The Bitter Beer Face Campaign

An Introduction to Keystone Light

In the late 1990s, Molson Coors Beverage Company introduced a new advertising campaign that left an indelible mark on the beer industry. The “Bitter Beer Face” campaign, associated specifically with Keystone Light, aimed to showcase the bold flavors of the beer while discouraging the unpleasant taste of bitter hops.

In today’s society of craft beer, microbreweries, and everyone wearing earth-toned shoes and flannel, might be a departure from the original sentiment.

From our research, Coor’s ad agency of record, Leo Burnett, was responsible for the campaign.

Their gamble not only captured the attention of consumers but also became an iconic part of beer advertising history.


The Bitter Beer Face campaign was launched by Molson Coors Beverage Company in the 90s, a time in advertising history that was the Wild West for marketing people.

Zero political correctness, no cancel culture, just pure unadulterated, offensive content 24-7 with no apologies. It was great.

The concept of the campaign naturally highlighted Keystone Light’s mild and smooth taste, setting it apart from beers that might elicit more extreme reactions.

As in all other beers make me look like I’ve been sucking down crystal meth for the last 12 years, I’m trying to make a mend, but I need to borrow 5 bucks.


The campaign featured a series of television commercials where unsuspecting individuals took a sip of a bitter beer, prompting a look of disgust—the iconic Bitter Beer Face, like walking in on your parents mid-thrust. That kind of disgust.

The tagline “Bitter Beer Face” accompanied these visuals, driving home the message that Keystone Light offered a smoother and less bitter alternative.

Did it work? There are no available sales numbers from that time, but in terms of brand awareness, it was a slam dunk for Keystone Light.


Do you remember a commercial or print ad from your youth that still sticks with you in 2024? Campaigns like Bitter Beer Face did much more than sell beer, they promoted disruptive ideas and irreverent humor.

In the 90s, there were no skipping commercials, so you looked forward to them as another form of entertainment.

They were, in a way, 30-second mini-shows, and so, the creative aspects of storytelling, humor, and wit were on full display.

Granted, most marketing content between the ’80s and ’90s, especially content geared towards males, would most likely get you flogged, sued, and canceled in 2024, but it was still a great time to be alive, and Bitter Beer Face made TV breaks entertaining.

For marketers and content creators in 2024

Bitter Beer Face is a lesson in storytelling and branding.

Put time into telling the story your brand wants to tell. This commercial was not as much about selling beer, but about telling the brand story to the consumers in a way that entertained them.

The brand will sell the beer, not the commercial. The commercial is simply the vehicle to tell the brand story to the audience. Remember, brand above everything.

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