I don’t often rant on my blog. I prefer to focus on the positive aspects of beer and brewing. There’s enough negativity on the interwebs for all of us 10 times over.
However, an announcement from Anheuser-Busch In-Bev got my goat. It’s about their “Black Crown” release, scheduled for January 21.
Please read this before proceeding to my commentary. It’s a short article.
Ok, here we go.
First of all, it’s called “Black Crown” and it’s a golden amber lager. Shouldn’t it be something dark, like a schwarzbier or a dopplebock? Oh yeah, “amber” is considered dark by the macro crowd. I forgot.
Also, how is a beer golden AND amber? I have no idea, but then again, I’ve been called strawberry blonde, so maybe that makes sense.
Aside from the naming, what really irked me was the quote from Budweiser VP Rob McCarthy, “This brand will appeal to a broad range of beer drinkers, but especially to 21-to-34-year-old, trend-setting-type consumer.” Spoken like a true corporate marketer.
They just don’t get it. And they never will.
The “trend-setting-type consumer” doesn’t want something that will appeal to a broad range of other people. They want something that no one else has had from somewhere no one else has heard of.
Anheuser-Busch In-Bev legitimately does not understand what the craft beer revolution is all about. It’s about the craft of making great beer. It’s not about appealing to a broad range of 21-to-34 year old consumers.
I’m sure AB has all kinds of market research and focus groups that tell them they Black Crown brand is great. The focus groups probably said the same thing about Budweiser Select.
Why do the big beer producers continue to veer from their lane and attempt craft-style beers? Because they’ve seen their mortality. The craft segment is gaining steam, the macro segment is slowly dying.
In 2011, Bud Light sold 39 million barrels. The entire craft segment combined sold 11 million. That’s a lot of Bud Light. The difference between what craft brewers make and what AB makes is like buying a hand-carved oak desk versus buying one at WalMart.
AB simply isn’t geared to make hand-carved oak desks. That’s not their wheelhouse. For some reason, when companies get that big, they lose the flexibility and vision of the smaller guys. Their products may not all taste exactly the same, but you can tell they’re all related.
The big producers see through the lens of market share, sales forecasts and demographics. Craft brewers see the beer they’re making and they see the customer that walks in the door.
Some day, Anheuser-Busch In-Bev will go the way of General Motors, U.S. Steel and Microsoft. They’ll always be around, but their best days are behind them.
The world is a different place than it was 20 years ago. The era of efficient standardization is gone. People want more from their food, wine, beer, architecture and music. They want it personalized to their individual tastes.
A golden amber lager that appeals to a broad range of 21 to 34-year-olds ain’t it.