Learning From Mistakes Fridays: Molson M

Hey everyone, this is Molson M:

It is not very good.  I had a whole article planned to tell you exactly, in painstaking detail, everything that is un-delicious about this beer, but then I realized:  yes, I could write another scathing review of a terrible product (which I apparently do with such frequency that my mother winces in advance of clicking on my articles), or I could find a way to turn this into a positive experience.  It’s a challenge, you realize, because drinking Molson M is pretty terrible, but I am bent on trying to find a way to make this helpful to the world at large.

First, I guess, I should explain what this is, just in case you’re not the sort of inveterate drinker who is constantly pestering waiters and liquor employees about what’s new to sample.  Molson M is a new domestic premium (for Canadians) / imported super-premium (for you unfortunate Americans) that seems to be selling itself purely on the strength of a grown-up image and the implied wizardry behind the word “microcarbonated.”

“What exactly does that mean?” I asked my favorite rep at our local LCBO.

“Smaller bubbles,” he replied.  “Micro-small, as you might guess.”

I put forward that, on the whole, the bubbles in beer seemed regularly pretty tiny.  Was this simply a re-statement of the obvious, and we should soon expect to see, “Made of 100% non-solids” on a label soon?

“Ha, yeah, no,” he said, peering around the store for more interesting beers to sell me.  He spotted a beer in the cooler that was named after dead elephants, but decided to explain, “It’s a process they came up with where the fermentation produces smaller bubbles, which gets you a Guinness-style head on the beer.”

He thought for a moment and added, “Plus, less bloat.  It’s not for you. I’d really give it a miss.”

Naturally, I couldn’t — thus confirming that I am idiotically vulnerable to even the most ridiculous novelty, and proving that I should really listen to people who know what they’re talking about.  Indeed, I was able to confirm that:

  1. Molson M is a generally uninspired beer,
  2. Featuring tiny little bubbles that are closer to champagne than they are to Guinness,
  3. Which as a result goes flat more or less instantly after you pour it into a glass,
  4. Leaving you with cold, bland lager that tastes like someone’s been stirring it with a dirty spoon for several minutes.
  5. YUM! Blech.

But hey, there’s lots of crappy beer out there, right?  If I wanted to bag on a terrible drinking experience, I could’ve brought home four tallboys of Steeler and called it a day, you know?  Why should this one be so instructional?

Because, I think, there is a great deal to be learned about how not to sell a beer from Molson M.  It has the architecture of a failed product through and through, and if I can help to expose even a few reasons why, I believe then I’ll have done everyone a service — and perhaps helped avert future mistakes like this from happening.  So let’s dive in, why don’t we, with something nice and obvious like:

The Name

Molson M smacks of being the result of a product development meeting that everyone left feeling very pleased with how clever they were.  Imagine that you’re the office intern, hanging around the conference room door as everyone walks out, hoping to swoop in and grab whatever leftover sandwiches are in there, and you can just happen to see the totemic power words scrawled across the whiteboard:


Wow, right?  Now imagine ordering it in a noisy bar.




You:  M?  An M?  EMMMMM?

Bartender:  WHA?

You:  M!  EMMMMM! The– god damn it, THAT NEW MOLSON!  MOLSON M!

Bartender:  Bleh, your funeral.



The thing is that it isn’t even a word — M isn’t even a syllable, it’s just a phoneme.  It’s a sound, and one that makes you sound like you may be having a stroke, the louder you make it.  But that’s what’s on the label, that’s what’s on the tap, and why wouldn’t that be the first thing that comes to mind when you order it?  Only after a humiliating exercise in brand identification do you actually figure out what to say:  “Molson M.”

Which, don’t kid yourself, is absolutely by design.  Molson’s other products, like Canadian or Export or Rickards, all have their own strong identities — you never ever have to mention the brewer itself when you’re ordering the product, and this clearly got someone’s juices flowing.  It was on someone’s business plan to get people saying the word “Molson” more often in Canada’s pubs, bars and restaurants, and the best way that they could think to do that is invent a product whose actual name — “M” — is pain-in-the-ass impractical.

But hey, it looks great on a label, and it’s iconic, and it asserts the brand!  Who cares if it makes customers sound like they’re being electrocuted when they ask for it?  And who cares, because M is clever!  It stands for Molson!  And it also stands for…


Which, what?

