Saturday, February 23, 2013
Today we have beer that has very recently reached a status of nationwide distribution. Third Shift Amber Lager is -you guessed it- an American Amber Lager. It is advertised as a beer brewed round-the-clock with passion, and has the look of a Craft Beer and "Corporate Beer" hybrid. So what's the deal with this beer that nobody has heard of but is suddenly available nationwide?
Third Shift Amber Lager is brewed in Trenton, OH and Fort Worth, TX under the company name Band of Brewers Co. The knowledgeable beer drinker may recognize those two cities as MillerCoors Brewery locations. This is no coincidence, as Third Shift was developed by MillerCoors to create a new brand that appealed to both Craft Beer and "Corporate Beer" markets alike, a major selling-point being that it has a stronger flavor than Big Beer offerings but at a modest price- roughly $7 a six-pack.
A second selling point is that Third Shift Amber Lager is a Gold Medal Winner in the Märzen category, according to David Coors, Third Shift Brand Manager. The legitimacy of this claim, however, remains unsure as I have yet to find a competition winners list which lists this beer as a winner, or even as an entrant.
Note: It appears that Third Shift Amber Lager was originally brewed as "Flor Hosen" by the Sandlot brewpub (owned by Coors, operating as Blue Moon Brewing Co.) and won Gold in the Great American Beer Festival 2010 and Gold in the World Beer Cup 2012, both in the Märzen category.
When you twist off the cap and pour a bottle of Third Shift Amber Lager, you will find that it pours a coppery color with a small, light head and low carbonation. Take a few whiffs and you'll notice that this beer smells lightly of malt with an almost fruity aroma. At first taste, Third Shift Amber Lager doesn't really have any distinctness, neither sweet nor bitter, malty nor hoppy. As it leaves the tongue it begins to taste a little more like grain and yeast with still almost no malt or hop characteristics. Most simply put, it is reminiscent of a Pale Lager but with a stronger flavor from the grains, almost as if the malt and hops cancel each other out instead of each having balanced presence.
All in all, Third Shift Amber Lager gives you what you pay for. At under 7 dollars, it doesn't bring the flavor of a beer like Bell's Amber Lager, but it has a stronger taste than Coors Light, which is exactly what MillerCoors is going for. In a statement by MillerCoors, Third Shift Amber Lager is an "Invitation Beer", meant to bring people into the Craft Beer Market. Why would MillerCoors want to bring consumers to the Craft Beer Market? Most likely this is so that they can push "craft beer brands" owned by MillerCoors such as Blue Moon. The Craft Beer market is growing at a rate beyond what MillerCoors and AB-Inbev have seen in years, so I think that this is only one of many future beers that will operate as "Invitation Brands", much like AB-Inbev's Budweiser Black Crown.