The new “Molson M” beer: Is it a gas, gas, gas?

A new concoction just arrived at my local taproom, from the Molson-Coors axis. I will always have trouble saying “Molson-Coors.” It sounds like a phrase that should never have been brought together and hyphenated — and yet no form of abbreviation will ever improve matters. Call them the Mooks? MooCoo? Mohloors? Just makes things worse.

Actually, “Just Making Things Worse,” might function as an accurate corporate slogan, following the creation of this bi-national two-headed monster, six years ago. Derided by Canadians for being U.S.-controlled, and held suspect stateside for being owned by Canadians, the company further enhanced its Andy Kaufman foreign-man image in 2007, by tossing their U.S. interests into a joint-venture deal with South African Breweries. While the entity may lack for a national identity, they aren’t exactly hurting for dough-ray-mi, having rung up $3 billion worth of revenues in 2009, an effort that earned around $720 million.

A component of the company’s growth strategy appears to be the introduction into Canada of implausibly conceived and strangely named new products, at least once a year. Last year it was “Molson 67,” a brew named to reflect the IQ of its typical purchaser. (We celebrated its introduction with this blog post.) The year 2011 sees the roll-out of “Molson M,” a brand created to make you go hm-m-m-m-m-m.

In an age when so-called edgy marketing has become commonplace, Molson M goes where no brand has dared to stumble. Who would ever summon up the raw nerve to name a product after Fritz Lang’s notorious 1931 motion picture about a child murderer?

Not that “M”, the movie, didn’t have a powerful impact on the public. Peter Lorre’s cinema depiction of the pedophile Hans Beckert so moved European audiences that they reportedly formed a mob that chased the actor out of the theatre and onto the streets of Berlin, after the film’s premiere. Talk about actively engaging your market. Talk about stunts.

How likely is it that beer-drinkers will forget the 80-year-old association with a black-and-white movie about a serial killer, and begin to think of “M” as — I’ll quote from a company press release — a “genuine, premium quality lager… with a taste that goes down well?” Granted that over at my local there seemed to be far more sports fans than film buffs (the NCAA tournament was just beginning to heat up), but the motion picture seems to have some staying power, having last year been judged number 33 on Empire magazine’s list of the 100 best in world cinema. Is this a hint of a potential M&M cross-promotion? It could lead to the creation of some interesting movie-night drinking games, involving watching M-the-movie and hoisting M-the-brewski every time Peter Lorre utters some special bit of dialogue, such as his memorable query, “Who knows what it’s like to be me?” (If you have an hour and 50 minutes to spare, you can catch the whole film at the link below.)

Ho knows. Not the secrets of the serial murderer’s private torment, I’m certain — but the late, great Hawaiian singer Don Ho (1930-2007) surely knew a bunch of things, especially about the subject of carbonation. The lyrics of his 1966 hit recording, “Tiny Bubbles,” postulated that the presence of CO2 units within fermented spirits “make you feel happy [and] make you feel fine,” and this seems to be the logical foundation upon which Molson M has been established.

The M in Molson M, it seems, stands for Microcarbonated(TM), which is the brewer’s trademarked way of explaining the brand is a frothy little number, pumped full-as-you-please with the miracle ingredient, air. Unlike whatever it was that happened to be in the jug you and your no-good friends just emptied, Molson M contains “smaller, finer bubbles,” perfect for an age of miniaturization. Those fat, sloppy bubbles floating lazily in your dad’s Grolsch are just so 2003.

And yet. If more is indeed less when it comes to bubbles, and small is so gosh-darn beautiful, why not hold out for the yet-to-be-developed next generation Nanocarbonation(TM)? Here’s a wager that says the hypothetical Molson N will never follow Molson M. For one thing, it lacks alliterative appeal — and the letter N has a traditionally Negative connotation, as illustrated in the “Y/N” selection.

The roll-out of this aerated lager continues Molson’s recent infatuation with nature’s elements. This year it’s air they’re slipping into their beer; last year, it was water. The unique selling proposition behind Molson 67 was that it was some kind of diet-friendly cocktail of beer, cut with seltzer at a one-to-two ratio. Continuing through the elements, we may next expect the product-development team to fixate on fire. Therefore, next year should see the introduction of Molson Opa!, a bottle of beer imbued with a thin coating of feta cheese, that the waiter in your favorite Greek restaurant will ritually ignite, for festive appeal.

I asked the waitress in my corner taverna, say, what can you tell me about this beer that wants to be known only by a single initial? Poor kid tried her level best, and began appropriating the pretentious gasbaggery of a Tony Aspler. She said it has a hoppy nose, and the lingering sensation on the palette calls to mind undertones of caramel. She said it had a very clean finish and vivid eye-appeal.

Sheesh, I thought. This is what happens when you put the Food TV network on basic cable. Everyone thinks they’re a sommelier. This impression was proven later when I came across a press-release quote from the Molson M brand manager, who burbled, “With its unique microcarbonization process, we are convinced beyond a doubt that Molson M will satisfy the tastes of the most demanding of aficionados who expect nothing but the best.”

Beer aficionados? Come on now. Isn’t a “beer aficionado” the same thing as a frat boy who manages to hoover a dozen during a night of binging, or any off-duty working stiff who is trying to forget the lousy eight-hour shift just past, or the traveling salesgal killing a couple of hours at the airport Marriott before the shuttle takes off? Sorry to break it to you brewing industry marketers, but these aficionados aren’t about to start gulping down a gassy, caramel-tinged beer. Permit me to suggest that the ideal target for your micro-carbonized lager is… a microcephalic. For who would be more appreciative of the virtues of a beer with tiny bubbles, than the thirsty consumer who has a tiny, tapered skull?

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