If you go and read the literature about microcarbonation — and Molson has produced a surprising amount of it in support of this product, between the PR and the website — you may notice a couple of things missing.  Namely:

  1. What exactly it is, and
  2. Why it makes their beer good

Instead, their literature ballyhoos the technology as being revolutionary and, you know, great, before moving on to talk about how the beer is award-winning and, you know, great.  Now I realize that not everyone out there is interested in the chemistry of brewing, or the reason that certain processes render specific flavors, but perhaps a little more detail is in order?  Lest I get suspicious that one may have come up with a clever buzzword that just happens to link into the whole marketing campaign, and then slapped it everywhere?

And I don’t even really care about that so much, because you all know that I am all about gimmicks and flavors and ideas.  But if you’re doing something clever, and that is the primary reason that you want me to consume your product instead of the home-made wine in my basement, then you have to paint a more complete picture!  It’s not enough simply to say, “Microcarbonated for delicious lager goodness, now check out this boss logo, isn’t that dignified?” because concept does not equal marketing.  Which reminds me:


I’m not saying that every time I Google a brand of beer I should be confronted with this:

But this is the sexiest thing that I could find in the first four pages of Google Image Searches on Molson M:

No offense to these guys, but it feels to me like the Molson M team is resting a little bit too comfortably on their concept, you know what I mean?  They seem to be selling it entirely on the basis of a dignified, gold-on-black color palette; its association with the parent brand name, which I suppose confers some kind of premium-ness to it; and a poorly-defined brewing process that doesn’t actually make a lot of sense, and will be easily confused with micro-brewing, a term people have already heard a gojillion times before.

All of which would be fine, if it wasn’t blindingly obvious that product positioning is the best thing Molson M has going for it, because…

Dear God the beer is terrible

By which I mean, the primary selling point — the dimly-conveyed microcarbonation — is also its greatest drawback.  Wee little bubbles dissipate almost instantly, which depletes the only resource in most beers for disguising their fundamental awfulness.  Why in the world would anyone actively seek that out?

I mean, for those who are totally into it, I wouldn’t want to stop them:  Enjoy your freshly-poured and near-instantaneously flat beer, middle-aged men attracted to premium brands!  The reduced carbonation will produce a flavor familiar to you, without introducing uncomfortable farty feelings!


Is that the truth, then, at the heart of this product?  Someone figured out how to make a beer that is optimized for the delicate tummies, forever rattling with Zantacs, of a growing demographic?  Could it be that all of these logos and buzzwords, clever names and single-letter moaning, are all there to cover up the fact that this is a beer for those who have digestive problems, but don’t want to quit drinking?

God, no wonder they worked so hard to come up with a different message — but let me ask you this!  If indeed that is the true benefit of Molson M, that older ladies and dudes could enjoy it without the terrible gastric consequences that would normally await them, then why not be loud and proud about it?   Why must products forever be an exercise in persuading those who don’t want it to buy it, when they could be a celebration of exactly why certain people should want nothing else?

Molson M: Learn from their mistakes — make a great product, give people a reason to use your brand rather than being cute about backing them into it, and be open about who you’re going after.

Molson LO2:  All the flavor, none of the baggage!

See?  Not that hard.  Heck, my LCBO guy had it nailed from the outset.

  • Alison

    So embarassing……I really like it…….not that I’ve ever claimed to have a discerning palate.

  • Alison

    That said: this whole ‘bloat king’ aspect of the marketing is news to me. Now I feel all bamboozled by a beer corporation – just like I did when I had my first sip of Sleeman Clear. Shudder.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/molsonfk Forest Kenney

    Hi Tina and Mike, it’s Forest from Molson here. I read your review and wanted to comment.

    I’m sorry that you took the time to try Molson M abut did not enjoy it. Fortunately Canada’s beer selection in 2011’s features a great number of choices, both in our portfolio and elsewhere.

    Regarding your comments on the brand’s marketing I completely respect your opinion, and on the beer front I understand that this is not a product that you enjoyed. All I wanted to say however is that you reference ‘award winning’ in your review, and that is true. Molson M won the gold medal as best in class in the North American Lager category at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards. That event saw 390 entries into 31 categories by 76 Canadian breweries, and beers were judged in a blind taste test. Referencing the award is not an attempt to change your mind, it’s just meant to showcase that M is indeed a quality product that is appreciated by a great number of beer fans.

    I’d like to thank you for taking the time to try M, and apologize again that it was not to your liking. I hope there are other brands of ours that are more to your liking.

    Best regards,

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Aw, Forest, and now I feel like a creep. Thanks so much for coming by and sticking up for M! I am a happy customer of loads of other Molson products — woe betide anyone who bags on Export in my presence — I just really, honestly can’t figure out M.

