BREWERS TRY TO PUMP SALES WITH RED BEERS

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BOSTON-The reds are coming, the reds are coming as brewers react to extensive pricing pressures.

This week alone Red Wolf Lager from Anheuser-Busch, Red Dog from Miller Brewing Co. and Tarwebok from Heineken join several brands getting greatly expanded distribution, notably Miller's Leinenkugel's Red and G. Heileman Brewing Co.'s Henry Weinhard's Boar's Head Red. (Red Dog's the only one in the group that's not actually red.)

Young & Rubicam, Chicago, is the agency for Leinenkugel. Warwick Baker & Fiore, New York, is Heineken's agency.

Coming in November is Elk Mountain Red from A-B. Aside from the reds, new products touted at last week's National Beer Wholesalers Association meeting here included Qube, a clear malt from Miller slated for a test. Coors Brewing Co.'s success with Zima (selling 4 million 9-liter cases in 1993) has impressed the industry, and it is looking at line extensions.

G. Heileman Brewing Co. claims it will launch nearly 150 new brands within the next year, though Chairman and Co-CEO William Turner says many will be regional brand extensions.

Mr. Turner, like many brewers, sees the new products as a way to halt the price promotion spiral. At its height this summer, California consumers were offered enough rebate coupons to drop the 12-pack price of premium products to as little as 49 cents.

"There's not a lot of good competition in the gutter," said Mr. Turner. "It's much better to play in the clouds."

While both Miller and A-B have told wholesalers they will ease up on discounting, new products may offer a surer alternative. Brewers, importers and distributors said import and premium sales have been growing this year. The overall beer market, at 199 million barrels in 1993, has been relatively flat.

Weinhard's Boar's Head Red will be one of Heileman's few national products. Ad support, including outdoor boards and radio, will come from the Richards Group, Dallas. Heileman also plans new regional products including the revival of McSorley's Ale as a superpremium-price product in the Northeast.

Anheuser-Busch, meanwhile, sees Red Wolf as a big step into what it calls the emerging specialty beer category and into red beers, popularized by Coors' Killian's Irish Red.

A-B's Red Wolf will be identified as from the "Specialty Product Group of Anheuser-Busch" and get major TV, radio and outdoor board support. That advertising, featuring a "follow your instincts" theme from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, began teaser TV and radio spots last week in Florida and will quickly go national.

Tim Schoen, senior brand manager for Michelob and specialty products, called Red Wolf "a specialty beer for mainstream drinkers" and said A-B will have more such products in the future.

A-B now also is taking national Elk Mountain Amber ale. DMB&B likely will do at least print support for the Elk Mountain lines.

A-B also is taking a major step to reduce California discounting on its premium Budweiser. Subpremium Busch is available in 46 states and enters Arizona this week. Those results will determine prospects of a California rollout next year. Some distributors said A-B is closely examining repositioning superpremium Michelob as a premium-price product.

Miller's Red Dog hits Southeast markets this week. The brewer last week finalized a deal with actor Tommy Lee Jones that will keep his voice in U.S. spots for the beer (AA, Sept. 19).

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