One of the world’s largest beer conglomerates just got served. On February 12, California's Stone Brewing, which identifies itself as “the antithesis to Big Beer” (and has defended the copyright on its name successfully in years past), filed suit against MillerCoors, arguing that the rebranding of MillerCoors’s vaguely Rocky-Mountain-themed Keystone infringes on its trademark. Long before it added Miller to its name, back in 1989, Coors introduced Keystone in California. But that was several beer mergers ago, before craft beer became big. Today, new product art on Keystone cases is done in such a way that only the “STONE” is apparent, and MillerCoors’s social media has dropped “Key” from mentions of the beer. “We will not stand for this kind of overtly and aggressively deceptive advertising,” said Stone Brewing in announcing the suit. “Frankly, MillerCoor [sic] should be ashamed.”
Frankly, MillerCoors should be ashamed of Keystone for a lot of reasons, which is probably why it wants to change the name now. But to what? What sort of rebranding could bring back this standby of college parties on the cheap and “Hell, all the good beer is gone, but there’s some Keystone in the garage fridge” weekend afternoons? Here are seven options we’d like to offer up to MillerCoors and Keystone beer, free of charge and from the bottom of our beer-soaked hearts.
7. Frat Fuel Honestly, this was already what everyone called Keystone back in college, though the moniker was also applied to other cheap beers. But Natty Light has its own adorable name already, and Milwaukee’s Best is more appropriately called The Beast, so MillerCoors could just get ahead of the curve, officially change the name of Keystone to Frat Fuel, and make millions off the Greek system and its utter willingness to see this move as a measure of respect rather than the pejorative that it’s clearly meant to be.
6. Your First Beer If MillerCoors can’t market Keystone successfully as a drinker’s beer, then maybe it can open up a whole new market: people having a beer for the first time. Think of it like training wheels — the thing that helps someone do something they’re really not ready for in order to get them ready for it. Great for freshman karaoke night, falling off the wagon (but only sorta), or laying a foundation at home before you head out into the world to drink for the reals.
5. Ol’ Pete’s Dirty Sasparilly Pete Coors might have lost his Senate bid back in 2004, but he’s still the popular face of MillerCoors as a company, standing near streams and wearing plaid vests with Rocky Mountain panache. So it only makes sense that the no-longer-family-owned company rebrand the flagging Keystone with Pete’s grinning visage, marrying it not only to him, but to the vaguely Old West sarsaparilla drink, which everyone knows exists but just assumes it’s like root beer. (It isn't.)
4. Mountain Brew Sure, this would just bring on another lawsuit from PepsiCo, but watching these two beverage goliaths go at it would be sort of like when King Kong fought Godzilla. The only difference is that you wouldn’t be rooting for either one.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.