Interbrew uncaps "beer category" web site

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TORONTO--Global brewing giant Interbrew of Belgium is taking beer online with a new Web site called beer.com that passes up the usual brand marketing in favor of promoting the entire beer category worldwide.

Interbrew has launched what it's calling an online community for beerdrinkers and "all the stuff beer lovers want to do" including entertainment, chats, sports, contests and free e-mail.

"We're the first packaged goods company to do this," says Rocco Rossi, president of Toronto-based beer.com, which secured the site's name from previous owners.

"The product (beer) transcends any individual brand," he says.

Partnered with Interbrew for beer.com are four entertainment and online sports companies in the U.S. and Canada: Total Sports, Internet Sports Network, Webpersonals.com and Core Audience Entertainment.

Supporting the beer.com launch is an online, outdoor and radio campaign, handled by new Toronto shop Zig Inc. in Canada and New York's Eisnor Interactive in the U.S.

Packaging for Interbrew beers, including Labatt brands in Canada and Rolling Rock in the U.S., will soon be splashed with the Web site's address, which will be found on the likes of bottle caps, neck labels and can rims.

Marketing efforts will initially focus on the U.S. and Canada, although international expansion is in the works. Mr. Rossi expects beer.com to be available in at least three other languages starting next year.

There's virtually no brand promotion on beer.com except for a small spot on the home page that highlights the month's featured beer, which for October is one of Interbrew's international brands, Belgian lager Stella Artois. A listing titled "Beers of the World" features a roster of Interbrew brands, among them Leffe, Jupiler and Kokanee.

That brand lineup could change as beer.com expands into other markets. Mr. Rossi hints that beers from outside the Interbrew family may be added to boost the site's credibility, in turn building credibility with beer drinkers.

Beer.com is now talking with two other major global brewers about joining the site.

Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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