A-B officials confirmed it will introduce Pacific Ridge Pale Ale in the Sacramento market Nov. 18 and roll it out throughout northern California shortly thereafter.
The rollout will be supported with an estimated $2 million to $3 million print and outdoor campaign by Butler, Shine & Stern, Sausalito, Calif.
Creative features four brewmasters at A-B's Fairfield, Calif., brewery where the new beer is produced. One ad shows the four with the headline: "Pale, intense, mildly bitter and strong-headed, but wait 'til you try their beer."
An outdoor ad pictures a beer bottle and urges consumers to "think globally and drink locally."
Although it accounts for just 1% of A-B's total shipments, the Specialty Brewing Group is growing quickly. It is projected to ship 1 million barrels this year, up from 600,000 in 1995, says Paine Webber. In addition to the new brew, its other brand is Ziegenbock, distributed solely in Texas.
Analysts say A-B is intent on rolling out several regional specialty brews to capture its share of the craft-brew market.
A-B also holds a 25% stake in and distribution rights to Redhook Ale Brewery, a craft brewer in the Pacific Northwest.
A spokeswoman said labeling for Pacific Ridge Pale Ale would clearly note it was brewed and bottled by Anheuser-Busch. Specialty arms of major breweries, such as Miller Brewing Co.'s Plank Road Brewery and Adolph Coors Co.'s Blue Moon divisions, have been criticized for marketing products as if they came from small or independent breweries.
BOSTON BEER SALVO
Meanwhile, A-B's craft brew rival, Boston Beer Co., fired a return salvo last week in response to A-B's Halloween radio spots criticizing Boston Beer's practice of brewing Samuel Adams under contract at breweries around the country.
The 60-second radio spot, which broke nationwide, positions Boston Beer as being unfairly bullied by the A-B Goliath.
Creative from Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis, features company founder Jim Koch asserting, "The Samuel Adams standard remains as high as ever. So, fellas, don't worry. You guys at Budweiser still have the Sam Adams standard to keep reaching for."
"It was a pretty unprecedented attack that was not even trying to build their own brand," said John Chappell, Boston Beer's VP-brand development. "They're clearly on a destroy mission."
Mr. Chappell describes his company's spot as a "high-road response." He added that the goal wasn't to escalate the war of words, but to get Boston Beer's position out to the public.
He said the ads would run "as long as necessary."
Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo.