Colt 45 Rides Again

Revival effort brings a horse of a different color

SAN ANTONIO -- The new owners of the Colt 45 malt-liquor brand, with the help of rapper Snoop Dogg, plan to unveil next month a label called Blast by Colt 45. The beverage will contain fruit flavors and 12% alcohol by volume, about twice the level of the original version of Colt 45.

The move places the brand into a rapidly growing category that has drawn criticism from lawmakers and anti-alcohol groups: high-alcohol, fruit-infused malt beverages, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. That makes Blast a risky debut for the Metropoulos family, which acquired Colt 45 [image-nocss] through its purchase last year of Pabst Brewing Co. for about $250 million. Pabst is the fifth-largest U.S. beer supplier by sales.

Brothers Evan and Daren Metropoulos, who control the San Antonio-based company with their father, private-equity investor C. Dean Metropoulos, said Blast is the first of what will be a number of efforts to refresh Pabst's time-worn brands.

The company's flagship brew, Pabst Blue Ribbon, has enjoyed strong growth since 2002 thanks to a newfound hipster appeal. But Colt 45, advertised by actor Billy Dee Williams in the 1980s, has been in decline for over a decade, according to the report.

The Metropoulos brothers said they signed a long-term marketing agreement with Snoop Dogg (whose real name is Calvin Broadus), under which the rapper will promote the brand during live music, television and other appearances. Snoop already is touting Blast on Twitter. The company declined to discuss the terms of the deal with the artist but said it will spend millions of dollars on the launch of Blast, including ads in Vibe, a music magazine.

Colt 45 has long targeted an urban, African-American audience, but Blast is aimed at a broader array of drinkers, including women, Daren Metropoulos told the newspaper.

Blast, which will make its debut in stores April 5, or "4-5," for Colt 45, will be sold in 6-packs of 7-ounce bottles, as well as in single, 23.5-ounce cans. Flavors include strawberry lemonade and raspberry watermelon, with colors to match. The 6-pack will cost about $7.

Blast will compete with Phusion Projects LLC's Four Loko, United Brands Co.'s Joose and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV's Tilt.