milwaukee's best ice
Credit: © MillerCoors

As human beings, we know that sometimes people drink primarily to get drunk. And depending on how you feel about alcohol, that can be fine or it can be not so fine. But for brands who sell alcoholic beverages, touting the intoxicating effects of their wares is typically seen as a slippery slope, and usually discussion of strength of ABV isn’t put front and center.

So some people have been surprised at new billboards for beer brand Milwaukee’s Best Ice that have popped up on freeways in Wisconsin. “Milwaukee's Best Ice now 6.9% ALC/VOL,” the ads says alongside a photo featuring cans of Milwaukee’s Best’s product line. And that’s it. It’s a straightforward message; maybe a little too straightforward some think.

According to MillerCoors, maker of the brand, the billboards specifically discuss the brew’s alcohol content – which was recently raised from 5.9 percent – because the company is “committed to leading the industry in transparency so that our consumers can make fully informed choices.”

But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel talked to a number of experts who were skeptical that these ads were only about transparency. “Clearly they are promoting this beverage based on its higher alcohol content,” Traci Toomey, a professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, told the paper. “The higher the alcohol content, the more quickly people become impaired and the more likely a community/state will experience and pay for more alcohol-related problems.” Eric Shepard, executive editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights and an industry veteran, admitted such advertising was “not standard procedure.”

Of course, everyone’s true intentions probably lay somewhere in the middle. What’s the point of MillerCoors going through the trouble of jacking up the beer’s ABV if nobody knows about it? But at the same time, billboard’s reading “Go get extra blitzed!” are out of the question. So they advertised the change the best they can. How you feel about that is up to you. Though the good news is if you’re not too keen on the concept, you’re probably not the kind of person who’ll be buying Milwaukee’s Best regardless.