ST. LOUIS — For a couple of decades now, craft beer fans in Colorado and elsewhere have panned macro brews such as Coors and Budweiser for their perceived homogeneity, careless approach to brewing, and overall bland taste.
During Sunday’s Super Bowl, Budweiser’s Belgium-based parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev snapped back, openly mocking craft beer connoisseurs.
In a spot for Budweiser called “Brewed The Hard Way,” the company touted its “macro beer” roots. The airtime for the ad cost at least $9 million — and that doesn’t count production costs.
At one point in the commercial, a guy with a handlebar moustache and beard is shown foppishly sniffing a tulip-shaped glass of beer. The text to go with it? “It’s not brewed to be fussed over.”
Later in the minute-long ad, a trio of “beardos” are sharing a flight of beers while “It’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting” scrolled on the screen.
The parting shot? “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale. We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.”
In response, a slew of Colorado breweries immediately began sketching out plans to collaborate on pumpkin-peach beers and put them head-to-head with Bud’s brews.
But here’s why the Budweiser commercial is laughably disingenuous: Anheuser-Busch InBev has been on a microbrewery-buying binge for half a decade.
In 2011, the company bought Chicago-based Goose Island.
At the time, former Anheuser-Busch president David Peacock said that the company was “very committed to expanding in the high end beer segment, and this deal expands our portfolio of brands with high-quality, regional beers.”
Last year, AB-inBev bought Long Island’s Blue Point Brewing.
Luiz Edmond, who was CEO of AB’s North American operations when the purchase was announced, touted how the two companies “share a commitment to offering high-quality beers that excite consumers.”
One of Blue Point’s most popular brews? Blueberry Ale. Not exactly a NASCAR-friendly “beechwood-aged” brew.
AB-InBev followed that deal up with the purchase of Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Company last November and just announced the acquisition of Seattle’s Elysian on January 23.
Elysian makes FOUR separate pumpkin brews: Dark O’ The Moon, Great Pumpkin Ale, Night Owl Pumpkin Ale and Punkuccino Coffee Pumpkin Ale. And it brewed a limited edition Spiced Pear Ale in 2013.
And Erin Griffith at Fortune pointed out that Elysian once made a Gourdgia on My Mind Pecan Peach Pumpkin Amber — precisely the kind of beer Budweiser made fun of in its Super Bowl ad.
Brian Perkins, vice president of Budweiser, said in a statement that the ad “highlights how we brew Budweiser — no shortcuts, no expense spared, brewed longer, with the best ingredients and by the best brewmasters,” and added that “this Super Bowl spot is a bold, proud statement affirming Budweiser’s quality and place in beer culture.”
But Perkins did not comment specifically about how AB-InBev could justify both mocking and owning microbrews.
To be sure, AB-Bev is doing extremely well right now. Its stock is near an all-time high. And it reported decent volume growth for the Budweiser brand in the third quarter … 2.8% globally.
But it clearly recognizes the growth potential of microbreweries. AB-InBev now has its own craft division overseeing the smaller breweries it has purchased.
It also has a 32% stake in a publicly traded company called Craft Brew Alliance, which owns Widmer Brothers Brewing, Redhook Ale Brewery and Kona Brewing Company
But in the end, New Belgium Brewing Company may have put it best:
CNN contributed to this report.