Beer Battles are Brewing. Macro- versus Micro-brews

Photo: Youtube screen capture

I was a little surprised last Sunday to see Anheuser-Busch (A-B) launch a snarky and even pompous assault on microbreweries. It came in the form of a Budweiser commercial that sought to definitively set itself apart from its craft beer competition. And I was very surprised to see a response by a small, craft beer advocacy group less than 48 hours later that put Budweiser back in its place as a generic, mass-produced beer.

The Budweiser ad titled “Brewed the Hard Way” aired during the Super Bowl and it mocks craft beer drinkers and the microbrews themselves with text such as “Proudly a macro-beer. It’s not brewed to be fussed over,” and “It’s brewed for drinking. Not dissecting.”

Within 48 hours, Hopstories.com out of Corvallis released a response, a video shot in the same style as the Budweiser ad, with text proclaiming, “Craft Beer. Proudly brewed by people. It’s not brewed to be slammed. It’s brewed to taste good,” and “Only craft beer is brewed by hand, the actual hard way. We will savor our hundreds of styles, you keep pushing your one.”

The Hopstories video made quite an impact with 200,000 views so far this week, and it responded quite cleverly and emphatically on behalf of not just the Northwest’s craft beer drinkers but no doubt for those throughout the country.

Here’s the Hopstories video…

… and the A-B ad:

You might ask what were A-B and Budweiser thinking by releasing what amounts to an attack ad on microbrews. “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale,” it reads. It might have read, “Let them eat cake” as the King of Beers’ monarchy is being threatened with overall craft beer shipments outpacing its own, according to Fortune Magazine.

The ad is clearly targeting (pandering to) an audience who feels intimidated or put-off by the craft beer culture—those who regard beer enthusiasts (the “Them”) as snoots who somehow enjoy—even fuss over—beers that seem at first to taste bitter and skunky or flat and warm. But many of us were there not so many years ago. Anyone over 35 or so will remember having a choice between so many identically tasting American lagers and not much else. And many of us were enlightened over time and introduced to a breadth of varieties that in some parts of the country are dizzying.

So, what the ad really is saying is, “Stick with what you know. It’s okay not to be curious and not to expand your tastes. You’re a sensible, non-pretentious person. You don’t wax your mustache. You don’t have your jeans tailored. And you still change your own motor oil, so don’t be tempted when those exotic taps hit your town. You avoided trying sushi, you can do without craft beer, too.”

Even as A-B buys up or purchases a stake in microbreweries (including in Redhook, Kona, and Widmer), presumably as a hedge against evolving American palates, its signature brand Budweiser is looking to solidify its base. It certainly didn’t win many fans in my circles, and started more than a few conversations about which microbreweries had been bought or received investment dollars from A-B and other big breweries.

While the topic was a constant conversation among friends, I was happily surprised to find that A-B’s marketing has been lost on my children. Although they don’t watch a lot of ads on TV, I just assumed that my kids would know what a Budweiser was. However, during the Super Bowl the whole family caught one of the Budweiser ads. My youngest boy of eight, upon hearing this new strange name, took the opportunity to do a bit of mocking himself. He burst forth with, “Hahahaa…‘Butt wiser.’ My butt is wiser! Hahahaa.”

He’d like it to be known he’s available as a copywriter for any of next year’s Super Bowl ad campaigns.

– Ross Blanchard

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