WTF, a beer, not just a slogan

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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If you’re depressed by the stalled economy or weak polling numbers, California’s Lagunitas Brewing Company has the beer for you —  a 22 oz. bottle of ‘Wilco Tango Foxtrot,’ which is described by the brewer as “a malty, robust jobless recovery ale.”

“Two years ago, we did a beer called ‘Correction Ale,’” said Don Chartier, one of the brewer’s marketing execs. “That was a commentary on the economy when experts were telling us we weren’t in a recession or a depression, but a correction,” he said.

“Last year, we were hoping to do a ‘Recovery Ale,’ but we all know that didn’t happen,” said Chartier, who declared his formal title in the company was actually “Mr. Nice Guy.”

The new label is a play on the White House’s slogan of ‘Winning the Future.’ It was designed by the brewery’s founder, Tony McGee, who wanted the name to match the proper military shorthand, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.” But, Chartier said, regulations say “we can’t put ‘Whiskey’ on a beer label, so we used ‘Wilco.’”

The brewery has eight regular beers and nine types of constantly changing beers that are brewed for seasons of roughly nine weeks, he said. The labels are set by McGee, he said. “A lot of time, we don’t know what he has in mind until we see the labels,” Chartier said.

For the brown bottles of WTF, McGee then added a tagline: “We’re not quite in the red, or the black. Does that mean we’re in the brown?”

The brewery is in the town of Petaluma, in Marin County, about 40 miles north of San Francisco. It is 20 minutes from the vineyards at Napa Valley, and close to several other breweries, including Russian River Brewing Co. and Moonlight Brewing Co., he said.

The brewery’s label also displays a small dog because McGee wanted a dog on the label, said Chartier. The brewery had previously used an alternative label showing a bug, he said, but “nobody really liked the bug, everybody loves the dog, and we’re all very dog friendly anyway.”

The Wilco Tango Foxtrot beer is being marketed with the alt-country band Wilco, which emerged  in 1994 from a previous band called Uncle Tupelo.

Lagunitas is a small player in the nation’s diversified beer industry, Chartier said. Until prohibition, the country had roughly 3,500 local breweries, each of which were protected from national brewers by the nationals’ inability to deliver fresh beers to rural drinkeries. But prohibition shuttered many local breweries, and its repeal allowed the national breweries to grab a huge market-share, Chartier said. The big breweries were aided by new refrigeration-trucks and national highways which allowed them to deliver fresh product all over the country.

But newer technology helps small breweries develop their own micro-brews, label them with the help of contract-printers, deliver them quickly all over the country, and market them with the help of computer-technology, including the Internet, he said. The nation’s diverse beer industry now has roughly 4,000 breweries and perhaps 100,000 different varieties of the brown stuff for a myriad market-niches, he said.

Lagunitas can move a new type of beer from conception to store-shelf in only three weeks, Chartier said.

Conception to digestion takes a little longer, and conception to temporary contrition just takes a few hours more.