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World Cup lifts German beer sales

The World Cup left German brewers feeling optimistic about growth after they worked around the clock to keep up with demand during the month-long tournament.

Birte Kleppien from the German Beer Brewers’ association said while the industry had expected to do well from the World Cup, the wave of national euphoria that accompanied Germany’s progress to the semi-finals had provided an unexpected boost.

“And then there have been other things, too,” she said. “For example we never expected the English to descend en masse on the breweries in Cologne and show a real liking for the local beer — even though it’s served in small glasses.”

But with demand slipping every year, brewery operators understand their work is ahead of them.

“The brewing industry didn’t do anything for its image for years,” said Joerg Schillinger of InBev. “A lot of young people see beer as a drink for old guys with beer bellies. The industry must be more innovative and pay more attention to what consumers want to drink.”

Sound familiar?


Why organic beer?

Don Russell puts its this way in his weekly Joe Sixpack column:

You don’t drink organic beer because it’s healthier for you than conventional beer.

You drink it because it makes you feel better about your choices as just another depersonalized consumer in the world’s mammoth industrialized food production chain, a system that devalues labor, rapes the environment and enriches multinational agriculture conglomerates.

You might also insist that it taste good, but then supporting sustainable agriculture may already make it taste better to you.

Russell then examines if the fact that Anheuser-Busch is testing an organic beer, Wild Hop Lager, means a trend could be emerging. If A-B gets involved in organic then the ingredients available to those looking for organic beers will become much more easy to obtain – and we could see even more organic beers.

Just so they taste good.


Bad beer news in Australia, and good

The headline from Australia reads “Fine wines winning over former beer nuts.”

But here is the real story:

But according to Alex Hotel BWS retail manager Richard Bartlett the changing face of Australians’ drinking habits is shown by the increasing number of Coast drinkers choosing imported or boutique beer over the more “traditional” brands.

Another example that reporters need to ask the extra question when they report overall beer sales down (as they are in Australia). What are people drinking?

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College students pick iPod over beer

The basic headline: iPod Beats Beer in College Popularity Survey (from Mac News)

The one we like: American losers students prefer iPod to beer

The details:

Nearly three quarters (73%) of 1,200 students surveyed by Student Monitor said iPods were “in” – more than any other item in a list that also included text messaging, bar hopping and downloading music. The only other time beer was temporarily dethroned in the 18 years of the survey was in 1997 – by the Internet, said Eric Weil, a managing partner at Student Monitor.

Beer quickly regained its top spot in 1997. Will it again?


A-B to import Tiger beer

Anheuser-Busch will become the U.S. importer of Tiger Beer from Singapore, the two brewers jointly announced.

The St. Louis Post-Disptach points out that although Tiger Beer isn’t well known in the United States, Anheuser-Busch may be eying the brand’s performance in the United Kingdom as an indicator of its potential. Sold there for more than 30 years, the brand has become the most popular Asian imported beer brand in the U.K. and Ireland.

Tiger Beer is the third new import that Anheuser-Busch plans to add to the portfolio of products sold to its wholesalers. Last month, A-B began importing beer from its Chinese subsidiary Harbin Brewery Group to Los Angeles and Honolulu. Next month, it will begin importing the beers of Dutch brewer Grolsch.


A-B and Grolsch deal – why?

The first step?

Anheuser-Busch signed a deal to be the sole U.S. distributor of Grolsch beer, a high-end European import.

The deal will become effective in January 2007, and will give Netherlands-based Grolsch access to Anheuser-Busch’s national distribution system of 600 beer wholesalers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but an Anheuser-Busch spokeswoman said A-B will not take any ownership of Grolsch.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction, in recognizing that the company needs to partake in the import and superior premium category,” said Carlos Laboy, an analyst with Bear Stearns Equity Research in New York.

The bottom line: the move is good news for Anheuser-Busch beer wholesalers, who have been unhappy because A-B sales have been flat while microbrewed beers and imports enjoyed growth going on 10% per year.

That’s why rumors abound that A-B will make a deal with one or more American craft brewers – perhaps a distribution deal or one that include A-b taking equity in the craft brewery (or breweries – ala Redhook and Widmer). The folks pushing Bud, Bud Light and the recently popular Bud Select want to sell higher margin beers.

Perhaps Grolsch is only the start.


Beer’s ‘new’ image: Part I

After month’s of discussion about improving beer’s image, brewing giant Anheuser-Busch will put its money where its mouth is. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the brewer will provide one of its coveted Super Bowl spots for an ad promoting the industry.

