When Budweiser launched an ad that mocked craft beer, some craft brewers decided to demonstrate the truth in the message.
Leuven, Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s Budweiser TV spot, which debuted during this year’s Super Bowl and is still running, depicts mustachioed hipsters tasting craft beer. The ad’s messaging states that Budweiser, in comparison: “isn’t a beer to be fussed over. It’s brewed for drinking, not for dissecting. Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale. We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.”
The commercial created massive backlash in the craft beer community. “ISO Pumpkin Peach Ale” T-shirts sprang up online, as did several YouTube videos parodying the Budweiser ad. Versions of pumpkin peach ale, itself, followed.
Larry Bell, founder of Galesburg, Mich.-based Bell’s Brewery Inc., got to work on producing a pumpkin peach ale the morning after the Super Bowl with a pumpkin from his rooftop garden in Chicago. “I pretty much jumped off the sofa in shock when I saw the ad,” Bell says.
His team made 48 bottles of pumpkin peach ale and turned it into an opportunity to both build brand loyalty and benefit a worthy cause. The small-batch brew was sold in Bell’s brewpub in Kalamazoo, Mich., from April 24 to April 27, and $1,000 in proceeds were donated to the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. “I was in the bar that weekend and autographed a few bottles. [I wrote] something about fussing over beer, or being fussy,” Bell says. Birmingham, Mich.-based Griffin Claw Brewing Co. took the gag one step further, making a Beechwood-Aged Pumpkin Peach Ale, a nod to Budweiser’s “beechwood-aged” slogan, and including its mascot, a griffin, riding a Clydesdale horse on the label.
“When I saw the ad, I called our master brewer, who answered the phone hollering right out of the gate. We decided to have some fun with it,” says Scott LePage, advisor at Griffin Claw. The company made 700 bottles of the beer, which launched in late March, and was sold in its brewpub and via its distributors throughout Michigan.
The beer sold out in the brewpub in a week, LePage says. “The response was great, and it drummed up enthusiasm for craft beer 100%. We’re still talking about it. It reinforced the position of the big guys trying to hurt the small guys, which can’t be good for them. There’s enough room for all of us.”
The publicity generated from the incident has helped the craft beer industry as a whole, Bell says. “For the craft beer drinker, it lets them celebrate craft beer over macro brew just a little bit more. We are the guys who fuss over beer, and we’re going to drink pumpkin peach,” he says. “Thanks, Bud, for letting us get all of this publicity.”
This article was originally published in the May 12, 2015, issue of Marketing News Weekly.
Author Bio: Christine Birkner is the senior staff writer for Marketing News and Marketing News Weekly. E-mail her at [email protected].