Belgian Moon: Anatomy of a “crafty” beer

Seriously enough

Here we go again.

Canada is about to be the benefactor of a “new” beer thanks to the increasingly greasy quest for big brewers to create/market/re-imagine/co-opt brands that deliver some sniff of “craft” credentials.

That is, Molson-Coors has announced that Blue Moon, a hugely popular beer sold by Miller Coors in the United States is coming to Canada.

Er, coming back to Canada for the first time?

Staying in Canada?

Shit, I don’t even know where to start with this one.

So let’s start from the beginning: Blue Moon is a Belgian-style, cloudy, unfiltered wheat beer that advertises notes of coriander and citrus and is served with an orange wheel garnish. It was developed by Coors. Its labelling says it is a product of Blue Moon Brewing Co. In the United States, it is usually mentioned in at least the top three names of beers that seem developed by big brewers to intentionally mislead people into thinking it is a craft beer. Case in point, this statement from the American Brewers Association, issued in December of 2012:

Many non-standard, non-light “crafty” beers found in the marketplace today are not labeled as products of large breweries. So when someone is drinking a Blue Moon Belgian Wheat Beer, they often believe that it’s from a craft brewer, since there is no clear indication that it’s made by SABMiller. The same goes for Shock Top, a brand that is 100 percent owned by Anheuser-Bush InBev, and several others that are owned by a multinational brewing and beverage company.

Unless you’re new to this blog, I probably don’t need to to tell you how I feel about big brewers co-opting craft credibility with shady marketing (and if you are new here, go read about the time I literally discovered big brewers’ shady marketing documents outlining their plans to co-opt craft credibility), but suffice it say that the growing practice of attempting to trick consumers who are trying to support independent companies who make interesting beer makes me rage-vomit blood at an alarming frequency.

I go through so many towels.

Anyway, this beer is clearly going to open all the old “craft” vs “crafty” arguments we all love to have, but this particular example seems to have a unique twist for Canadian beer drinkers.

When Coors and Molson merged, Blue Moon began to be brewed in Montreal (that’s in Canada).

Blue Moon that is brewed in Montreal, Canada is distributed across the United States and Europe, but isn’t actually available in Canada.

But actually, it kind of is.

You see in Canada, Molson-Coors sells another Belgian-style, cloudy, unfiltered wheat beer that advertises notes of coriander and citrus and is served with an orange wheel garnish. It’s called Rickard’s White, and it’s brewed in Montreal, Canada and if you wanted to wager that it’s pretty dang similar in composition to Blue Moon, I sure as heck wouldn’t bet against you.

Belgian Rickards Shock White

And so you might able to see why a press release issued July 29 announcing the arrival of Blue Moon in Canada (renamed “Belgian Moon” just to make the whole thing more complicated) has got me shaking my head a bit.

The press release is rife with fun wordsmithing to make “Belgian Moon” seem more crafty (case in point: “Blue Moon was developed at the famed Sandlot brewery in Denver, Colorado by brewmaster, Keith Villa, one of only a few brewmasters to have achieved a Ph.D. in brewing, from the University of Brussels in Belgium.” Uh yes, that would be the Sandlot Brewery at COORS FIELD owned by MOLSON COORS where that brewer who went to Belgium IS AN EMPLOYEE–but I digress).

But essentially the “news” really amounts to this: A beer that is marketed as a small American craft beer, but is actually made by a huge company in Canada, and is actually already available in Canada under a different name, is now going to be made available in Canada in a format that mimics the marketing that is used in the United States, but will be slightly different than that marketing so that it can be sold in Canada.

OK then. Sounds like craft beer to me.

36 thoughts on “Belgian Moon: Anatomy of a “crafty” beer

  1. Dude – take off the tinfoil hat.

    The press release has the guy from molson saying “its a significant day for Molson Coors”, and that it is the top-selling beer in the USA.”. How does that suggest “small American craft beer”?

    1. I didn’t say the press release was a total snow job, only that it used interesting language to make the beer appear more “crafty.” And this hat keeps AB InBev from reading my mind with their technology.

