MillerCoors partners with La Colombe Coffee Roasters on hard cold brew coffee test

MillerCoors today said it is testing a hard cold brew coffee in three U.S. markets in partnership with renowned third-wave coffee company La Colombe Coffee Roasters.

La Colombe Hard Cold Brew Coffee, a ready-to-drink cold brew with 4.2% alcohol-by-volume, is rolling out this month in Boston, Denver and in the greater Tampa/Fort Myers/Treasure Coast area in Florida.

The drink is made from medium-roasted Colombian and Brazilian cold brew coffee, alcohol derived from a malt base, cane sugar and natural flavor. Its two flavors, Black and Vanilla, are packaged in four-packs of 9-ounce cans that will retail around $9.99 and 9-ounce single cans that will go for about $2.79.

“We’re thrilled to team up with La Colombe on this exciting launch. They bring deep expertise in the category and their focus on quality sourcing, roasting and innovation made them the perfect partner,” says Sofia Colucci, vice president of innovation at MillerCoors. “Millennials are constantly looking for new products to complement their active, busy lives. La Colombe Hard Cold Brew Coffee does exactly that.”

Black is a smooth cold brew with a touch of sweetness and a delicate bitterness highlighted by notes of baker’s chocolate. The Vanilla flavor is accented by rich vanilla bean and dark chocolate notes. Both contain about 50 milligrams of caffeine per can. Its launch will be supported with a regional marketing campaign focused on the brand’s theme, “Rally Like A Grown-Up.”

Food & Wine magazine got an early taste of the drinks and found them to be “surprisingly smooth and rich.”

MillerCoors considered multiple approaches as it weighed entering hard cold brewed coffee. But in the end, “we felt it was important to tap a company with existing coffee credentials, and La Colombe kept rising to the top,” Colucci says. “Their expertise in sourcing, roasting and product innovation makes them the ideal partner.”

The partnership with La Colombe is the latest example of how MillerCoors is seeking to diversify its offerings within beer and in adjacent categories.

The company in recent weeks has announced it is taking Saint Archer Gold, a new above-premium light lager, national in 2020; redesigned and relaunched Miller64 as an extra light lager; and unveiled a new non-alcohol beer, Coors Edge, that will launch later this fall.

MillerCoors also this year launched Cape Line Hard Sparkling Cocktails and said Monday it would take a new line of wine spritzers called Movo nationwide in three flavors in March 2020.

The La Colombe launch comes as ready-to-drink coffee continues to grow, averaging an annual growth rate of about 10%, according to Nielsen data covering 52 weeks through Aug. 10. La Colombe is outpacing the market, logging growth over that same period of 33%, per Nielsen.

Limited data is available on the nascent hard cold brew space, which includes relatively few players that range from brewers like Pabst to smaller players such as Café Agave and Bad Larry’s. But MillerCoors and La Colombe see promise in the proposition, positioning the brand as “the perfect drink for many occasions, like weekend brunches, all-day events and evening celebrations with friends,” Colucci says. 

Founded in 1994, Philadelphia-based La Colombe was one of the pioneers of direct-trade coffee sourcing and among the roasters that emerged during the third wave of coffee. The company operates some 30 cafes nationwide and in 2016 moved into ready-to-drink canned coffees and coffee-based drinks that can be found at better retailers throughout the U.S.

“The story of Hard Cold Brew Coffee is really the story of a friendship. When two makers and innovators come together something really special can come out of it, and that something special is this product,” said Todd Carmichael, CEO and co-founder of La Colombe. “As makers, we simply started concocting. One of us knows the alcohol industry really well and the other knows coffee really well, and it turns out together we (are) the perfect pair. This Hard Cold Brew Coffee is truly something beautiful.”