Tag Archives: SABMiller

Friday Linkage 9/18/2015

Tom Brady supports Donald Trump. Peyton Manning is starring on the field as a weaker armed version of the Hall of Fame quarterback. Jay Cutler is doing Jay Cutler things again in Chicago. You could say that I spent some time this last week watching football and just plain zoning out. Go Hawks!

On to the links…

How Much Of Your Retirement Fund Is Tied Up In Fossil Fuels? Now, You Can Find Out.—A person’s 401k will be one of the two largest investments in a portfolio, with a home being the only competitor. How much of that money is going to support fossil fuel interests?

Half Of California’s Electricity Will Come From Renewable Energy In 15 Years—California passed a major climate change related bill recently. Although it was watered down by fossil fuel interests at the last minute there is still a lot of good things in the legislation.

A Third American City Is Now Running Entirely On Renewable Energy—It is still one the most pretentious ski towns in the world—go Steamboat Springs!—but it is now 100% fueled by renewables. There is a lot of marketing involved in the effort, but it is commendable nonetheless.

Meet the New National Geographic and Weep—The same people who bring you the sheer horror that is Fox & Friends will be the same people who publish one of the most amazing magazines in world history. Rupert Murdoch ruins everything that he touches and National Geographic will be no different.

AB InBev plans takeover bid for SABMiller—You want to talk about mega-merger. This is it. Nine of the world’s twenty largest breweries would be controlled by a single entity. Now, a lot of that volume would be made up of junk macro beer that has seen flat to declining sales for the past decade. So, maybe this is a doubling down on a losing bet hoping for a nag to come through.

National Grid CEO: Large Power Stations For Baseload Power Is Outdated—The distributed model—think the internet—has supplanted the traditional centralized model of most industries save for electrical power generation.

Siemens Looks Toward Next-Generation 10–20 MW Wind Turbines—Think about a 10 to 20 MW wind turbine for a moment. At the mid-range it could be the equivalent of 10 GE 1.5 MW turbines that dot the American landscape. Wow!

The Palm Oil Plantations Powering Communities and Tackling Climate Change—Why aren’t all large scale agricultural operations taking such a holistic approach to their energy use and lifecycle? The number that got me was reducing the diesel use from 2.8 million liters per year to under 500,000 liters per year.

10 Ways to Get Rid of That Awful Smell in Your Kitchen Sink—If you cook a lot in your home you are quite familiar with the strange odors that can come from the disposal drain in the kitchen sink. I use a combination of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid soap and hot water. It takes care of any funk lickety split.

8 Things to Never Bring into Your Home—We are always looking for those quick hit things to make our homes a little bit greener. Here are eight easy things to avoid.

25 Things you Should Start Adding to your Compost Pile—How many of these things do you throw away that could be put into the compost?

This Southern State Made A Big Commitment To Start Teaching About Climate Change—Welcome to the modern age Alabama. Roll tide!

These Two Genius Tricks to Improve School Food Have Nothing to Do With What’s for Lunch—Simple and cost effective. These are the changes that we can make on the local level that will really impact our children’s lives.

Pre-Summer Beer Thoughts

It feels like summer might never actually get here.  Iowa received a record 17.66 inches of rain during the spring, triggering flooding, and leading to a general soggy feeling.  It’s a good thing that I have not bottled any “lawnmower beers” because I might be craving stouts if the cool temperatures and overcast skies continue much longer.

Chinook IPA

Single hop beers are taking off as brewers, both of the home variety and commercial craft type, are seeking to make beers that stand out.  A plethora of hop options also makes this possible, as do techniques like dry hopping or using freshly harvested hops.

I jumped on the bandwagon by brewing up the Chinook IPA recipe from Northern Brewer:

Chinook IPA

According to the calculations in iBrewmaster the Chinook IPA was going to clock in at ~52 IBU and ~4.9% ABV.   The bitterness was lower than the recipe called for because I reduced the boil time of the initial 1 ounce of hops to get to around the ~52 IBU, which I am beginning to think is the optimal point of bitterness.

