Barley Mowat 

A Window to Bad Beer (Vented Tabs)

with 10 comments

There’s been some murmurings on the craft beer vine recently about this whole “vented can” contraption that Molson’s come up with (or, more specifically, the multi-national brewing giant parent MolsonCoors). What’s the point of this bloody thing? Surely it’s to make shotgunning beer easier?

Hate to disappoint you, sports fans, but that’s not the case. You see, Molson is stuck with a horrible situation. They have a bland, boring product that is virtually indistinguishable from the competition, aside from packaging. In addition to this horrible fate, they’re losing market share at a steady–if not fatal–rate. Craft beer is slowly killing them.


You and me both, buddy

Since all they know is marketing, the solution is of course more marketing, and that’s what we’re seeing here. Occasionally they invent some sort of minor tweak to their product strictly as an excuse to launch a massive marketing blitz.

Remember Molson M? Same thing. That production technique (“micro-carbonation”) was so innovative that they didn’t bother patenting it, nor could they describe what it did aside from to say just how very innovative it was. Good luck finding a case of M today. Molson Wheat, while demonstrably a different product from Canadian, is destined for a similar wither-on-the-vine and go away fate (only 156 six-packs in the LDB system as of today).

It’s not the new product and its associated advertising blitz that’s the goal here. It’s to make the masses forget the advertising blitz of the normal product so that it seems brand new and appealing when regular programming resumes. Sure, it’s only brand new and appealing to people with the memory recall of a caffeinated hamster, but that’s pretty much their target audience.


Aside: Why is this the most clothed picture of frat boys that I could find?

Now, how do you get all the advantages of a Molson M campaign without that nasty drawback of actually producing something different, which takes time, money, and more importantly confuses your afore-mentioned hamster-brained consumer base? There ya go, now you get it. Packaging changes. Vented cans.

It might be tempting to get in a tizzy and claim they’re encouraging people to chug their beer but, let’s face it, anyone who thinks chugging Molson out of a can to be a fun pastime is already doing it. The size of the vent is too small to significantly improve their slamming speed, and the finickiness of actually using it will guarantee most vents go un-opened. If they wanted people to chug their beer we’d be looking at a different packaging change.


Sure it’s not Molson, but did you really think I had a can of Molson lying around?

The reality of the vented tab is that, honestly, it doesn’t do much of anything. Molson talks a good talk about an “enhanced pouring experience” but don’t mention what’s been enhanced about it, or elaborate upon what, exactly, a “pouring experience” is. Sound familiar?

Maybe they want to reduce the head of the beer in the glass? Well, that doesn’t work. The beer hitting the bottom of the glass causes most of the turbidity and CO2 release, not air gulping back into the can (also, if your beer is gulping out of the can, pour slower). Plus, the kind of person that can’t wait the three seconds it takes for excess head to dissipate from a poorly poured glass of crappy lager isn’t likely the same person that would bother pouring it into a glass in the first place.

After thinking on this long and hard (okay, thinking on this while browsing the internet and drinking coffee for ten minutes), I can think of one specific scenario where the vented can will make a difference, and I seriously hope it’s not what Molson intended.

Chuggers won’t be affected by the vent. Folks who drink until they fall over won’t be affected by the vent. People who drink a few beers at a party without keeping track of how many they’ve had, though, will.

You see, that vent doesn’t make enough difference in pour speed for the extreme beer consumers to even notice. The chugger will chug until the beer is gone (and then presumably crush the can against their skull). The drink-until-I-can’t-drink-anymore guy will do so regardless of the packaging. The guy in the middle, though, who sips at a can or four over the course of a house party while chatting with a girl… that guy is fucked.


He’s also the guy they show in their ads

A vent might make a causal sip of beer about 10% bigger. That casual guy will notice his beer’s empty sooner, and doing what any good party-goer does, he’ll go get another. Over the course of the evening, he might have one or two extra without even knowing it. He might even drink enough to enter that fuzzy “grey area” between slightly buzzed and full-on drunk, where suddenly getting completely pie-eyed seems like a grand idea.

