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Monday, February 11, 2013

More Bud Blogging

I wish I had more time to post things like Ezra's 25 Most Influential Oregon Beers--or at least join him with a rebuttal list*.  But alas, you get links. 

First up, a fascinating long piece in US News and World Report on the battle between Budweiser (and later InBev) and Boston Beer.  It expands into a discussion of the direction of the beer market and is more thoughtful and researched than most things you'll read.  Sample pithy passage:
Both Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors employ "category space analysts," whose job is to visit a store like 7-Eleven and consult them on the optimal placements of beer on the shelves.
"They are doing the sets, they [say to a store]: 'We can do that for you,'" says Koch. "And then they can take my beer from eye level to the top shelf, which drops my sales rate in half."
One thing I have to admit--when the Brewers Association launched the Craft versus Crafty debate, they struck gold.  A few mooks like me gave a raspberry, but the BA effort has launched tons of friendly media reports.  This one in the US News even has a section header labeled "Big Beer Gets Crafty."

In a related piece, Goose Island announces that more production is moving to Bud plants:

To meet increasing demand from the national launch, 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Honker’s Ale, IPA and the seasonal offerings will be produced at Anheuser-Busch breweries in Fort Collins, Colo. and Baldwinsville, N.Y. Led by Goose Island brewmasterBrett Porter , Goose Island brewers will oversee the production of all the beers at the new facilities....

312 Urban Wheat Ale, Honker’s Ale, India Pale Ale (IPA) and a rotating seasonal selection of Mild Winter, Summertime or Harvest Ale are now available on draught nationwide. Additionally, those same beers will be available in bottles nationwide beginning this spring.
Things are going to be getting mighty interesting in the beer biz in the next five years. 

*I'm not sure there are 25 influential beers in Oregon's short good-beer history, but if there are, the list surely can't include eight pales and IPAs. 


  1. All the BA has done is (i) opened up the conversation that their members are not all that special at the macro-crafty level, (ii) reminded the market that many cheaper beers taste much the same as many "craft beer" not to mention Matilda is better than anything Boston Beer makes and (iii) made it OK to like the beers of AmInBavInBlat(Glurp)... or whatever it is called.

    They have not opened a conversation so much as opened up the comparison. It's a losing tactic as they are, at best, speaking to 10% of the market who could possibly care about the politics of beer and not the 90% which is quite comfortable buying cheaper tasty beer from anyone. What happens if the AmInBavInBlat(Glurp) response is to actually compete now, to clone every Boston Beer brew (except for the narcissistic Utopias) and sell them for 2 bucks less? That would be fun.

    The best defence the BA offers its members is that big beer does not care about the BA members. Waking the giant will not help.

  2. Brett Porter has to be one of the best brewmaster names of all times.

  3. Alan, my read is exactly the opposite (though obviously, that wasn't my first take). I can't remember seeing a better PR push in the last two decades that placed the BA's (and its precursor's) story into so many news articles, pretty much verbatim. The articles frame the situation the way BA hoped, and they are going out to readers of US News, USA Today, and so on--not to the 10%. My sense (always suspect) is that the casual reader will be appalled at this "crafty" behavior.

    You're right that Bud could come out with Bud Bock and Bud Kriek and Bud Black IPA. The problem is that Bud drinkers would be appalled at Bud Black IPA (Stan's reporting on why they picked the recipe for Black Crown is instructive) and obviously, the craft drinkers will eschew it on principle. The BA is wisely trying to cut off Bud's other route to the craft drinker, via "crafy" beers.

    I have no idea whether it will work, but as a campaign goes, this one has been incredibly successful.

  4. Shawn, Brett's a great guy, too. Got his start here at Portland back when it was Portland the first time around. Then he went to Deschutes before decamping to Chicago.

  5. I used to be able to buy Goose Island Honker's Ale (in bottles) here in Amsterdam at a reasonable price for an imported beer. Now that a local company owns it, we can't get it anymore. Too bad.

  6. "... obviously, the craft drinkers will eschew it on principle."

    Because we so roundly reject Matilda?