Anheuser-Busch finally had enough. During the Super Bowl it released its latest advertising campaign in the hope it could stop it hemorrhaging losses to the craft brew market. Over the past six years it has been losing an average of six percent of its sales each year to the craft brew market. On the other hand, the craft brew market has seen a growth of seven percent each year in the beer market. Anheuser-Busch is losing ground. The best defense is an aggressive offense, and during the Super Bowl the company dropped its big bomb through a witty, though needling advertisement seen by millions.
I saw the advertisement . . . and, depending on which side of the big micro- versus macro-brewing debate you stand . . . it was either a hilarious poke or a smack in the face. I saw the humor in it, yet at the same time, I was a little offended by it. It was the “common beer drinker” pitted against the “beer snob”. Anheuser-Busch admitted that it was not into craft brewing, but realizes that its bulk is in the mass market brewing . . . translated that means into cheap beer. The company decided that it would admit its place in the market by juxtaposing it with what it is not . . . they say craft beers, but most real beer lovers would say lousy, tasteless beer. One micro brewing company, Ninkasi Brewing in Oregon, replied: “If you aren’t drinking a beer for taste, what are you drinking it for?”
Shortly after moving to Montana and discovering a growing micro-brew industry, I shifted allegiance . . . I became what my daughter termed a “beer snob”. What really happened is that I discovered “real” beer that tasted good and packed a punch. What I had in the past was a weak imitation of beer. Granted, Budweiser Light is the number one choice of beer drinkers in America . . . but, the difference between a good micro-brew and Bud Light is like night and day . . . like water and fine wine . . . there is no comparison. I think that if the millions of loyal Bud Light drinkers were given the choice between their golden suds and a craft brew . . . well, they would choose the craft brew. If a preference for good tasting beer over what some would concede as being heavy slightly flavored water makes one a “beer snob” . . . well, so be it. I am a beer snob.
Anheuser-Busch states that it is not running scared. Yet, their actions speak differently. Outside of the fact that they took the offensive with their Super Bowl advertisement, they are also beginning to buy up micro-breweries. So far they have bought Goose Island out of Chicago and Elysian out of Seattle. What is ironic about the whole thing is that one of those two breweries is still using the tag line, “Corporate Beer Still Sucks”. I think that Anheuser-Busch qualifies as a corporate beer company. Scared people . . . or companies . . . don’t start buying out the competition if it isn’t scared. I think Anheuser-Busch is running scared.
Add to the equation that several years ago Anheuser-Busch hopped into the craft beer market—even though it is massed produced—when it began producing Shock Top. Shock Top, for those of you who are in the area of beer unawares, is a wheat-based beer . . . typically known as a hefferveisen. Hefferveisen is a really popular beer among many who consider themselves beer snobs . . . especially when a slice of orange is added. They even made a pumpkin-flavored wheat-based beer. Sounds like someone is running scared.
With over five decades of life experience . . . over three decades of beer experience . . . I have come to appreciate the craft brewing industry . . . I have come to appreciate good tasting beer. I remember how much like an adult I felt when I was finally old enough to purchase my first six-pack of beer . . . well, at least legally . . . it was Budweiser. At the time it was the finest beer I had ever tasted . . . plus it was cheap. I remember graduating up to Michelob . . . a more expensive brew made by Anheuser-Busch . . . a more sophisticated brew . . . thinking I was really suave and hot to trot. A Mic always trumped a Bud. Oh, how naïve I was . . . how ignorant I was. Growing up in such an environment I never realized how big the world of beer really was . . . how wonderful it really could be.
I never knew . . . I never knew that beer could be so wonderful.
I guess the time has come for me to embrace the mantle of being a beer snob . . . we all have to grow up sometime. I appreciate the presence of Anheuser-Busch in my life and its willingness to introduce me to the world of beer . . . they did their job well, but they failed to realize the need to move on into the world of “real” beer . . . favorable beer . . . beer that is memorable. I appreciate its willingness to admit that it has missed the mark when it comes to good beer . . . that it is running scared. But the truth is . . . the truth is that it still hold nearly 80 percent of the beer market . . . cheap will always beat out taste. But, it is not enough. It is too late. I have crossed the nexus and there is no turning back now.
I can choke down a Shock Top or Blue Moon, but I cannot—in good conscience—suck down a Bud Light. It is just not the same and my taste buds rebel. I do not carry a prejudice against those who choose to drink Bud or Bud Light . . . I understand that it is their preference. Though I secretly snicker at their choice, I will never . . . ever . . . make fun of them (at least not in public). In the same regard I would appreciate Anheuser-Busch would show me and all the other beer snobs of the world the same respect. I am proud that Anheuser-Busch can admit that they have their own niche in the world of beer . . . that they can poke fun at it . . . but, the fact remains, they are running scared.
The old polka says: “In heaven there is no beer, that is why we drink it here!” The oft-misquoted Benjamin Franklin states: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” If this is all true, well it might as well be good beer . . . not that watered down stuff that Anheuser-Busch wants to call beer. Besides, no one buys beer . . . we only rent it. Think about it.
So, this Bud is not for me. I can handle that . . . why can’t Anheuser-Busch? When it comes to beer, nothing beats a Red Lodge Ales (Montana) Bent Nail (IPA) or a Big Sky Brewery (Montana) Moose Drool. If you are going to drink beer it might as well taste good. If Anheuser-Busch is hearing footsteps . . . good . . . maybe they will make a beer that tastes good.
Long live the Beer Snobs!