  2. Its’ 100% BS marketing. They are very good at that, the recent Torornto Festival of Beer is one of their efforts – to call Shock-top “local” and craft is BS – thats what they do.

  3. An amazingly confusing article, just how SABMiller wants to keep it…Thank you for digging through the layers to shed some light on this “Crafty” beer.

    There are so many wonderful real craft wheat beers out there, that there is no need to drink Blue Moon, Belgian Moon, or Rickard’s White anymore.


  4. I’d help fund a Kickstarter campaign to chemically determine if there are any differences between Rickard’s White and Blue Moon.

  5. There needs to be specific legislation across North America to protect craft breweries, distilleries and wineries from the predatory actions of large multinational companies. I talk to lots of people in Ontario who are getting fed up with the practices of these companies.

  6. I’ve just been told via their Facebook page “Although we’re both Belgian-style wheat Ales, Rickard’s White is richer in colour, body and slightly sweeter in taste. And, as far as being a craft beer goes, we do not market ourselves as a craft beer, although our research shows that we’re a favourite among craft drinkers. We were born at the famous Sandlot brewery in Colorado, and are known and respected for taking traditional styles and doing them in a nationally relevant way.”

    I’d do a side-by-side comparison, but that would involve me giving them money.

  7. I don’t need chemical analysis to tell me they’re quite different tasting. In lieu of anything I REALLY like, Rickard’s White has become a fallback for me for a beverage in a pub. I finally sampled Belgian Moon last night and the server could tell by my face it had not gone down well for either me or my husband… simply horrid! I’m sure there’s more difference between them than the hop variety.

    1. That’s interesting…I purchased Blue Moon in the US and 3 of us did a taste test back in Ottawa vs. Rickards White and we could not tell the difference.

  8. Had my first Blue/Belgian Moon last night……………… Honestly tasted like a watered down Hoegaarden. So no, it wasn’t real good. I’d much rather drink a Rickard’s White any day. Typical though. All the promotion, with none of the taste. I’ve always found that the best beers are popular by word of mouth.

    1. Typical of the big brewers. Blue Moon is not much to talk about. ACCOUNTANT BEER like all the rest. Ontario has maturing craft brewing scene and I think the big brewers are getting worried about changing consumer taste. This new generation of beer drinkers is not easily swayed the brewers propaganda and are seeking out different choices in beer. That’s why well made craft beer will continue to garner market share while the big guys lose ground. They are in a panic about changes in Ontario’s liquor laws. Serves them right for producing poor quality product all these years expecting us just to keep drinking it!

  9. My memory may be a little foggy but I remember looking at Molson’s website during the pre-Coors days and one of their product was a Belgian brew with a odd name I can’t remember that was produced solely for export. After the merger Blue Moon suddenly appeared in the U.S.! It was brewed at that time in T.O by the “BMBC”. I brought a bottle marked as such back from Key West just to prove to my American drinking buddies that Blue Moon was originally a Canadian beer and was subsequently marketed by Coors when they looked at Molson’s stable and said hey, we should try this out in the U.S. market. Not certain where it is actually brewed now (there have been many cities on the labels) but for certain it was first a Canadian beer, not a U.S. brewmaster’s creation.

  10. Thank you for the explanation. I’ve been wondering about this. Truth be told, I actually like Shocktop/Rickard’s White/Belgian Moon. I love to support true craft brewers, but haven’t found any offering this style of beer. Any suggestions for it in the GTA.

    And while I’m asking for suggestions….while I was in France recently I tried and loved Leffe Ruby, a cranberry beer. Any tips on finding something similar here?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Side Launch Wheat is one of the best beers in this category of whites, and available in better beer bars, the LCBO, and I believe the Beer Store too. Look for yellow cans with a black ship logo on the side. Saisons are another beer style you’d probably like as they often contain a lot of wheat and are frequently flavoured with fruit. You won’t find Saisons at a Jack Astors or a local dive bar, but places with a good tap selection should have one or two.

