Brown-Forman Beverages, maker of Jack Daniel's whiskey, is taking its first step into the specialty beer market with Jack Daniel's 1866 Classic Amber Lager.
The brew is made in a tiny microbrewery in Lynchburg, Tenn.-in the bottling house of America's oldest distillery. The product went into test in late November in 50 Nashville bars and restaurants.
The dark amber longneck bottle with a black-and-gold label features a drawing of founder Jack Daniel. Initially the brand won't be sold in supermarkets or advertised, though it is getting point-of-purchase support.
Promotional materials from Jack Daniel's agency Simmons, Durham & Associates, St. Louis, carry a "Way behind the times" theme line.
"We felt there was an opportunity in the marketplace to make beers similar to the beers made prior to Prohibition" with a more robust flavor, said Kevin Janiga, brand manager.
He said the brewery's small size gives enough volume right now to produce for the on-premise market. The facility makes just 600 cases a week.
The company will make a decision next summer whether to contract for additional brewery capacity.
The scenario is similar to that used by Boston Beer Co., which has a small Boston brewery, but produces most of its Sam Adams Boston Lager at other locations.
Besides making Jack Daniel's whiskey, the company now makes Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails, spirits-based low-alcohol drinks, and Gentlemen Jack, a superpremium whiskey.
Mr. Janiga said Brown-Forman doesn't see the new beer as interfering with the whiskey's long reputation or sales.
"What we found is that 90% of whiskey drinkers drink beer," he said. "We've got a built-in consumer base."