  • Forest Kenney

    Glad to hear that on the Ex front – different strokes for different folks i guess.


  • erica

    Wow, Mike! First Ron Jeremy and now the Molson folks are hitting the site. WTG! 🙂

  • jefferson

    In my experience as a fine dining waiter, I learned the difference between the robust effervescence of Perrier and the delicate tingle of San Pellegrino, the two top mineral waters in my neck of the woods. The difference is noticeable to the refined palette, and yes sir, I claim, with modest dignity, to have a refined palette. Molson M is quite refreshing without ravaging the throat when you hold the bottle high to grab the bull by the horns and quench that monster thirst. How foolish the reviewer is to pour into a glass a product which is modestly sold in just that very thing: a glass bottle, a simple device for the unpretentious to use to drink a beer. give this unassuming, humble, refined and delicate beverage another chance. Picture the committee that approved and commissioned it: somewhere in the room in every committee meeting, there is an individual who doesn’t quite fit in but has great ideas and a little difficulty expressing them. A good idea, stuttered out by one over-qualified, underpaid dude with a sensitive stomach: “smaller bubbles.” Genius pokes through the suffocating matrix of corporate culture from which emerges mass-produced beer, Genius.
    good day, sir.

  • Chris

    Gold!!! Yea, I read that and wondered who is fooling who? Those judges should be banned from ever judging beer ever again. This swill tastes like those cheap, corn filled beer you get at all those all inclusive resorts. If this beer won Gold, what did the beer taste like that didn’t show? These Canadian Brewing Awards are a complete sham. M is terrible. I bought a can and couldn’t finish it. Molson has tons of money, but sadly it goes into marketing and not ingredients. I give this beer a .05 out of 10.

  • http://www.TorontoBeerBlog.com Chris Schryer

    To be fair, in the category they won gold in, North American Premium Lager, Molson M is actually a very good representation of the style. I’m not really a fan of the particular beer, personally, but that doesn’t make it “bad beer”. I don’t particularly like Scotch Ales either, but I wouldn’t then label Bellhaven Wee Heavy as bad. One of the jobs of a judge (and in the case of CBAs, it was a combination of BJCP cert judges, and “public” which were people who had completed the first level of Prud’homme training) is to objectively judge a beer based on the category it was entered in. That being said, a lovely pale ale, let’s say Garrison Hop Yard, would get smoked in the North American Premium Lager category. It’s not that Hop Yard isn’t excellent, it just doesn’t fit the category.

    With regards to the annoying hype, though: this silly assumption that M means you feel “less bloated”. If you swallow liquid that has saturated carbon dixoide in it, it will come of of saturation in your stomach. It doesn’t matter weather the bubbles are microscopic or huge. They will bubble out, and make you either burp, or feel bloated. Unless your stomach is pressurized to the same pressure the beer was carbonated under. In your case, Mike, I guess the function works, as the beer went totally flat. The draught version that I reviewed on my blog certianly still had quite a bit of carbonation, and as such, behaved like any other beer.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      I believe that draught Molson M probably enjoys some advantage in the bubble-ness department, but what came out of the cans most definitely went flat in a very short time. I think, though, that has less to do with any kind of mystical micro-bubble-technolgy and more with it being a really, really disappointing beer.

      And while I totally hear you about the confines of beer awards, could it not possibly be that these categories are sliced thinly enough as to reward beers that would otherwise not merit any notice? It brings WWF Championship belts to mind: “I’m the tag team hardcore American Champion, Northwest Division! And I’ll see you at the forum on Sunday!

  • Francis

    I live in Quebec ( Canada).
    I’m so glad I read your article.
    Because I needed to express myself on this topic.
    And you did it before me, in a great way.
    We have a BIG problem here.
    It is called MOLSON.
    The province of Quebec is world-famous for his craft beers.
    As famous as belgian , german and irish beers.
    ”Unibroue” has won many world championship.
    I’m homebrewer.People here like beer, A LOT.
    It’s part of our culture. French-canadians’ ancestors were actually never fond of wine like most people think they were.
    Most of them were from Britanny and Normandy. They enjoyed ale, cider and calvados.
    Quebeckers too. Our Cider, Ales and distilled products (Caribou) are great.
    Our province is somekind of holyland for beer drinkers.
    But Quebec is also world-famous for Molson and Labatt.
    I mean…
    Where did it go wrong?

