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This Bud’s for free. But who really wants it?

September 29, 2010 By: mike Category: Beer in the news, Craft beer, Opinion

Who doesn’t like free beer?

Beer titan Anheuser-Busch is betting that drinkers will take that offer and give their flagship brand a second (or third, or forth, or … just fill in the blank) chance today as part of a “National Happy Hour.”

Anheuser-Busch will distribute free 6- to 12-ounce samples of Budweiser at bars and restaurants, depending on local and state rules.

I haven’t heard how this is going to work in Tennessee.

But the gimmick will be held in conjunction with the launch of a new Budweiser ad campaign with the slogan, “Grab some Buds.”

The goal, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is to revive a brand that saw its U.S. market share peak in 1988 at 26 percent, but declined to 9.3 percent last year.

We want to close that gap,” A-B President Dave Peacock said.

The brewer hopes to eventually hand out 500,000 samples of Budweiser. Last month, Peacock announced plans to “draw a line in the sand” and turn around Budweiser.

The free beer and ad campaign are the first outward signs of how the company plans to do that.

According to a recent story in USA Today, with details from a survey by Brand Keys, Budweiser has fallen from No. 16 in 2003 on a list of brands ranked by customer loyalty, to No. 220 this year. No wonder they’ve decided to give the stuff away.

The promotion comes as upscale consumers are turning to craft beers, the price-conscious are trading down, and others switched to light beers. “It’s a triple whammy,” says Michael Bellas, CEO at Beverage Marketing.

I’ve been known to drink a Budweiser (or 3) on occasion. But beer drinkers’ tastes are changing. We want quality beer we can taste.

While overall beer sales fell by 2 percent last year, the first decline in six years, the craft segment has continued to grow, The Chicago Tribune reported recently. (The Brewers Association defines craft brewers as “independent” brewers with an annual production of beer less than 2 million barrels.)

While craft beers still account for just 4.5 percent of U.S. consumption, sales have increased by about 50 percent over the last five years.

That’s tremendous growth. And as a result, big breweries are trying to get in on the action.

Anheuser-Busch may be making a play at the Craft Brewers Alliance, makers of Redhook and the seller of the Samuel Adams brands, The Street has reported.

MillerCoors, meanwhile, has established an independent division, called Tenth and Blake Beer Co., to bring focus to its craft and import beers, including Blue Moon, Leinenkugel, Peroni, Pilsner Urquell and Grolsch, according to beernews.org.

The number of craft breweries has skyrocketed in the past three decades, from 8 in 1980, to 537 in 1994, to 1,501 in 2008, based on figures from the Brewers Association.

And the industry is delivering with unique beer that boasts of flavor and character unlike anything coming out of St. Louis.

So give me a Sierra Nevada. Give me a Fat Tire.

Keep the free suds, Bud.

3 Comments to “This Bud’s for free. But who really wants it?”


  1. Is it bad that my heart warms when I hear their sales are down 9 percent?

    1
    • Andy: Beers drinkers have been losing interest in the A-B brand for years. And the company has been slow to respond. This promo smacks of desperation. Free samples? Really? Hasn’t everyone over 21 already tried Budweiser?

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