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Stroh Brewery Co. is preparing to push the specialty Henry Weinhard's line outside its core Western markets.

The brewer is planning to gradually roll out the brand into states surrounding its current territory of 15 Western states, as opposed to an all-out national launch. The Midwest appears to be an area of focus for the expansion.

The launch should be at full strength in the first half of 1998 and will be supported with ads from W.B. Doner & Co., Detroit.

"We will participate in the growth of specialty beers, and in particular Henry Weinhard's," Stroh CEO Bill Henry said in a speech during the National Beer Wholesalers Association conference last week.

In an interview, Mr. Henry said the brewer will start pushing Henry Weinhard's brands in states contiguous to core markets in the first half of next year.


Mr. Henry identified building the Weinhard's brand as a key objective for 1998. Other goals include boosting the company's 55% share of the malt liquor category and jacking up marketing support for regional brands such as Lone Star, Rainier, Schmidt's and Special Export.

Stroh has been spending more on marketing to stem sales declines, and the Weinhard's effort fits into that strategy.

The brewer spent $9.8 million in advertising support of its brands during the first half of 1997, up 16.7% from spending for all of 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The brewer backed the Weinhard's brands with $538,000 in ad support during the first six months of 1997, up from $31,000 during all of 1996, CMR says.

New TV spots from Doner broke this month and will run through November in its West Coast markets.


Still, sales of Stroh brands continue to slide. According to Information Resources Inc., supermarket sales of Stroh brands fell 7.7%, to 38.2 million cases, during the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7.

Sales of two leading Weinhard's brands, Blue Boar Pale Ale and Private Reserve, fell 13.9% to about 2 million cases.

Stroh gained the Henry Weinhard's line when it acquired G. Heileman Brewing Co. last year.

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