The Die Is Cast In the Battle Over Macro Vs. Craft Beer – What The Battle Means For Beer Drinkers


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Drinking

During the third quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl, a sixty-second ad aired that may have forever changed the landscape of beer – not to mention leaving the largest beer brand in the country looking like a massive hypocrite. Budweiser used this sixty-second spot to not only proudly proclaim itself as a macro-producer, but also insult those that are fans of and brew craft beer.

It’s widely known that America’s penchant for craft beer is growing; new breweries seem to open daily, and consumer’s desire to explore is stronger than ever. Still, macrobrewers clearly maintain market dominance, a quick look at the top twenty beers in America won’t show a single craft, or even mega-craft (Sam Adams) on the list. But the facts on the ground don’t seem to matter here, because marketing is all about perception. Current perception shows craft beer’s appeal in the U.S. is growing, and therefore Budweiser made the foolish decision of spending $9 million dollars to proudly proclaim they don’t fall for all the “hipster foodie bullshit.” As they said in the commercial, “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale, we’ll be brewing us some golden suds.”

Here’s the full commercial in all its glory.

What makes the commercial even more hypocritical is that the beer Budweiser is making fun of is actually made by a brewer that the company just bought. The beer, made by Elysian Brewing, is called Gourdia on My Mind, and it’s a Pumpkin Peach ale. We can almost see the stupidity that occurred during the brainstorming for this commercial at Budweiser’s agency. Some marketing exec is going on and on about this silly little brewer Bud just bought and listing how ridiculous some of the concoctions sound, when some starry eyed creatives think to themselves, you know what, we should make fun of that beer, who cares that Budweiser now owns it!

Let’s actually look at how they chose to position themselves line by line:
Proudly a macro beer. It’s not brewed to be fussed over.
Basically, if you have to think about our beer we’re doing something wrong. This is the beer for case races, shotgunning and funneling. I can’t understand why Budweiser wouldn’t want to also place itself in the category of beers people actually like to openly say they enjoy, but perhaps they feel that, at this point, that positioning is futile.

It’s brewed for a crisp, smooth finish. This is the only beer Beechwood aged since 1876. There’s only one Budweiser. It’s brewed for drinking. Not dissecting.
Just to make sure you get it, they’re hammering the point home. You chug this. Why they threw in that it’s beechwood aged, however, makes zero sense. If you’re chugging a beer, why would anyone care that the beer was aged in beechwood? Wouldn’t that be more in line with craft beer? It’s just more proof that the brand is a bit lost.

The people who drink our beer are people who like drinking beer. To drink beer brewed the hard way. Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale. We’ll be brewing us some golden suds. This is the famous Budweiser beer. This Bud’s for you.
This is the strongest statement of the ad — it basically says you either like craft, or you like us. What again is odd here is that we’ve actually said many times at VinePair that there’s a great time and place for all different kinds of beverages. For many, Budweiser was one of the first beers they ever drank, probably underage, so it comes with a heap load of memories and maybe even a little bit of nostalgia. Why they’d want to alienate a whole population of people who probably think of them with at least some fond nostalgia is pretty perplexing.

Reaction online to the ad was swift and furious, with craft brewers and fans immediately proclaiming that Budweiser had revealed it’s nervous. Then they started putting out their own commercials:

But the best reaction in all of this isn’t from the Craft community, but from a fellow macro-producer: Miller-Coors. Smelling blood in the water Miller-Coors tweeted this:

While Budweiser chose to take an us vs. them stance, Miller took the stance that we’re all in this together. Both Bud and Miller own quite a bit of craft brewers themselves, plus they own quite a few brands many consumers think are craft, though they aren’t, so Miller’s strategy is an interesting one. They continue to reinforce that they are a part of the general beer community, and hope more consumers just keep drinking “craft” beer, ideally one of their own brands.

Miller’s reaction also makes it clearer than ever that the large brewers of the world aren’t just nervous about losing market share to craft beer, but that they really have no idea how to speak to the new generation of beer drinker. For decades, selling beer was easy, but with more choice and people focusing on local products, selling beer has gotten tougher. You can either play the “one for all, all for one” game Miller seems to have embraced, or you can start a war. It seems from Budweiser’s ad that they’ve cast the first stone, but people aren’t often fans of Goliath flexing his muscle, David is always more fun to root for – especially when Goliath’s actions come off as pretty tone deaf.

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