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Blue Moon: Peter, Paul & Mary or Trini Lopez?

Peter, Paul & MaryHad Coors Blue Moon White been a folk artist in the 1960s would it have been Peter, Paul & Mary?

Wait, before you flip the dial, consider these alternative questions:

– Was the group P,P&M more like Pete Seeger or Trini Lopez?

– Is Blue Moon White more like a so-called craft beer or mass market beer?

Among the teens I went to school with in the ’60s the argument about just how “authentic” Peter, Paul & Mary was invoked far more passion than any one about “authentic” and “craft” beer. In one camp you had the “Dylan wrote Blowin’ in the Wind and Pete Seeger wrote If I Had a Hammer and those are the guys that have the right to sing them.”

In the other you had the “P,P&M sound as good as The Weavers, they are singing great songs and they are what we want to sound like around the campfire. They are miles better than Trini Lopez (who also sang If I Had a Hammer).”

History sorted this out for us. The group was at the 1963 civil rights march on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King made his “I Have a Dream Speech” and its members spent the next 40-plus years (sometime together, sometimes on their own) on the right side of causes. In fact, they turned out to be more political than Dylan.

They wrote excellent songs of their own, but just as importantly generously helped promote many other songwriters. They sounded prettier than Dylan singing Blowin’ in the Wind, but that allowed them to broadcast a political messages to far larger audiences than the Weavers every reached.

I don’t mean to equate a lowly beer with the politics of the 1960s, but my friends who labeled P,P&M the equivalent of Trini Lopez were wrong. Will those who dismiss Blue Moon as a craft wannabe be just as wrong?

I’m not saying it’s my first choice of beers when it comes to those inspired by Pierre Celis – or even my first choice at Coors Field, where White is still brewed to the original recipe in the SandLot Brewery. I’d rather be drinking one of the all-grain lagers there.

But if you based your investment decisions on my tastes you’d have been dirt poor long ago. Instead recognize that tons of drinkers prefer Blue Moon to just about any so-called craft beer – and would likely describe it as craft when ordering it.

Earlier today the Brewers Association announced that craft beer sales are still rockin’. But the numbers aren’t as impressive as the Associated Press reported in conversation with Coors’ Keith Villa, the guy who created Blue Moon White.

Blue Moon sales were up 79% in 2005 and more than 100% in 2006. A couple months ago at the National Homebrewers Conference, Villa said: “We’re closing in on Sierra Nevada (meaning the Pale Ale as a single brands) and next year we should get close to Sam Adams (Boston Lager, the brand).”

The Brew Blog, meanwhile, has tossed out the possibility of a Blue Moon light beer, called Pale Moon or Pale Moon Light. This could also be the Chardonnay Blonde that won a medal last year at the Great American Beer Festival, which isn’t “light” in any traditional sense.

Villa promised that beer, which includes Chardonnay grape juice on top of a wheat base and checks in at 7.1% abv, will be back at GABF this year.

I’m not looking to turn this into a conversation about if Blue Moon White is a craft, genuine or authentic. We’re not settling that one. Just read the interview with Villa, or at least this much:

Q: What has allowed Molson Coors to build this craft-style brand without reinforcing the beer’s connection to a large brewing company?

A: The first thing really comes back to the taste and the quality. The second thing is the credentials. I have a doctorate in brewing from Belgium. So it’s not like a group of American brewers got together and did some consumer research and found the best recipe and then developed that. This is right from the ground-up.

Perhaps not Dylan, certainly not Seeger, but maybe Peter, Paul & Mary.

12 Responses to Blue Moon: Peter, Paul & Mary or Trini Lopez?

  1. SteveH August 15, 2007 at 7:02 pm #

    Not sure of the significance just yet, but Peter, Paul, & Mary just cancelled a concert here in Chicago. Maybe the Wilco fans couldn’t be swayed from their Oberon? I suppose the answer is blowin’ in the wind.

    S.

  2. Stan Hieronymus August 15, 2007 at 9:56 pm #

    Wilco and Oberon?

    Given that Wilco’s roots go back to Uncle Tupelo I would expect that any beer preferences do as well. And when Uncle Tupelo rates beer . . .

  3. Loren August 16, 2007 at 3:47 am #

    Keith is a great guy and always at the ready to answer questions via e-mail or what have you. Blue Moon White may not be craft, genuine or authentic…but…if its continued success turns the unknowing beer public’s eye towards more styles like it, you know…those Belgium beers ;-), then maybe…just maybe this story will turn out good for the geek population as well. I know a few people who “don’t really like beer…” but they adore this stuff. So why not steer those types of people “our” way through a little blindsided education?

    BTW…no clue who Peter, Paul and Mary are. Did they ever tour with Black Sabbath?