Worst case scenario, he might be the kind of person that has three or four beers over the course of an evening and drives home (note: regardless of who you are, this is a terrible idea). Now he’s had five or six beers but doesn’t realize it, and he’s still driving home.

Of course, the people responsible for the vented tab are still people, and no one would actually deliberately intend any of this to happen. Molson strongly stresses the responsible consumption of their product (as would any liquor producer). I therefore choose to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the vented tab is a marketing ploy, pure and simple, and not an evil plot to kill innocent childern (although the notion of a Brewmeister Smith-esque super villain toiling away in an underground lab, emitting a lengthy “Mu-hahahahaha” is appealing in and of itself).

Just because you make horrible beer doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person.

Written by chuck

March 7th, 2014 at 10:01 am

Posted in Beer and You

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10 Responses to 'A Window to Bad Beer (Vented Tabs)'

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  1. Jer

    7 Mar 14 at 12:12

  2. @Jer — Man, I’d love for that to be more available. About the perfect craft beer packaging.

    chuck

    7 Mar 14 at 12:13

  3. Basically comes down to getting the same people to drink more of your “beer.” Can’t change the product b/c they sell a lot of it, even if it’s not as much as they used and/or would like. Thus market, market market an maybe even slip in little gimmicks to make it go down quicker.

    Sad that the solution to “sell more” isn’t “make a better product.” Oh well, plenty of other good choices out there.

    BTW loved the twitter exchange on this.

    Dave

    7 Mar 14 at 13:44

  4. @Dave – Actually the macro landscape is more about converting casual brand drinkers into loyal brand drinkers. A certain percentage of macro beer drinkers is loyal to a brand, and another percentage moves from brand to brand. That second group is your target with any sort of marketing: how do you convert someone who will happily drink Labatt’s OR Molson into someone who only drinks Molson?

    It’s marketing at it’s purest. Probably the best non-beer analogue of the problem is gas stations. How do you convince someone to buy ONLY at Esso? Believe it or not, not everyone uses price as the only differentiator between gas stations.

    chuck

    7 Mar 14 at 14:42

  5. I agree with your take on the vented can. It is all marketing. One thing that shouldn’t be maligned is cans in general.
    As a craft guy, I am loving that some breweries are producing awesome beer in cans, ie Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. A packable container that recycles easier and is more durable then glass. Perfect and in a more proper serving size. Singularity is great, but you won’t take it to the beach often. If it was in a can and not such a rarity, I would

    Ashley S

    7 Mar 14 at 18:10

  6. Of all the things that say ‘Take me to the beach!’ to me, a 10.5% Russian Imperial Stout isn’t that high on the list…

    Jer

    8 Mar 14 at 07:36

  7. Hey friends, I love molson canadian (personal taste) the little tab you are talking about on the vented cans actually came off and was floatingbin my beer. All in all very dangerous. I spit it out before I ingested it. Very unsafe. Frank

    frank

    7 Apr 14 at 19:25

  8. @frank – You sure you spat it out? Maybe it cut up your mouth, instead? It’s hard to be certain, really. You should consult an expert. And by expert, I mean lawyer 🙂

    chuck

    8 Apr 14 at 08:21

  9. Well I come from England where people also like like a gassy tasteless beer. But why on earth do people drink this crap. because its cheap they are a Walmart shoppers the American mentality of low quality large volume ..
    that’s why a lot of people are getting obese its the bigger better mentality. But we all like the lure of gimmicks lol

    mike

    30 Oct 14 at 19:31

  10. Well I come from England where people also like like a gassy crap beer. But why on earth do people drink this crap. because its cheap they are a Walmart shoppers the American mentality of low quality large volume ..
    that’s why a lot of people are getting obese its the bigger better mentality. But we all like the lure of gimmicks lol

    mike

    30 Oct 14 at 19:33

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