MillerCoors Makes Prohibition Repeal Day an Excuse to Drink

Pre-prohibition Batch 19 Brand Seizes on Dec. 5 Anniversary

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Prohibition officially ended on Dec. 5, 1933, when Utah became the 36th state to approve the 21st Amendment, an occasion that New Yorkers celebrated with "quiet restraint," according to a New York Times headline at the time. Eighty years later, Miller Coors' Batch 19 beer is turning the milestone into a marketing event as it seeks new momentum for the small but growing brand.

The Repeal Day campaign includes signage, in-store sampling and bar parties at which brand representatives will wear historical clothing like flapper outfits. One poster encourages drinkers to celebrate Repeal Day because "without it, you'd be drinking swill."

Batch 19 wants to "own the holiday," said Libby Mura, senor marketing director at Tenth and Blake, the craft and imports division for MillerCoors. The brand, she said, has a unique claim on the event because it is crafted from a pre-Prohibition recipe. The formula was uncovered in 1998 after the basement of a Coors brewery in Golden, Colo., flooded and a brewer discovered an old recipe logbook buried in a cabinet. MillerCoors used one of the formulas inside for Batch 19, which was introduced in 2010. The name refers to 1919, the year Prohibition started.

"There are a lot of pre-Prohibition-style beers on the market that are based out of a book that somebody bought," Ms. Mura said. The Batch 19 recipe is different because it is "actually owned by a brewery that is still brewing beer," she said.

Indeed, author and beer historian Maureen Ogle said in an email interview that "most post-Prohibition breweries were new and so started from scratch" and the "few heritage breweries typically modified their old recipes."

Of course, MillerCoors had to tweak the Batch 19 formula to account for the fact that some of the ingredients are no longer commercially available. The company had to swap in a barley type, for example, to replace the original, which stopped being grown commercially in the 1920s.

MillerCoors took Batch 19 national this year and is focused on 16 markets, including Denver, Milwaukee, Dallas and Las Vegas. "We actually are looking to grow this slowly and seed this in markets over time so we can build a long-term, healthy brand that will be around for a long time, very similar to how Blue Moon grew," Ms. Mura said, referring to Tenth and Blake's largest brand.

Part of that strategy includes Repeal Day, which the brand hopes to celebrate annually. This year's promotion includes giving away prize packs that include t-shirts and growlers -- glass jugs -- to people who enter on Batch 19's website and through its social media properties.

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