The iconic beer, long known as the Silver Bullet, introduced a cold certified bottle in Canada earlier this year featuring “temperature-sensitive thermal chromatic ink technology” that turns the mountains on the label from white to blue when the beer reaches four degrees Celsius (that's 39 degrees Fahrenheit for you Americans down south).
The launch of the bottle comes a year after the introduction of cans with the same “personal beer alarm clock” technology.
“A really cold beer is a wonderful thing,” says Jamie Sprules, brand manager at Molson Canada, which brews Coors Light north of the 49th parallel. “We believe that cold beer is better beer, most guys believe that. We’re trying to be quite singular in our focus and bring innovations to our consumers to deliver cold beer every time.”
Here is how it works: The ink label is sensitive to temperature, so when the beer gets to eight degrees Celsius, or 46 degrees Fahrenheit, the color begins to turn light blue. When the mercury drops down to four degrees C, or 39 F—what Sprules describes as “the perfect beer temperature"—the color turns to a dark shade of blue.
The technology is reversible, too. If a beer drinker takes a Coors Light out of the fridge and forgets to open it—say, for example, if the phone rings—the mountains will turn back to white as the beer inside the container warms up. Put it back in the fridge for a while, and the mountains will turn dark blue again.
And while the transforming colors on Coors Light labels seem simple, the technology behind it doesn’t come cheap. Sprules says Molson worked extensively with an ink supplier to make sure the container could change to the proper shade and color at the prescribed temperature, while accounting for the conduction of temperature by glass for bottles and aluminium for cans. “We also wanted to make sure that when the ink changes color it’s a noticeable change so it’s easy to tell when your beer is cold certified,” he says.
Coors Light’s target market is young men aged 18 to 24, an age when they are “pretty interested” in beer, Sprules says. “They consume more than older target audiences and they’re more engaged in beer than older audiences,” he says.
Coors Light’s research is not earth shattering by any means, but it does aim to fix an age-old problem: How many of us have put beer in the fridge, waited for what seemed like an eternity for it to get cold, gauged the temperature by holding the can or bottle for a second, decided it was cold enough to open and then had our taste buds revolt? Sprules says there’s no question the majority of beer drinkers like their suds cold, particularly in North America, where bitters don’t enjoy anywhere near the same popularity as they do in Europe.
“You don’t want to be forced to drink a warm beer. Aluminum cans feel cold but the beer isn’t completely cold. I don’t know many people who like warm beer. The difficulty when you put a beer in the fridge is you don’t know when it’s cooled to the right temperature. It may feel cold but it’s not as cold as it should be. With this technology, it will tell you when it’s at the right temperature, that you’ve waited long enough,” he says.
Rob Warren, I.H. Asper Executive Director for Entrepreneurship at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, says breweries need to do whatever they can to stand out from the competition in the mature beer market. He says the cold certified bottle technology will attract some beer drinkers to Coors Light who are looking for convenience or wanting to try something new. “Or they could be people who don’t care what they’re drinking but they just want to make sure it’s cold. There’s nothing worse than having a warm beer at a barbecue or when you’re outside on a hot day. This technology is saying, ‘It’s ready to drink,’” he says.
Warren admits there’s no question the color-changing bottles and cans are gimmicks, but Coors Light has proven adept in this area in the past. For example, it once launched a waterproof case that could be filled with ice to cool down its contents, and it continues to employ actor John O’Hurley, the man who will be forever known for playing J. Peterman on Seinfeld, for voice-over work.
Sprules says there are no plans to launch the cold technology on other brands of beers in the Coors family, despite its popularity with Coors Light drinkers. And there is not any reason to take the shifting blue and white mountains out of the hands of Coors Light fans.
“By all accounts it’s working very well, consumers love it. Everybody loves the tool because it makes it easy to get cold beer,” Sprules says.