Chocolate + beer = competitive edge

Fans of unusually flavored beers are largely limited to small craft products. Now, however, the big boys are increasingly getting into the act.

The latest is a chocolate beer from Miller Brewing Co., being brewed up in time for the holiday sales season but with distribution limited to Midwest markets.

Anheuser-Busch already has introduced such flavored beers as Michelob Honey Lager and Michelob Amber Bock plus several seasonal beers.

Industry analysts say the increase in the offbeat brews comes in response to competition from energy drinks, flavored vodkas and rums, and specialty cocktails that offer a wide range of flavors beyond the basic.

Frederick Miller Classic Chocolate Lager is being brewed with six different malts and will be available from October through December. The beer won the gold medal at the 2005 Great American Beer Festival in the "herb and spice" category under the name Temptation Bock. It will be sold in a four-pack of 12-ounce bottles with a suggested retail price of $5.99.

Pete Marino, Miller spokesman, said in a statement, "It's about demonstrating what beer can be all about. Today there's a lot of expectation from beer drinkers for variety, and we can create a lot of different flavors and options outside of traditional beer."

It should be noted that Miller isn't the inventor of chocolate beer. Other brewers got there first with such products as Samuel Adams' Chocolate Bock, the Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout and a variety of craft-brewed chocolate stouts.

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