When Keith Villa first started brewing Blue Moon, most people in the U.S. were not familiar with Belgian-style “wit” beers. Now, more than 20 years later, Blue Moon Belgian White is the most popular craft beer in the country. 

Like many other players in the craft space, Blue Moon saw sales slip last year. But, as reported by Molson Coors a few weeks ago, it is back on track in 2017.

We caught up with Chris Steele, senior brand manager of the Blue Moon Brewing Company, to talk about what happened, how the team responded to the challenge and what’s on tap for the rest of the year.

So, Blue Moon hit a rough patch in 2016. What happened?

Part of it is a culmination of the craft market becoming increasingly saturated over the years – the number of styles and brands have overwhelmed and confused people. Adding to that, at times I think we lost a little focus on the role we play for drinkers. That’s why, moving ahead, you’ll see us really emphasize our ownership of the wheat beer style, especially Blue Moon Belgian White. It sets us apart.

What are you doing differently?

We came into the new year with a plan to get it back on track. That started with putting more focus on Belgian White, including significant investment in national media for the brand’s new creative campaign and refreshed packaging graphics. As a result of that and activating some other proven brand programs, we saw Blue Moon Belgian White return to growth in the first quarter.

Tell us about the new creative?

The new advertising shows Blue Moon at home and at the bar, the same type of social occasions where craft and above premium brands play. We also highlight the key ingredient that makes Belgian White refreshing and flavorful, Valencia orange peel.

What’s coming for Blue Moon for the rest of 2017?

Plenty! First, we brought back fan favorite and three-time medal winner at a major U.S. beer competition, Summer Honey Wheat and for the first time, introduced another medal winner, Mango Wheat in our variety pack. The reception for both has been fantastic so far. And, last month we brought out a new aluminum pint bottle, so it’s easier than ever to bring Blue Moon Belgian White to meal and outdoor social occasions. We are also updating our approach to variety packs by leaning more on approachable, familiar wheat beers that our fans will love.