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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Monday, 19 April 2010

"An innovation set to revolutionise the beer category"

Press releases. I get sent an increasing number of them.

Some of them are genuinely useful. Many others are completely irrelevant (when have I ever done anything that suggests a professional interest in female sanitary products?) Often they confuse what a press release should do - supply a writer with news, information, quotes and angles for potential stories - with a really crappy attempt at writing the story itself that would insult the intelligence and credulity of a three year-old.

I was thinking of sharing the most outstanding examples with you instead of simply binning them - perhaps introducing a 'press release of the week' feature - and then, I received one this morning that changes everything, redefining the entire genre.

The headline on the email from Zoo Communications crashed through my hangover and pulled me to attention - this was a prize scoop and no mistake: “Anheuser-Busch InBev UK launches Budweiser Brew No. ‘66’ – an innovation set to revolutionise the beer category”.

Wow! They weren’t mincing their words! Words like:

Innovation: defined by Dictionary.com as “something new or different”.

and

Revolutionise: “to effect a radical change”

Bud 66 eh? What could it be, this new or different thing that’s going to bring about radical change in the beer, um, “category”?

Because beer is going through a very exciting time at the moment, with plenty of innovation going on: we've got style mash-ups like 'Belgian IPAs', explorations in wood ageing beers, ingredients like strawberries or spices being added to beer, an endless search for new hop flavours from around the world, and regular smashings of the 'world's strongest beer' record. What could AB-Inbev possibly be up to that could top that?

With shaking hands I clicked open the press release. Boy, Zoo Communications are good. Usually a press release gives you what you need to know, if not in the headline, then in the first line of copy. Not this one. More like a Steven King novel than a press release, it just continued to build the suspense.

AB-Inbev president Stuart Macfarlane declared Bud 66 “our most important business action in 2010”.

This is the world's biggest brewer we're talking about. Their 'most important business action'?This really was serious.

But why were they embarking on such a radical, revolutionary departure? Why? Because according to Stuart, you, the drinker, demand it: “Consumers, and in particular consumers in their early twenties are looking for something new and different – and it’s up to us to continue providing compelling product offers that reflect their needs and tastes.”

Not just “new or different” but "new AND different"? Oh I’m almost pissing myself with excitement here, PLEASE Stuart, tell us what it is!

Halfway down the page, he finally gives in: Bud 66 is “A lightly carbonated lager brewed with a touch of sweetness for a smooth, easy taste at 4% abv.”

I’m sorry? A what!?

“A lightly carbonated lager brewed with a touch of sweetness for a smooth, easy taste at 4% abv.”

Hang on a minute, that sounds a little bit familiar. Why might that be? Ah, the press release goes on to tell us: “Over the past few years, AB InBev UK has catered to the premiumisation trend with the launch of Beck’s Vier and Stella Artois 4%.”

Oh. Right. So a 4% lager still counts as ‘innovation’ if you’ve done it twice before in recent years then?

In fact hang on, it’s not that dissimilar to Bud Silver, the 4.1% beer launched by Anheuser Busch in 2006 which was discontinued a couple of years later.

So, apart from a few caveats:
a) it’s just a 4% bottled lager, which isn’t new to the beer market by any conceivable logical definition
b) it’s not new to A-B Inbev
c) it’s not even new to the Budweiser brand
d) it’s going to taste stale because it’ll be lightstruck, thanks to being in a clear bottle (unlike other Bud beers, to be fair)
e) no one wanted it last time something very, very similar was launched,
this truly is an innovation that’s going to revolutionise the beer market!

Well done, A-B Inbev! Well done, Zoo Communications!

Let’s have more where this came from!

"Hello, I'm Stuart Macfarlane, and this is a bottle of 4% lager. I swear to you I have never before - in my entire life - seen anything remotely like this. And neither have you."

21 comments:

Cooking Lager said...

If Stu chooses to flog it for buttons, well done to the fella. I'll sup it. Otherwise he can stick it.

MusicRab said...

I've got a (homemade) s/w tool that scans blurb I receive for marketing jargon. This was rejected on first pass due to the existence of the word "premiumisation".

bierfesten said...

