Tuesday, March 25, 2008

for Autumn: Bud Ale, and the heart of the matter

I've blogged before about the Trojan Horse strategy of the big boys.

Large corporate breweries will create a marginally more flavorful beer than their standard fare but package it as if it were a craft beer (read: small and independent brewery). Blue Moon, for example, sells well for Molson/Coors, in part because it's disguised as a craft beer—including its higher 'craft-beer' price.

Sometimes it's disguised as an imported beer, such as Killian's which was a popular item on Saint Patrick's Day, even though brewed by Coors in Golden, Colorado.

Occasionally, the big boys behave less covertly.

Witness SAB/Miller's test marketing of the Miller Lite Brewers Collection, a trio of low-cal, low-carb 'craft-style' beers in four markets including Baltimore, Maryland. They began this in February; I haven't yet had the gumption to buy a sixer.

Just last week, Anheuser-Busch (A-B) announced plans to brew Budweiser American Ale: no test markets but a scheduled autumn nationwide release.

A-B Vice President of Marketing Dave Peacock said that the concept is "very appealing" to consumers and it "improves the Budweiser image and validates our Great American Lager positioning for the mother brand."
-- Beer Business Daily
20 March 2008

More flavor being "very appealing"? More flavor improving the image of "the mother brand"? Is there an implication about a lack of flavor? Say it ain't so!

Puzzling is whom A-B thinks might purchase this beer which will be priced higher than Budweiser or Bud Light:
  • Bud Light drinkers, who dislike what they might describe as the 'heavy and bitter' flavors of craft beers?
  • Craft beer drinkers, of whom a substantial minority have an almost somatic antipathy for anything 'mainstream'?
In the mid 1990s, Miller brewed a beer simply called "Miller", a beer so 'unique' that the brewery was willing to put its very name on the label—or words to some such effect. Even more of a scream were the ingredients Miller claimed to use in making this eponymous beer: "We only use the 'heart of the hops'."

Miller—The Beer was so special, it quickly became merely a memory; and ever since, botanists have been searching for its elusive piece of agricultural anatomy.

For that matter, does anyone remember Budweiser Red?


  1. Who is the target market? Easy. It's the large number of people who don't know a lot about beer, but who want to have the cachet associated with craft beer. The same people who currently drink Guinness or Heineken - both of whom do pretty well for themselves - and think of them as "premium" beer.

    After all, a lot more people drive SUVs around the suburbs than actually go camping.

  2. Here's my worry: everytime the big boys come out with a new variation on the same old theme(ice-ultra-light, pseudo-craft, whatever), doesn't it take retailer shelf space away from the beers I'd rather see in the stores?


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