If you watched the Super Bowl and watched the ads—who am I kidding, watching the ads is like a national event in the U.S.—you probably noticed a plethora of ads for two beers: Budweiser Black Crown and Redd’s Apple Ale. I am weak before the marketing powers of macro-brewers and feel the pull of the six-pack. Okay, that creepy fish promoting Beck’s Sapphire made me want to run away because I felt like its eyes were staring straight into my soul.
Following the release of Bud Light Platinum, a high test version of its flagship Bud Light product, A-B InBev decided to go all “premium” with Budweiser Black Crown. Ostensibly a lager, Black Crown is the brewer’s attempt to inject some buzz into its traditional Budweiser brand that has been lacking since no one drinks the stuff in the “red can” anymore and Budweiser Select is little more than tailgate swill.
It tastes like someone increased the percentage of “real beer” flavor at the mega-beer mixing machine in St. Louis or whatever monolithic facility this stuff was brewed within. It’s a Budweiser product through and through, e.g. totally non-offensive and lacking any sort of personality other than pure consistency can after can or bottle after bottle.
The problem I see with any premium label from Budweiser or another macro-brewer is the value proposition. It cost ~$8 for a six-pack of Budweiser Black Crown 12 ounce bottles. Within less than a dollar price difference I had probably twenty five excellent craft beer choices including several from the St. Louis brewer of note, Schafly. Why bother with a Budweiser Black Crown?
By the way, what is up with the ads for beer and liquor taking place at these parties that are one disrobing away from turning into a sequel of Eyes Wide Shut? Every time I cracked open one of these bottles I felt like I needed to don a black, single button suit and make sure my stubble was the appropriate length before attending the party at a baroque ballroom.
Redd’s Apple Ale is a totally different beast. Produced by Redd’s Brewing Company…who am I kidding? This is a brand under the house of SABMiller that is trying to pose as something other than a beer made by a macro-brewing giant. It draws on the now grand tradition of Blue Moon or Icehouse or any other brand that hides its affiliation with the big corporate parent. I do not want to argue about the definition of craft beer, but something made by SABMiller is not craft.
Described as an ale with a bit of apple, Redd’s Apple Ale is trying to tread a fine line between real beer and whatever drinks like Mike’s Hard Lemonade are:
Too bad the best description I can come up with to describe this drink is alcoholic apple juice. Seriously, if you were trying to pass off booze to your children this would be the vehicle because there is little or no beer taste at all. How they can even begin to pass this off as beer is beyond me.
See the total lack of head in the picture above? Yep, that was how it was poured straight from the bottle into the glass. It took me maybe five seconds to grab my camera and snap the picture. Huh? And talk about sugar. My teeth hurt just thinking about how sweet each sip was. Ugh!
Here’s the problem for A-B InBev, SABMiller, and MolsonCoors…sales of their traditional volume products is flat to declining. Investors look at the growth in craft beer with lustful eyes wondering why the big boys can’t do the same thing. So, some marketing honcho reached into the MBA bag of tricks and pulls out brand extension, e.g. Budweiser Black Crown, or house of brands, e.g. Redd’s Apple Ale. Too bad they are not addressing the core problem that is they are not innovating enough to capture people’s imagination.