Single hopped beers are supposed to accentuate the particular hop profile of the chosen hop.  I am not familiar enough with the Chinook variety to tell if anyone particular flavor or note was accentuated compared with a beer that has a blend of hops.  The beer did lack some of the earthy or “piney” notes of IPAs that use Cascade or Willamette hops.

The first bottle came out a little flat.  I do not know if it is the “magic” or “voodoo” of bottle conditioning, but some bottles come out less carbonated than others.  Maybe that’s another reason to make the transition to kegs and forced carbonation.  Never mind the two to three weeks cut in production time.

Next up into bottles is a recipe called Synchronicity, which should prove interesting given the use of sweet orange peel and lemongrass.

Innovation?  Really?

AB-InBev, the corporate monster behind Bud Light and about half of the world’s beer it seems, is truly showing its corporate colors lately.  Unable to innovate in terms of products, because as one commentator put it there is not much you can do to Bud Light besides add a little lime flavoring, the behemoth is turning to packaging.  Two things caught my eye recently, the so-called “bow tie” can and the new punch top.

Punch tops, vented cans, wide mouth openings…whatever is next make me laugh.  The brewer is saying to the customer, “Please pour this swill down your throat as fast as possible so that you cannot actually taste anything and you come back to the liquor store to buy more.”  In the case of Coors Light the can actually signals when it is so cold that the beer cannot taste like much more than grain steeped water.  That is the idea I guess.

AB-InBev now has aped SABMiller’s “punch top” can with a pop top that also punches a whole in the can for faster guzzling.  You see, SABMiller’s version required you use an accessory.  Granted, that accessory could be a spark plug, drumstick of the musical variety, car key, or properly branded use-specific tool.  AB-InBev has done them one better by doing away with the accessory and including the power to vent the can right there on top of the can itself.  Damn, that is innovation.

Well, if you thought that a punch top copy was ridiculous wait until you get a load of the “bow-tie” can.  Yep, AB-InBev is packaging Budweiser in a can that is said to evoke the classic inconagprahy of the Budweiser bow tie.  Huh?  Was anyone actually asking for a specially shaped can?  Does anyone actually care?  Never mind that the can actually holds 11.3 ounces of beer versus a traditional can’s 12 ounces.  Oh, and it comes in a new packaging quantity…wait for it…the 8-pack.  I cannot wait to check out the variety of packaging available for summer with the introduction of the 8-pack.

What’s next?

Faux Craft: Band of Brewers Third Shift Amber Lager

When the first ads started to hit the airwaves I began to wonder if this “Band of Brewers” was a tease for a movie from the guys behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  You know the type of movie…zany outsiders band together to conquer a common enemy whether it’s zombies or Timothy Dalton chewing up scenery or an ill-fated pub crawl.  Why couldn’t it work?

At the very least I was hoping it was a stealth campaign for the movie Drinking Buddies.  Nope.  In reality Band of Brewers is another faux craft brand from MillerCoors that has released Third Shift Amber Lager onto store shelves and tap handles:

Third Shift

Impressions?  Well…it tastes like the band of brewers were sitting around one night drinking Coors Light and decided what was missing were some steeping grains.  That’s the best way to describe Third Shift Amber Lager–enhanced Coors Light.  Whatever.

Here’s the primary problem with faux craft.  The beers generally turn out to be variations of the same boring macro-brews that we, as a group of beer drinkers, are increasingly rejecting in favor of true craft beers.  Just reimagining the same tired formula does not produce something new, it produces something that is derivative.

Look at the six-pack carrier:

Six Pack Carrier

Single color print impression on rough finished plain cardboard?  I was half expecting handwritten details on the labels or, at the very least, something printed in a handwriting-esque script.

It is heartening to see that the largest brewers in the world realize that the answer to declining sales may not be a revival of the Swedish Bikini Team, but rather is producing better beer.  However, these attempts at faux craft come across as crass opportunism.

Super Bowl Beer Temptation

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.


Budweiser Black Crown

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:

Redds Apple Ale

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.

