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Unleashing The Beast, unfashionably late
"National drywall shortage imminent"
In the two and a half years of independent journalism about drinking in America here at Fingers, a few obvious editorial fascinations have emerged. Hard milk. Bang Energy poster-in-chief Jack Owoc. The dumb shit grown men do for Blanton’s. One hobbyhorse we haven’t returned to in a hot minute is The Fingers CPG Singularity/Doomsday Clock presented by FOSSIL® Watches, created to track Monster Beverage Corporation’s plodding but inexorable march towards the sweet margins and cataclysmic marketing potential of a Monster hard seltzer. “Monster Hard Seltzer *WHEN*,” I demanded to know on January 14th, 2022, responding to the energy colossus’ then-breaking acquisition of CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective for $330 million. Turns out the answer was “almost exactly one year from now, calm the hell down man.” Monster’s 6% ABV flavored malt beverage entry, The Beast Unleashed, is finally rolling out this months in select markets this month. The brand’s wholesalers, having swallowed Monster’s “jagged little pill” of a distribution contract that grants the company a bunch of favorable provisions and minimums, are placing retail collateral to prime the pump, a sure sign that the long-awaited beverage’s commercial debut will soon commence.
Which… then what? “National drywall shortage imminent,” wrote one Twitter user1, referring to the classic 2019 Monster-related meme “Kyle Punches Drywall.” Probably that, yes. And one assumes Christine “The Monster Lady” Weick will have a(nother) meltdown once the rollout begins in earnest in February. As for its performance in the broader market? From where your fearless Fingers editor is sitting, Monster is Unleashing The Beast in a decidedly less attractive commercial and social climate than it would’ve enjoyed at virtually any point last year. Consider:
Hard seltzer hasn’t “gone flat” the way mainstream coverage might have you believe, but the segment has rapidly matured and growth has slowed;
Beer aisles are chock full of FMBs thanks to the alcopop redemption arc, and a lot of them suck, making it tougher for newcomers to attract drinkers and capture market share;
The FMBs drinkers of the past 18 months are these days willing, able, and interested to trade up to spirits-based canned cocktails (High Noon, et al.), opening the segment up to more direct competition;
The highest-profile soft-to-hard conversion, Hard Mtn. Dew, has struggled for staying power after making splashy entrances in select markets rather than methodically rolling out state-by-state;
Speaking of Hard Mtn. Dew, its prominent entry and occasionally unfortunate retail placements next to Hotwheels, Kool-Aid, and other childrens’ items have stirred grumbling to the feds about a need for increased regulatory oversight on the segment;
And on, and on. The American beverage-alcohol market is changing fast, and the same tailwinds that made the energy drink-to-hard seltzer pipeline a no-brainer as recently as last year have shifted considerably since. I still think Monster’s entry in alcohol will go fine! Especially since it’s positioning The Beast Unleashed as its own flavor category, rather than yet another hard seltzer tea, juice, etc. Plus, the company is a marketing powerhouse with a frankly scary ability to delight the drywall-punchers and goatee-havers that make up the United States’ lift-kit bourgeoisie. But there’s no denying that The Beast Unleashed is unfashionably late to this party.
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🍹 The bigger they are, the harder they’ll tea
Earlier this week, Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone, North Carolina announced2 the upcoming launch of a hard tea made in collaboration with Bojangles, a
2006 high school grinder single from Pitbull and Lil John fried chicken fast-food chain with a cult-like following in the Southeast. More like unfashionably late to the par-tea, amirite?! But seriously, despite being released more than two decades after Twisted Tea began its improbable saccharine ascent to the near-top of Boston Beer Company’s sales charts, Bojangles Hard Sweet Tea will probably sell just fine in the Carolinas because of its positioning at the nexus of a few trend I’ve covered in the past both here and at VinePair. Much like Wawa or Sonic (both of which have made moves into beverage alcohol in the past year), the chicken chain has a really strong road-trip/rest-stop brand and a diehard following that will follow its bold yellow banner to retail channels. Also like those two examples, it has genuine local/regional bona fides, and even though it’s now a wholly owned subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, producer AMB does too. It’s an alco-llaboration that actually makes sense, because people go hog-wild for Bojangles sweet tea. And it’s a portfolio match for a mid-sized craft brewery with tank space to spare and a need to diversify its offerings to meet drinkers’ changing tastes. Would I drink it? Heavens no. But I see the rationale!
🧾 The Settle-Up
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