Kentuckians following the “Beer War” over House Bill 168 in the current session of the Kentucky General Assembly may have been confused by last night’s Super Bowl ad by Belgium-based mega-corporation Anheuser-Busch InBev for its signature product, Budweiser.
HB 168 would prevent large beer suppliers like A-B InBev from also being licensed beer distributors in Kentucky. The legislation’s supporters accuse A-B InBev of attempting to snuff out smaller craft beers from the marketplace by closing off certain distribution channels. Officials from the Belgian corporation have argued that craft beers will continue to flourish regardless of how much the company expands its distribution reach in the state. And they’re using 11 lobbyists in Frankfort this session to make that point.
But there was no such harmony in Budweiser’s multimillion-dollar ad during last night’s game. Instead, it portrayed craft beer drinkers as effete hipster snobs and Bud drinkers as Real Americans.
The ad has no voiceover, but text on the screen presents Bud as “proudly a macro beer,” adding: “The people who drink our beer are people who like to drink beer brewed the hard way” atop spliced clips of bros at the bar raising Buds while watching the Sportsball game. In contrast to craft beers, Bud is not “brewed to be fussed over”; rather, Bud is “brewed for drinking, not dissecting.”
In case that was too subtle, the ad shows four-eyed mustachioed hipsters nose-deep into their snifters of craft beer, putting a face on America’s new pretentious monsters.
One of the closing shots reads: “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale. We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.” [sic]
Adam Watson, an owner of Louisville’s Against the Grain Brewery and president of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, tells Insider Louisville the ad wasn’t the most intelligent production he’s ever seen, but it does show that A-B InBev fears competition.
“The ad itself is essentially dumb, but harmless,” says Watson. “No one who sees that ad is going to stop being a craft beer drinker and start drinking Bud. But it speaks to an underlying — I don’t want to say animosity, but adversarial stance that they’ve taken.”
While A-B InBev points to the success of the craft beer industry in Louisville over the past decade — where they have been a distributor — as a sign that they don’t hurt the industry, Watson says that is misleading.
“Louisville’s craft beer boom has been in spite of, rather than because of, A-B’s involvement,” says Watson. “Louisville is large enough of a metropolitan city that it can support a pretty wide variety of distributors. So even though A-B as a distributer has made it harder for small brands like my own to distribute, there are still enough other thriving distributors in Louisville that I can find one that I like.”
However, Watson says that market dynamic changes in smaller areas of Kentucky, where A-B can have a monopoly over distribution and push smaller craft brewers out of the market, gaining an unfair advantage.
There’s also the craven hypocrisy of the ad. In recent years, A-B InBev has been on an astroturfing campaign to buy up many of the craft beer brewers they’re antagonizing — and which have increasingly gained their market share. In fact, as Paste Magazine pointed out today, they now own a brewery that makes a certain type of beer that you may have discovered last night:
Only losers drink pumpkin peach ale. Everyone knows this. Except, wait, what’s that? Elysian Brewing, the Seattle brewery that Anheuser just purchased last week, makes a … yes … pumpkin peach ale. It’s called “Gourdia on My Mind .” Anheuser is literally mocking the consumers of the COMPANIES THEY NOW OWN. Honestly, how devastating is that for the Elysian brewing team? Your owners think your customers are pretentious hipsters. These are the people who own your business.
Asked about their all-out attack on pretentious craft beer and its fussy drinker, a company spokesman told Paste the ad actually didn’t do any of that, as A-B InBev “acquires and sells craft beer. We love craft beer. This is an affirmation of what Budweiser is, not an attack on what it isn’t.” The spokesman added that the “pumpkin peach” beer in the ad was “a fabricated, ludicrous flavor combination.”
Raise a can of golden suds brewed the hard way, Real Americans.