“It wasn’t too difficult of a decision because everyone in our company realizes the need for Anheuser-Busch to lead an industry platform,” said Bob Lachky, executive vice president of global industry development at A-B’s domestic brewing unit.

The spot, dubbed “Slainte,” in reference to a Gaelic toast, will air during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, in which 30 seconds of ad time sells for about $2.5 million.

“It starts to send a different signal about the demographics of beer,” Lachky said. “It starts to paint a slightly different picture than what people might come to expect (from beer), and it totally puts a different face on beer.”

Beer Therapy will comment Monday after seeing the spot, and surely add some comments of our own about beer’s image.

A-B certainly isn’t overlooking any possible new ways to reach potential consumers. The company will make its Super Bowl ads available for postgame downloading at The beer giant worked with Maven Networks of Massachusetts to create an application that allows consumers to download their favorite beer commercials and watch them on video iPods, laptops, and computer screens.

The “Slainte” spot will also promote a new website,, that goes live on Sunday. It features sections that educate consumers about the brewing process and offers food-pairing suggestions, historical facts, recipes using beer and “beertails,” suggested ways to mix beers.

The importance of the campaign became more apparent on Wednesday when A-B announced the impact of flat sales and higher costs in the fourth quarter, with profits plunging almost 40% from a year ago.

A-B’s problems reflect those of all the largest brewers. Overall beer sales were flat in 2005, although early reports indicate the craft segment grew at about a 7% pace.

Miller adMiller Brewing has already told distributors about its plans revive the flagging Miller Genuine Draft brand by targeting young adults in their 20s and 30s. The campaign goes national March 1, with a “bridge” advertisements already launched. Miller’s advertisements – featuring the catch phrase, “Beer. Grown Up.” – are aimed at those in their late 20s to 30s who have drifted away from mainstream beers and switched to other alcohol-based drinks, or even craft beers or imports.

“We’ve found our target consumer, 26- to 40-year-old strivers that are being neglected by the beer category,” brand director Terry Haley said in introducing the campaign. “It is perfect for Miller Genuine Draft.”


How ‘Slate’ thinks about beer

During 2005, the online publicaton Slate covered the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and the future of the Supreme Court, but the most popular stories were, for the most part, about dogs, beer, celebrities, and naked ladies.

No. 9 on the list: Welcome to Miller Time, The great American beer crisis.

Always interesting to see how those not as involved with specialty beer as we are think about beer.


Expert questions health value of drinking

Since we’re pretty meticulous about reporting the possible benefits of moderate drinking, it seems only fair to let a professor of epidemiology at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, take the other side.

Dr. Rod Jackson and his colleagues make their case in an article in the Dec. 3 issue of The Lancet.

Jackson said that nondrinkers are different from light-to-moderate drinkers, who are also different from heavy drinkers. “So, it is likely that the apparent benefits of light-to-moderate drinking on the heart are overestimated because light-to-moderate drinkers are light-to-moderate in their other behaviors as well, which is giving them some of the observed benefits, rather than the alcohol,” he said.



The bitter battle between Miller and A-B

We can’t really call the latest round of commercials from Miller Brewing, the “Great Taste Trial,” much ado about nothing because there’s all kind of advertising money involved, they’ll be seen by millions and they’ve generated plenty of additional publicity.

However, as our old editor liked to ask: Is there a story here?

Basically Miller claims Bud Light increased its bitterness by nearly 11% this year, reversing steady declines of bitterness over the last 15 years. Light beers in general, including Miller Lite, have decreased their bitterness. Miller also says Bud Light’s carbonation level rose this year by about 4%.

Now the St. Louis Post-Disptach asks beer experts if drinkers can taste changes that were measured in laboratories.

“It seems they want to make something out of nothing,” said Michael Lewis, professor emeritus of brewing science at the University of California at Davis.

Brewers constantly tweak their recipes.

“Beer is a natural product, and agricultural products shift from year to year, much less generation to generation,” said Keith Lemcke, vice president of Chicago-based Siebel Institute of Technology, which trains brewers. Any minor variations Miller might have found couldn’t be detected by consumers, he said.


Take that, hopheads

Lew Bryson stands up for malty beers:

This is probably my fifth or sixth direct rant about hopheads. I apologize, but only a little, and only because it might be boring. But there’s just so much more to the whole beer palate than the variety of flavors available from hops, and the enthusiasts, the people who should be reaching out to the future craft beer drinkers, largely aren’t getting it. They’re impassioned about the one flavor/aroma component of beer that is least likely to entrance newcomers: bitterness. Their passion is beautiful, but so narrow. Love beer, not just hops.

An engaging argument, although it hardly seems fair to lump hop flavor and hop bitterness together.


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.