Opting Out of a Flawed System

I have been thinking a lot about beer lately.  Beverages in general, but beer in particular because homebrewing has really taken a lot of my free time the past month.  As I am waiting for my first batch to emerge from the bottles, I was “forced” to purchase beer at the store this week.

The walk-in cooler at the grocery store is always a mind bending experience; shelf after shelf of the same product in different packages.  Would you like 12 ounce cans, 12 ounce bottles, 16 ounce cans, 16 ounce aluminum bottles, 16 ounce plastic bottles, or some kind of mini-keg? Would you like a package of 6, 12, 18, 26, or 30?  In the excellent documentary Beer Wars, this was described as the billboard effect.  In essence, the variety of packages creates a unified visual presence that acts as a billboard for whatever beer Anheuser-Busch InBev or SABMiller are pushing this week.

Just to give you an idea of why most people see these products on the shelves look at the annual report from Anheuser-Busch InBev.  On page 43 of the document are selected financial numbers.  Against revenue of $36.3 billion US in 2010, the company spent $4.7 billion U.S. on sales and marketing (figures located on page 43 of the document or page 47 of the file).  This sales and marketing expense is taken against volume of 398,917,800 hectoliters or 18.734 billion six-packs.  Therefore, Anheuser-Busch InBev spends approximately $0.25 US per six-pack of beer on sales and marketing worldwide.

This number may seem a little esoteric, but consider the following figures.  In 2010, the Boston Beer Company—parent company of Samuel Adams—had revenue of $463.8 million U.S.  The company spent $135.7 million U.S. on sales and marketing.  Against a volume of 2,272,000 barrels or 1.5 billion six-packs this represents $0.09 per six pack of sales and marketing expense.  Check out the annual report here.

Think about the difference for a moment.  Anheuser-Busch InBev spends over 2.5 times per six pack what Boston Beer does to market its product.  No wonder there is a wall of Bud Light in the walk-in cooler.  It’s also making me feel quite smug about opting out of a system where a company spends billions to market an inferior tasting product rather than spend that same money on making something more palpatable.

Does it really matter?  Pretty soon we will all be drinking Snow Beer anyway…

Friday Linkage 8/19/2011

It was a nice and boring week.  Good for the soul, but not good for the blog.  Nothing really happened that was noteworthy and I did not go out of my way to do anything special.  It was therapeutic to enjoy beautiful late summer days in Iowa.  On to the links…

Wind Supplies 20% of Iowa’s Electricity—According to the American Wind Energy Association, Iowa now gets 20% of its electricity from the wind.  This compares to about 3% nationally.  Currently, Iowa is the second largest market in terms of total installed wind power.  As a function of population, Iowa has the most wind power per capita in the U.S.  Go Iowa!

EPA Bans Sale of Imprelis—Imprelis, a DuPont herbicide, has been banned from sale by the EPA because of its suspected role in killing trees.  The herbicide was initially viewed as being more environmentally friendly than other herbicides, but this claim is not being proven by results in the field.  Perhaps the more environmentally friendly option is not to use herbicides at all.

Schools Move to Save Energy as Budgets Tighten—None of the measures taken by the school districts in this article are extreme, but each represents how much low hanging fruit exists in terms of energy efficiency gains.  We are so lame if we cannot see the benefit in taking this kind of action.

Beer Chart of the Day—Mother Jones is always full of surprises.  This infographic—man I love infographics—shows just how mega-corporate beer in the United States remains even with the explosive growth of craft beers.  Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller control 80% of the beer consumed in the U.S.  Yep, 4 out of 5 beers is controlled by two conglomerates.

How Soda Drinks Impact Your Body—More infogrpahics!  This one deals with the impacts of soda on a person’s health.  The consumption of soda is one of the most glaring public health issues that no one is really willing to tackle.

Plastic Bags are Good For You—Nothing like lobbying to insert propaganda into the textbooks of school-age children.  Just chalk this up to a long list of anti-environmental moves by pro-business groups that are hell bent on preserving profit margins over anything else.