Miller Lite Collection: Which one is the ale?

Continuing from yesterday, you and I will not determine if one or all three of the beers in the Miller Lite Brewers Collection survives testing and ultimately thrives or not. Light beer drinkers, or consumers not currently drinking beer, will.

Presumably it will be on flavor, but certainly marketing will be a factor. The other day I saw an ad for “Craft Beer. Done Lite” pop up on a San Diego website. (Speaking of the marketing, Neal Stewart of Flying Dog has interesting thoughts on this as a line extension.)

And if it’s flavor, I’m the wrong person to ask. So I’m not going to give you drinking notes (but I will provide links at the bottom). Instead, via email and through a public relations representative, I asked some of the questions I would visiting a brewery of whatever size. I didn’t get answers to every one, and some weren’t all that illuminating, so we’ll stick with the highlights. All the information was provided by Miller brewmaster Manny Manuele.

The beers were developed at Miller’s 10-barrel pilot system in Milwaukee. They are intentionally priced between mainstream light beers and the typical craft beer. The suggested retail price for a six-pack is $6.99.

Now, the ingredients (summarized from a couple of exchanges) and other basics.

Blonde Ale
Fermentables: Pale and caramel malt; maize
Hops: Willamette, Galena, Cascade, Chinook
IBU: 14
Ale fermentation

Wheat
Fermentables: Pale, caramel and wheat malt; maize
Hops: Willamette, Galena
IBU: 6
Lager fermentation

Amber
Fermentables: Pale, dark crystal malt; maize
Hops: Willamette, Mt. Hood
IBU: 15
Lager fermentation

How long was spent developing these beers? Where did the idea originate?

Miller Lite Brewers Collection is targeted at mainstream light beer drinkers and capitalizes on two trends driving much of the current growth in the U.S. beer industry.

1. Light beers continue to provide the greatest sheer volume growth as American beer drinkers reaffirm their desire for drinkable, refreshing products.

2. As demonstrated by the continued growth of craft beers, we’re seeing an increasing interest in variety. American beer drinkers are more willing than ever to try different styles and brands.

At the intersection of these trends is Miller Lite Brewers Collection, which provides beer drinkers with the best of both worlds. Only with Miller Lite Brewers Collection can you get real craft-style taste and true light beer refreshment.

Were there different versions? In which case, why were these settled on?

Throughout the year or so we spent developing Miller Lite Brewers Collection, we considered several different styles. By selecting three styles with broad appeal to mainstream beer drinkers interested in trying a craft beer, we’ve significantly increased the likelihood that everyone will find a Miller Lite Brewers Collection variety to enjoy.

Where are they brewed and what is the batch size?

Miller Lite Brewers Collection is brewed in Milwaukee in relatively small batch sizes — less than 500 barrel brews.

Are the Brewers Collection beers all malt beers?

No. We’ve also brewed with wheat and corn for taste, lightness and refreshment.

All-malt is at the core of how “craft” brewers define their products. Would you say you disagree?

First, it’s important to note that these are not intended to be craft beers and are not targeted at craft drinkers. These are craft-style light beers. Additionally, “all malt” is one, but not the only, criteria that defines craft beer. The Brewers Association describes craft as beers brewed with a traditional process using malted and specialty grains, hops, water and yeast to deliver the aroma, taste and appearance characteristics not typically found in mainstream beers. That’s what we’re delivering — a unique consumer taste experience not typically found in light beers and consistent with craft-style beer.

The abv, calories and carbs are the same for all three beers (but different than Miller Lite). Was that intentional?

Yes. Our intention is to deliver more flavor and a more enjoyable taste experience for beer drinkers looking for variety, taste and drinkability in true light beers — in this case, at 4.2 percent ABV, 110 calories and 6.2 grams carbohydrate per 12-ounce serving.

The disclaimer: I received a package with these beers that went out to a variety of media. Here are Lew Bryson’s thoughts, notes from A Roughneck’s Take on Beer (you’ll have to jump between posts), and good marks from a Modern Brewery Age panel.

You’ll also find more opinions at the beer rating sites (but, again, the regulars there are not the target market). Both links are for the Blonde Ale: Rate Beer, and Beer Advocate.

