Coors Revamps Killian's Irish Red

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Coors Revamps Killian's Irish Red

GOLDEN, Colo. -- Coors Brewing Co. has continued to see its unique brand, Killian's Irish Red, lose share to microbrews and imports. Over the last five years, sales have dropped more than 50 percent, and the company is seeking a way to clear the brew's confusing past, according to a Denver Post report.

"Clearly, they have to do something because the brand has been in decline and there is confusion in the marketplace whether this is an import or a domestic craft beer with an Irish heritage," Harry Schumacher, editor of Beer Business Daily told the newspaper.

Killian's Irish Red is domestically brewed; however, the lager's past traces it back to Ireland. Is it an import? Is it domestic? These are the questions Coors will set straight with the new campaign. It has hired Taxi, a New York-based advertising firm, to manage the campaign, according to Coors spokeswoman Aimee Valdez. "Today's beer drinker isn't always aware of the Killian's brand, so we plan to introduce it to them again," she added.

The beer was first brewed in 1864 in Enniscorthy, Ireland by George Killian Lett. Adolph Coors Co. bought the license to brew the beer in the U.S. and began selling Killian's Irish Red in 1981. Adolph Coors Co. later merged with Molson to become Molson Coors Brewing Co.

A new promotion that focuses on the brand's heritage is needed, Rick Sterling, chief executive of advertising agency Sterling Rice Group, told the Denver Post.

In the beginning, the brand had a much different taste. It was heavier, more like a stout than a lager and contained more alcohol than typical brews. In 1987, it underwent a makeover and lightened the taste and the alcohol content, the report said.

"We were ahead of our time when we brought Killian's over from Europe," said Valdez. "It was a heavier beer -- thick and stout -- and American palates weren't ready for it."

Sales increased from 200,000 barrels in 1991 to 650,000 in 1995, finally peaking in 2000 at 725,000 barrels, according to Eric Shepard executive editor of Beer Marketer's Insights. By 1994, the brand was Coors' fastest growing label, beating craft beers Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada for the highest sales for a specialty beer, according to the Wall Street Journal.