    2. Hi Heather, I’m not your usual beer drinker, however, I was trying samples of beer at a local restaurant, one evening, got to the, Belgian Moon, with a slice of Orange, and loved it. Perfect, on a warm, summer day. I have the odd beer, and now, I put a lot of orange in mine, as I love the taste, and that it is, so very, thirst quenching. I bet you could do the same with fresh/frozen cranberries, muddled in your beer. Give it a whirl, you never know…Happy Tasting. 🙂

    3. Just saw this post. If you’re looking for a great Ontario Belgian-style wit, try Black Bellows White. I’m quite proud to have developed a beer that is big on flavour (to make up for our very limited marketing budget). Cheers!

      1. Thanks for the suggestion Peter. I’ll keep my eye out for it 🙂 Will you be at Brewfest in a couple of weeks?

      2. Hey Heather, due to the aforementioned limited marketing budget, it’s not something we’re going to be involved with this year. Hopefully in the future this type of event is something we can do more of! Cheers.

  11. Update! I did a side by side taste comparison and Rickards White is a touch sweeter and a tiny bit darker than Blue/Belgian Moon. Without this careful comparison they’re virtually indistinguishable, but with it, there was a small perceivable difference in sweetness/dryness and colour. I preferred Blue/Belgian Moon.

  12. A few years ago…20+ while in Colarodo I saw a Tshirt that I bought..’’. It has a very similar logo. That shirt is long since been wore out. Coors Brewing Company and its marketing has been around for a long time.

  13. I’m from Montreal but travel to south Florida often, where my beer of choice is Blue moon. When I heard that Blue moon was in Canada as Belgian moon I quickly went to get a case saying I was disappointed isn’t enough.

    Whomever did the taste test and assumed that Blue moon (USA) and Beligain Moon taste the same, needs to get their taste buds checked.
    Blue moon (USA) is distinctive, the orange flavour (created with Valencia orange peels) is perfectly balanced and pronounced, additionally the finish is pleasantly long.

    Belgian Moon (Canada) has a short to quick medium finish at best and the orange flavour is non familiar and practically non existent.

    The two beers are quite different, more like one competitor tried to copy another and didn’t get it quite right.

    1. Both Belgian Moon and Blue Moon are brewed in the exact same factory in Montreal though. Maybe the way you drank it (bottle/can/draft) was different. Memory can play tricks on us. Try a side by side comparison if you can, like I did with Rickard’s White and Blue Moon.

      1. Hi Jason,i’m also an avid wine collector and “i would like to think” that my taste buds are usually spot on. I’ve been drinking blue moon for about two years in the US and the taste has been consistent to about 95%. the Belgian moon that i purchased in montreal was a different animal all together, however it is possible that the case i purchased was off somehow.

      2. Jason, they are not only brewed in the same place, they are the, identical product. In July of, 2015, Molson Coors announced, Blue Moon would be sold in, Canada as, Belgian Moon.

  14. I’m not a beer connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination. I “discovered” Blue Moon on a trip to Montana a couple of years ago (from Canada). I subsequently wanted to get some back in Alberta and couldn’t but I noticed the packaging was almost identical. I was curious about the name change, googled it, and up came on this page. The funny part is that I didn’t actually purchase the Blue Moon thinking it was a craft beer. After all, it’s next to the Coors Lite and Budweiser in the cooler at the gas station, and available on most United and Delta flights apparently. So for what it’s worth, IMHO I think it’s one of the better tasting mass marketed beers available – even if the marketing is somewhat ambiguous it’s a far site better than their other offerings. From that perspective, kudos to them for having a product that is appealing and producible in mass quantities. I actually like the taste of it and yes I do drink it with a wedge of orange. Just my perspective as Joe Average.

  15. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Richards white has been duplicated. I will continue to refuse to drink the so called duplicate, whatever they call it !

  16. Once again I stand confused why the applicable brewer eliminated Rickards white from their pubs draught dispenser. No matter what they say Belgium moon is Not as good as Rickards white.


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