    Molson Canadian/Molson Export/Molson Dry etc. were already amazingly POPULAR and DISGUSTING.
    But Molson M. Let’s be frank, it’s amazingly popular too. But it taste like piss.
    Nothing less.
    Fermented Piss.
    In a bottle that let the sunlight rot the beer.

    I think you get my point.

  • TK

    I like smooth easy drinking beer and Molson M is great for chugging. Hardly any aftertaste.
    They should pronounce it Molson Mmmm.

    • Beer Snob

      My point exactly (See below). I agree that this is the beer for you…
      I grew up a few years ago and moved on. Now I like to enjoy beer for the taste and experience. College was a fun time but I moved on.

  • Chris

    TK, your standards are pretty low. There is a big world of beer out there. Go out and try as many different beers as you can. Forget M, it is just marketing by people who make factory beer. They don’t care about beer, just making money.

  • TK

    I honestly did try 6 to 7 different beers every time I’ve drank M and it was by far my favourite each time. You come off as a condescending blow hard who only drinks a beer, because it’s one of a kind. I don’t care where,when, or how a beer is made as long it goes down smooth. Lastly do you really believe most micro brews aren’t based on some marketing trend and made in a industrial setting.

    • Beer Snob

      I know for a fact that most Craft brews are Not made in huge facilities like Molson uses. They have to be deemed industrial though but are quite a bit smaller than a typical commercial brewery. there is on in Ontario that make 100L batches. the name escapes me though.

      Based on your replies, why do you drink a “premium” beer if you don’t really care about the taste. Ontario has a number of Buck a beer brands that fit your bill. The “taste” of them is so indistinguishable one from the other, there is not point in paying a premium for M. But its your money. Victim of Marketing….

  • Chris

    Condescending blowhard? No need to get nasty TK. Now, go and grab a Molson M out of the fridge and drink it as fast as you can. Don’t let the mountains get warm.

  • Craig

    Agree with you TK, guys like Chris make me laugh so much. They’re so much smarter than the other 95% of beer drinkers out there who drink ‘factory beer’. Funny they need to seek out spaces like this to criticize people’s choices – probably because not many want to actually share a beer with them in person

    And Chris – seeing your last post, condescending seems pretty accurate, just maybe needs a few colorful adjectives in front of it… (Condescending: showing or implying a usually patronizing descent from dignity or superiority)

  • Chris

    I guess you Molson minions are right. The beer I drink is superior to Molson M. They don’t need to advertise their beer, it speaks for itself. You two clowns really need to get out there and try different kinds of beer. And yes, I am smarter than you guys. I know a good beer and M is not a good beer. Personal attacks don’t bother me, it just shows your ignorance to beer in general.

  • Craig

    Calling someone condescending isn’t exactly a personal attack Chris, just an acknowledgement of the tone and language you use to present yourself. Hit a little close to home did it?

    It’s easy to see there are a ton of great beers out there, thanks for the suggestion of going out to try them. I believe your arguments and dislike have nothing to do with the actual beer, but with the thought of mainstream/corporate. The second the oak-casked rye ale you love so much gets bought by Labatts or Hienieken it instantly becomes ‘bad’, just like the rest of their products. I’m guessing we could take any of the beers you hate, put them in an unrecognizable bottle, hand paint a lable on them, and you would fight to the death to say they were better than X (whatever beer it actually is). Gotta go, my mountains just turned blue

  • Mario

    Some look for an experience when drinking beer (or wine) Molson M ain’t an experience, it’s major marketing scheme which has proven very successful and I tip my hat to Molson for doing so.

    The difference between big commercial breweries main line of beers and craft breweries beers is the same as the guy who thinks fine dining is not as good as his local chip stand poutine. I have a friend who will choose a poutine over a fine dining plate, I’m not being silly here.

    There is absolutely nothing special about Molson M, as a matter of fact and as a craft brewer if I would be given the choice between an M, Export or Canadian, I would choose the last 2 in a heartbeat.

    To you, the Molson M lovers out there, perhaps there isnt much that will change your mind, but consider that every craft beer drinkers out there were like you at some point, I dare you to try craft beers of your local brewery that is an experience you might well thank me for 🙂


  • Chris

    You are so wrong. Oak-casked rye ale? Where did that come from? I have drank many mainstream/corporate beers and still didn’t like them. No malt or hops, too much of a percentage of adjuncts. I know what I like and what I dislike. Molson M isn’t one of them. Molson/Coors make technically perfect beer. It is just all the same tasting swill. How long did it take you to google the word “condescending”? Calling someone a condescending blowhard is a personal attack in my opinion. I have never drank a beer I hated, ever, just didn’t care for it. I brew beer. Been doing it for a long time. I brewed yesterday. I called it “Condescending Blowhard Ale” as a tribute to you and your minions.

