This Bud's for Ale Lovers

A-B Brews Up New Beer as Consumers Continue to Seek Out Imports and Crafts

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CHICAGO ( -- Anheuser-Busch is rolling out a brand extension of its flagship this fall called Budweiser American Ale.

Scheduled to launch Oct. 6, the product will be a darker, richer beer than Budweiser lager, said Marlene Coulis, A-B's VP-consumer strategy and innovation.

Not to be outdone
The move comes weeks after rival Miller Brewing Co. rolled out the three-label Miller Lite Brewers Collection, a group of craft-style beers under the Miller Lite brand umbrella.

But Ms. Coulis said A-B's Michelob brand family, which has been spinning off new craft styles for more than a decade, was the real model for the new brew, which is designed to help the King of Beers ride a trend of consumer preferences favoring imports and crafts over macrobrews. "Michelob was a perfect model for this," she said. "Obviously seeing the growth that's occurred in craft and micros, it's a perfect opportunity for us."

It wasn't clear if Budweiser American Ale would be receiving advertising support, or who would be making the ads if it did. Budweiser's primary agency is DDB, Chicago. Independent Cannonball, St. Louis, also works on the brand. Other A-B roster shops include LatinWorks, Austin; Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco; Euro RCSG, Chicago; and Hill Holliday, Boston.

Light of the world
The Budweiser brand has, of course, been extended before. Bud Light -- then Budweiser Light -- was launched in 1982 as a response to the success of Miller Lite. It went on to become the world's leading beer, eclipsing the base brand that spawned it.

More recently, A-B has tended to roll out Bud extensions at moments when the overall Budweiser family has been struggling to post growth. Budweiser Select's 2005 launch fit that bill, boosting the brewer's growth for a year before falling into a steep spiral that has continued ever since. A-B also plans to launch a lime-flavored version of Bud Light this May.

But the new brands also give A-B more to juggle at a time when it's been telling Wall Street that it's focused on its core Bud and Michelob brands above all else, following the difficult task of incorporating a bevy of import and specialty brews into its portfolio last year.

Room for more
Ms. Coulis said the extensions would help strengthen the core brands by bringing new drinkers to the Budweiser brand family. "We believe this will positively reflect on Budweiser," she said. "It'll help us reach a whole new set of consumers."

Ms. Coulis said she wasn't yet able to discuss the scale of the launch. One reason for that: The federal label application for the brand was uncovered by Miller, which reported it on its corporate blog earlier today, perhaps earlier than A-B had intended to discuss it.
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