9 Responses to Miller Lite Collection: Which one is the ale?

  1. SteveH February 27, 2008 at 11:02 am #

    Did they comment (if asked) just how they were able to create 3 different beers, with varying ingredients (for the most part) and result in the exact same ABV, calories, and carbs?

    I’m guessing that the amounts of Pale malt and “Maize” in each recipe was just about identical.

  2. Todd February 27, 2008 at 6:40 pm #

    What IBU, what hops? And why is the word “Maize” so fashionable with brewing instead of simple “corn”. I’m not so sure I ever see that word associated with anything but historical agriculture or beer. Does “corn” add the desired sweetness and flavor for good beer? In one sense, corn seems to not be a historical brewing ingredient with European brewing history, but I have seen an old New Mexico recipe for Cervesa Casera that uses corn, barley and peloncillo- no malt. Does corn help make a “light” beer? Does it matter what “corn” variety? “Silver Queen” , “Salt and Butter”, or historical heirloom “Concho” corn ( makes the very best chicos- super sweet after firing in the horno) for example? Roasted or unroasted “corn”?
    How a product is processed influences the final flavors- and what product/variety matters. Maybe that’s a few reasons for difference.

  3. Sidney Porter February 28, 2008 at 6:57 am #

    “In one sense, corn seems to not be a historical brewing ingredient with European brewing history”

    I don’t believe that corn originally grew in Europe. So it would not historically been available to them.

    Corn add alchol while not adding body. Similar to rice or Belgian candy sugar. IMO corn does add flavor while rice doesn’t. Another difference is that 2 row malt historically grew in Europe while 6 row grew in the US. The 6 row has a higher potein and enzyme levels which gave the brewer more option to convert other types of cereal. Could probably argue that with the higher levels of proteins the brewers needed to use adjunts. So if 6 row was grow in Europe would the brewers there adabted to use another type of grain?

    Probably at various times corn has been cheaper than malted barley, and this has driven the use. But I really think originally it had to do with the protein levels in the native 6 row barley.

  4. Todd February 28, 2008 at 7:17 am #

    Thanks for education Sidney! That was sweet! (pun too). Protein level balance. Would roasting the corn add percieved sweetness and flavor? I know that a few kernals of the Horno roasted Concho corn will make a large dish( like a soup) majorly flavored with fire roasted corn. Do you think the fire roasted corn flavor would persist in the beer making process?

  5. Sidney Porter February 28, 2008 at 8:27 am #

    I am not an expert in corn nor in brewing with corn. But I will assume that the corn used has been breed to be brewing corn, I doubt if it is a corn you or i would buy for eating. Just like the corn used for ethanol is not the same as feed corn for animal which is not the same as what we buy to eat.

    Even though corn adds some flavor it is very small, I would assume that most drinkers don’t even notices it.High life uses corn bud uses rice taste them side by side if you are looking for the corn you can find it. It is also traditionally used in cream ale.

    The brewers are not really looking for a lot of flavor impact. I would assume that fire roasting would create some mailard reation that would give the corn flavor which would carry over to the beer. I don’t know of any breweries that fire roast their corn, if they did I am sure they would market it. If you do a search for cereal mash, it will explain (better than I could) how corn is handled in the brewery.

  6. Todd February 28, 2008 at 11:07 am #

    All right, here it goes. I’m just putting an Amalia lager in the fermenters. I’ll clean up and start an ale with my organic NM hops and my neighbor’s organic, horno-fired chicos from heirloom Concho corn. I guess the answer is “don’t be a-scared to try”. Why try?-because I can. (just a flavor addition.)

  7. Todd February 28, 2008 at 1:36 pm #

    At the first addition of the NM hops, the aroma of roasted corn is as large as the tangerine punch in the face! I hope it sticks around for the finish flavor as well. Ummm, roasted corn and tangerines.

  8. Todd February 28, 2008 at 4:03 pm #

    Before fermenting the flavors flow like- malt, hops, tangerine/fruit/slight lemon, with a real roasted corn finish- not so bad. Tasty and hearty.

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