $30 billion beer industry’s preoccupation with spirits makers that have relentlessly siphoned off young drinkers, taking 6 percentage points of U.S. market share from suds since 1999.