Many economists waste their time studying a variety of data to forecast where the economy is heading. The truth is they need only consult the one indicator known to be foolproof: the index of Utterly Pointless Innovations in Beer.
The theory is so simple that an actor in a Coors Light commercial could understand it: if beer companies are investing millions in the development of highly expensive and Utterly Pointless Innovations, the economic outlook is promising.
Think back to the sweet times of 2006. The economy was strong. The stock market was soaring. And actual university-educated people were actually employed to make the mountains turn blue on Coors Light labels when the beer inside gets cold. (This technology was widely mocked, but consider its potential. With only a few tweaks, we could use it to determine when our coffee is still hot enough to drink, or when Nicolas Cage has finally stopped overacting. Has he turned blue? No? Then I think I’m going to skip that Sorcerer’s Apprentice movie.)
In addition to successfully creating a thermochromic liquid crystal process for its flagship brand’s Cold Activated Bottle, Coors forked out to develop the Vented Wide Mouth can and a Frost Brew Liner capable of “locking in” the beer’s Frost Brewed taste. That technology alone set them back an ungodly amount of money, not to mention the cost of all those capital letters.
Still, we could sleep easier at night as a society knowing that innovation of this magnitude would never be pursued if brewers sensed that a slump in sales was coming.
Years later, the beer-based indicators are very different. Consider the most recent innovations made by the brewers of the big three American light beers:
The Miller Lite Vortex bottle. This new design boasts “specially designed grooves” that create a “vortex” as the beer is poured. Is that a good thing? It’s unclear—Miller claims only that the bottle’s shape will allow the beer inside “to flow right out.” Does that mean drinkers of Miller Lite were having trouble figuring out how to get the beer out of the regular bottle? (Spoiler alert: probably.) Sadly, a beer company crowing about a bottle design that lets the liquid “flow right out” is like McDonald’s unveiling a revolutionary new cardboard box that allows a Big Mac to “be removed for eating.”
Bud Light Lime. For what felt like years, Budweiser focused on trumpeting this brand’s “drinkability”—a long and expensive campaign that ultimately succeeded in convincing us that Bud Light was neither a solid nor a gas. Alas, its only innovation of recent note has been proving it is possible to put beer and lime together and make them taste like Nick Nolte’s sweat after a tequila bender.
The Coors Light Cold Activation Window Pack. Coors, which claims to be “known for continuous beer innovation,” has rarely shied away from spending big money on deeply ridiculous gimmicks that obscure the fact their most popular brand has a flavour best described as “beeresque.”
Its most recent “innovation?” The Coors Light Cold Activation Window Pack—which sounds wordy enough to be pricey and neat but is, in fact, nothing more than a small hole in the beer case that allows us to see if the mountains are blue and the beer is cold.
A hole. In a box. As indicators go, it’s enough to prompt the governor of the Bank Of Canada to warn of our imminent return to a barter economy.
There are some small signs of hope out there. The makers of Sam Adams recently began producing a new beer glass that was the result of “two years of scientific research, thousands of hours of taste tests and dozens of rejected styles.” It features a narrow top, to sustain the head, and laser etching along the bottom of the glass to ensure “constant aroma release” (which, coincidentally, is something that I have achieved involuntarily after drinking Sam Adams).
But the clear message of the index of Utterly Pointless Innovations in Beer is that the recovery is weaker than feared. Get out of the stock market. Wait before buying a house. You will know better times are ahead when you see a commercial for a can of Coors Light that boasts Romulan-style cloaking technology and five razor blades on the side for a crisp, full-bodied shave.