Ah yes.. revolutionary.. I think all the big boys sat in the same marketing presentation. Molson 67 (67 Calories - also last time Toronto Maple Leafs Won Hockey Cup).

Bud 55 is the NEW product in the US. All this after Bud Lime was the most successful product for AB-Inbev in 09. Lager & Lime.. revolutionary!!

Laurent Mousson said...

Lightly Carbonated ? Touch of Sweetness? Hmmmm.... cask ale, possibly ? ;oD

Rabidbarfly said...

Surely we have enough ash in the atmosphere without having to burn shitty press releases too?

ATJ said...

great post, that last picture gives it the desirability of a sample when your kidneys have been playing up.

Mario (Brewed for Thought) said...

Budweiser has ventured into the ale category. They released American Ale about 2 years ago. Decent enough, but not good enough for me to consider buying.

RedNev said...

I don't think hype has given so much excitement ever since Austin announced the Allegro would have a square steering wheel.

Dan said...

These tools need to take a look at the Canadian brew-scene, where true innovation is still thriving, as my mate Eskimo Dave shrewdly noticed this week:

Ladies and gentlemen I give you "Okanagan Spring's Hopped Lager"
http://beerinbc.com/2010/04/16/25th-anniversary-brew-from-okanagan-spring/

Hops in lager! I know!

Koops said...

Wow! Zoo Communications know how to play word games just like any other PR shit-smiths. Execute order 66...

BLTP said...

hang on volcanic eruptions, david cameron* edging towards power and now a beer called 66 sold in half dozens (probably) are budweiser heralding the end of days?
*His middle name is Damian**
** it's not but he is posh and annoying and hates beer***
*** i don't know this for sure but it's TRUE isn't it

Stono said...

hmm...Adnams are opening a distillery, to make vodka, gin and whisky out of their place at Southwold. It might not be a revolutionary innovation as such, but its certainly different.

Chase said...

it may not be lightstruck if they use tetra hops.

Barm said...

Maybe they're not going to use any hops at all.

Melissa Cole said...

I see there is an area where they under-exaggerated - they missed a '6' off the name!

Chunk said...

So basically they've seen the growing trend for people drinking bottled Corona and they've stuck bud in a clear bottle?

Stuart Howe said...

mmmmmm that sweet tetrahydroisohumulone!

HardKnott Dave said...

I'd really like to unravel this obsession with breweries that put beer in clear bottles - it seems to be spreading with frightening speed.

Martyn Cornell said...

I'm sure they WANTED to call it Bud 55, but that was already taken by a brand of soft drink. So the Devil's lager it is.

Chunk said...

Dave: The issue around skunking is one that really interests me. Being from Kent, I've had more than my fair share of (Shepherd Neame) beer in clear glass bottles, but I've never really had a problem with them being skunked.

The amount people go on about the problem leads me to conclude that either: 1) I don't know what skunk tastes like and therefore cannot detect it, 2) I’ve been incredibly lucky and never had a skunked bottle or 3) The problem isn't really that big a deal.

So, I've been running a little test that I plan to blog about soon. I took beer in clear glass and deliberately exposed it to a ridiculous amount of UV. I've been tasting these side by side against bottles stored as I normally would and bottles that I've gone to great length to protect from light.

The exposed bottles taste like crap ... proving that skunking can be a problem and that I can detect it in beer. Both the bottles kept as normal and the protected ones have tasted fine and nothing like the exposed ones.

All this is leading me to conclude that skunking isn't really that big a deal and is maybe more akin to the perceived problems with beer in cans tasting like metal. If the bottles are kept even slightly well, they’ll be fine. You could argue that clear glass is an unnecessary risk, but it really doesn’t take a lot to protect them. Frozen and cold chain food products for example require far more precise handling, and they almost always reach the customer in perfect condition.

Like I say, I plan to write at length about this, so more soon. I've just realised this sounds like a bit of an attack at you, which isn't the case, your comment just triggered me to post.

Jeff Alworth said...

My guess is that Bud will use a hop oil that resists light-striking (they remove or alter isohumulones, I think), as Miller does in the States. This product is distilled in Yakima (and maybe elsewhere), and does work pretty well--not that I've had a lot of Miller lately.