  • Beer Snob

    Guys, If you like this beer because it has less taste, you can put it down easily and quickly, and It has no aftertaste. I put it to you that you do not like beer for the sake of beer. you are simply looking for a alcoholic beverage that you can drink. i.e. swill.
    I prefer a beer that has flavour. Tastes good, even warm. A good gauge for beer flavour is if it tastes good while warm, it is good.
    Molson does make a good beer in Creamore Springs. it is good. not great but good. The reason it is good is because they bought the brewery and agreed to stay out of the brewing process and leave it to the original brewers.
    I don’t blame guys for liking beer that is less “fill in the blank”… Its what they learned to like. Perhaps one day you will try a good beer with an open mind and find you enjoy it. Once you do, you will find it is very hard to go back. Try a Creamore Springs Premium lager. http://www.creemoresprings.com/ its made by Molson and would be a good starter beer for your education.

  • Craig

    Mario, Beer Snob – I hear what you’re saying, and am with you in every step right up until the last one. That drinking a certain beer will ‘convert’ me. The last 10 cases of beer I’ve bought have been 2 Molson M, Keith’s IPA (which yes, I know, you don’t consider IPA), 2 Rickards, Beaus, Steamwhistle, Garrison and Coors Light. I’ve had many mixer packs from LCBO before, and the fact of the matter is I likes what i likes.

    What pisses me off is the arrogance of people who think they’re better because they prefer something that’s different to what i like. I consider people who are like that to be condescending and arrogant (a la Chris).

    The fortunate side of the whole discussion is that as long as guys like me keep swilling, the crafts and micros wont ‘go mainstream’ (meaning the snobs can sleep well at night having pride in what they drink)

  • Mario

    @Craig – Some great choices of Micros in there 🙂

    As a craft brewer opening a micro brewery, I know full well I cannot even try to bring down the big guys, that is just silly thinking. But I can make my best to put some awareness that there is more than taste of water to a beer.

    The micro brewery market is sitting at around 5% right now expecting to rise up to 15% within 5 years.

    15% of the market wont make craft beer go mainstream, unfortunately and I don’t see how craft beers could even try to get the big boys off the chart, cost of beer has a major impact as well. Micros will never be able to offer a 24 for 24$, no way.

    If someone wants nothing more than big beer brands, I respect that. If they stop at my brewery they will be as welcome as any others but I will sure try to make the best impression toward craft beers and make them buy some once in a while… even better all the time 😀

    Cheers to all

  • Good Press!!

    I”m not a big fan of the taste of beer (though I keep trying). I will never refuse trying a new beer and ironically I love going to breweries every time I travel. I sling drinks for a living and have noticed in the bar the same argument about this beer . My job is to push it but usually I don’t have to because once this debate starts up it sells itself.

    Any press is good press right!?

    So either way I’m sure Molson is very happy to have so many thoughts and opinions about this beer. It sure makes my hours at work go by with a smile! I work in a tourist area and one thing I can say for sure is it gets people from many different countries coming together to talk or argue and usually ends in people spending more money, Yay! Often ends up in new friends after they’ve had it out which is good for travellers.

    But, because you are all talking about the taste of this particular beer. I find it to have a very distinct taste one that I’m not a fan of. That being said the beer that I do like usually are stouts and I that is far from the Molson M product. I read this article to actually find out more about the beer in reference for my customers. So my question for everyone is if you had my job and had to push it regardless. How would you answer this question….

    What beer does Molson M most taste like?

    Now I’m asked this question from people from all over the world which means me just telling them about another Canadain/American beer usually doesnt work to well. But would love to hear any suggestions!

    CHEERS!! 🙂

    (Don’t forget to tip your bartender and get home safe!)

  • Gmmotorcyclist

    He he he! As a graphic artist, I love the logo. Sophisticated, clean, inventive. But, as you allude too in the article. It is all about hitting a TARGET audience…just like other manufacturers – automobiles, clothing, etc. Eventually, the brand will pass or fail based on sales figures.

  • Molson M

    Molson M is the only zero carb beer that I’ve ever seen on the market.

    It’s not low carb. It’s fucking zero carb. That means you can crush a 12er of it and not lose any ground on your keto diet.