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New beer fight erupts

Does it really seem to you like the nation’s largest brewers are likely to join in a campaign to boost beer’s image?

It seems as if they should be getting along better for that to happen. USA Today reports: “Miller Brewing, a unit of SABMiller, said Tuesday several cable networks pulled new Miller ads on complaints by rival Anheuser-Busch (BUD), the largest U.S. brewer.”

This is related to commericals we reported on yesterday that claim the recipe for Bud Light has changed.

More from USA Today:

Several cable networks have temporarily placed the Miller spots on hold and asked the company to provide substantiation for the claim, Miller said, adding that it was providing the requested substantiation.

Anheuser-Busch responded to what it felt were negative ads by Miller, an Anheuser-Busch executive said.

“We addressed this directly in a way that was most appropriate,” Douglas Muhleman, group vice president at Anheuser-Busch, said in a faxed response. “We saw negative advertising that included our product, and we were in the best position to explain that to the networks that these claims are not true.”

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Pyramid Q&A

The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., visits Pyramid Alehouse in Seattle for a Q&A with with Mark House, head of brewery operations and a company veteran, and marketing director Paul Curhan. Not surprisingly, answers about Pyramid focusing on wheat-based beers dominates the conversion.

For Curhan on competition with Widmer:

Over the years we’ve done more traditional consumer research, qualitative and quantitative. We have been preferred 2-to-1 or greater to (Portland’s) Widmer, which is probably our biggest competitor. An excellent beer, but a very different taste profile.

Ours is more of a citrusy, aromatic, smoother hefe. Widmer is a little more bitter.

From House on innovation:

We have a lot of things on the docket. One thing is the whole fruit category. I think we’re going to have fun with that. We have R&D sit-downs with our brewers, coming up with new ideas. Our Oktober Weizen is the first ever, we think, wheat Oktoberfest beer in the U.S. There is innovation.

We have restaurants up and down the West Coast, and one huge advantage is I can make one keg of (experimental) beer in the Seattle alehouse. We’ve got thousands of people here who can try (new beers).

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A hoppier Bud Light?

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required, sorry) reports that Miller “is expected to claim in new cable-TV ads this weekend that Bud Light has ‘changed,’ and that Miller Lite still tastes better than the new version, according to Miller executives and a memo the brewer sent out to its distributors late Friday.”

Peter Marino, a Miller spokesman, said that through its continuing testing of Bud Light, Miller had noticed “a statistically significant increase in bitterness units and carbonation.”

More hops? That’s OK with Realbeer.com.

However, Anheuser-Busch, which brews Bud Light as well as Budweiser, is quite specific in denying any changes:

“Like all brewers, our brewmasters are constantly making small adjustments in the brewing process to account for seasonal changes in raw materials in order to ensure that the taste of our beers are consistent year in and year out,” said Douglas J. Muhleman, group vice president of brewing operations at Anheuser. “To suggest that we have made a formulation change in the way we brew our beers is a marketing ploy and is simply false. The recipes for Budweiser and Bud Light have not changed. We too analyze our competitors’ beers and note changes in their products all the time.”

Editor’s addition: Brandweek has details about the memo and advertising campaign.

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Business Week likes Saint Arnold

The special report from Business Week for small business about using “using the web to boost sales” features Saint Arnold Brewing in Houston.

The “front” of the section features a picture of founder Brock Wagner and the headline: “A Houston microbrewery has converted web site visitors into loyal customers with invites to free beer bashes.”

The story quotes Wagner:

“Companies have a personality. The newsletter is an incredible mechanism for conveying that personality to people. It makes them much more loyal.”

It also makes the benefits clear:

Wagner credits the newsletter with bringing in at least $150,000 in sales last year, mostly through increased attendance at the brewery’s special events. Revenues at the 15-employee brewery were $1.8 million in 2004, up from $1.5 million the previous year.

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New brewery in the heart of a winery

An Australian winery starts brewing beer:

Moorilla Estate winery staff call the place Moo. So when it came to naming their new beer, Moo Brew was their obvious choice.

The three new microbeers from one of the state’s oldest wineries were unleashed on the public at a crowded launch at the Berridale estate last night.

Moorilla chief executive Tim Goddard said there was no contradiction in a winery turning its hand at brewing.

“After a long day of wine tasting, the first thing you want is a beer,” he said.

[Reported in The Mercury]

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Got Beer?

The Wall Street Journal reports that beer industry leaders are considering working together to improve beer’s image.

The Journal writes:

In an unprecedented effort to reverse the industry’s decline, Anheuser-Busch, which controls roughly half of the U.S. beer market and has dominated it for decades, is trying to drum up support in the industry for the equivalent of the dairy industry’s popular “Got Milk?” campaign.

We’re all for anything that improves beer’s image, but it is troubling to read a quote from Tom Long, Miller’s chief marketing officer:

“We’ve marketed our way into this problem, and we can market ourselves out of it.”

This isn’t just a matter of marketing. What’s in the bottle, or your glass, makes a difference. That’s why craft beer sales were up 7% last year and will likely increase by a similar amount this year.

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Still magical at Lost Coast Brewery

The Times-Standard in Eureka, Calif., profiles Lost Coast Brewery and founder Barbara Groom.

The brewery has been around for 15 years, but business is still growing.

”We keep thinking it’s going to slow down, because the larger you get the harder it is to make that percentage of growth,” Groom said.

Brewery and Sales Manager Briar Bush added the brewery does best in what are politically referred to as “the blue states.” Groom then said, jokingly: “That’s where all the educated people are.”

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Bay Area pub crawl

Linda Murphy, San Francisco Chronicle wine editor, heads out on a major pub crawl with four Bay Area brewers. She writes:

Four professional brewers took an out-of-touch beer lover on a pub crawl last month through their favorite haunts in the Bay Area. The itinerary was based on beer selection, ambience and the storytelling opportunities that arise when brew, bars and buddies hook up.

Stops include 21st Amendment, Zeitgeist, Toronado, Black Horse London Pub, Pelican Inn, Barclays Restaurant & Pub and The Bistro, but the best parts are the conversations along the way. Good reading.

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Scottish & Newcastle outperforms market

Despite a “soft” underlying market due to weak consumer confidence, Scottish & Newcastle reports a 5.6% rise in UK branded beer and cider volumes during the third quarter. The company noted that in the three months to the end of September, the UK beer and cider market had grown by just 1.8%.

In the United States, sales of Newcastle Brown Ale continued to grow at “double digits” in the third quarter.