    🙂

  4. SteveH August 16, 2007 at 5:33 am #

    Wilco and Oberon?

    I was only trying to update and upgrade the choices while trying to find a connection to P,P,&M cancelling out on Chicago — not trying to say Wilco would be drinking the Oberon (especially Tweedy, who is trying to avoid any habit forming intake), but the Chicago fans would (provided they could get it again).

    Wilco may have their roots with Uncle Tupe, but they’ve evolved far from those days and their current disc has some real folk to it. And let’s not forget that Tweedy & his wife used to live above her tavern, Lounge Ax, that had a pretty decent tap list the last I was there — the last it was open.

    So, in following the OP, I guess I’d say Blue Moon may be trying to chase the craft revolution and shake its Coors bred personna, as P,P, & M seem to be making themselves only a memory, while Oberon & Omegang are leading the revolution as Wilco makes music history and sells out venues.

    “BTW…no clue who Peter, Paul and Mary are. Did they ever tour with Black Sabbath? Heh.

    Yeah, it’s free associative thinking. Or just rambling. 🙂

  5. Lew Bryson August 16, 2007 at 6:59 am #

    Steve,

    I don’t think you can really accuse a beer that came out in 1996, stayed out through the Great Craft Flatline (I may just have to trademark that one; consider it done), and has now become popular by unforced trial and word of mouth…of chasing the craft revolution.

  6. SteveH August 16, 2007 at 8:07 am #

    “……of chasing the craft revolution.”

    Maybe not in the present day, but through its history I believe I can. And not to bring up the definition debate again, but can Blue Moon really be considered a “craft beer?” It doesn’t have a separate brewery from the Coors facilities, does it?

    I understand all the talk of them drawing in new beer appreciation and all, but to be honest I was never that enamored with the beer to style. Admittedly, I haven’t sampled it in a while, so I may have to give it another chance sometime — or just stick with the Allagash I’ve been finding locally!

  7. Lew Bryson August 16, 2007 at 8:40 am #

    “It doesn’t have a separate brewery from the Coors facilities, does it?”

    Honestly, who gives a damn? The Brewers Association? I like the guys, but I sure don’t buy their ‘definition’ of craft beer. Is Blue Moon a craft brewery? Certainly not. Can ‘craft beer’ only come from a ‘craft brewery?’ I say no, but I recognize that there may be others who disagree. I still say: show me in the glass what is or is not craft beer. If I pour you a glass of Blue Moon — with you all unaware of what’s going on — I don’t know how you could take a sip and say, “Hey, that’s not craft beer!”

    As for as your being enamored of the beer “to style,” what the hell’s that matter, either? Not dissing your tastes at all — really, I’m not — but it’s a Belgian style, man! They are not generally that strictly interpreted. Even lambics, though very strictly interpreted geographically, admit a wide range. I don’t buy disqualifying Blue Moon based on how it ranks as a wit. Tell me you haven’t had ‘craft-brewed’ wits that were less to your liking. I know I have.

  8. SteveH August 16, 2007 at 9:16 am #

    “As for as your being enamored of the beer “to style,” what the hell’s that matter, either? Not dissing your tastes at all — really, I’m not — but it’s a Belgian style, man!”

    Okay, okay — that’s what I get for trying to be nice, you’re right — I didn’t like it at all, style aside.

    And yeah, there are “craft” (remember, it was me who said I didn’t want to get into that debate) beers that I haven’t liked, but I can’t narrow that down to just the Wit category — and I wouldn’t stick up for them just because they were micros. You know that I subscribe to the “it’s what’s in the glass” bottom line, I even have a Red Hook ESB defense going on over at BeerAdvocate right now.

    To the question, is Blue Moon as a “craft beer” equivalent to the “vanilla folk” of P,P, & M? Yes, maybe even less so until Coors finds a way to replicate Puff the Magic Dragon in a beer. 😉

  9. Josquin August 16, 2007 at 9:37 am #

    I am thrilled that Blue Moon is consumed to this degree. There is intrinsic virtue, I believe, in the growing appreciation that beer can taste many different delicious ways. It could help the craft brewing industry, but I’m not sure it necessarily has to. There are other battles to be won, sure, but certainly one worthy prize is simply convincing consumers (and I’m thinking of U.S. consumers) that there is more to beer than the ubiquitous dichotomy of “good old normal beer” and “weird fancy beer”–that it is actually more useful to consider that beer can have a full spectrum of appearances, smells, and flavors.

  10. Wayne August 18, 2007 at 8:14 pm #

    hi i enjoyed the read

  11. Justin Davis August 27, 2007 at 9:58 am #

    […] The initial blog post by Stan Hieronymus at his blog created some interesting discussion around a central theme […]

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