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Craft brewers fight back at Bud with pumpkin peach ale

04/27/2015 05:27 EDT | Updated 07/31/2015 11:59 EDT
What began as a mockery of craft beers, and the people who drink them, has now become a real product.

Budweiser poked fun at craft beers, and the people who drink them, with their 2015 Super Bowl ad.

In the ad, Budweiser - which is owned by the massive multinational Anheuser-Busch - proudly proclaims its "macro-beer" status.

And it's not subtle in its mockery of craft beer drinkers, who are depicted with twirled mustaches, swirling and sniffing "fussy" beers in goblets.

And then there was the dig at the flavoured beers sometimes favoured by craft brewers - specifically, the ad's dismissive statement that the craft fans can keep their "pumpkin peach ale," which was a flavour made up to take a swipe at the craft beer fans.

Not surprisingly, craft beer consumers with hurt feelings took to the Internet back in February to mock Budweiser for picking on the little guys. But Internet mockery is nothing compared to the long game that came to fruition last week.

A handful of breweries have produced new products directed at the folks at Budweiser - real-life pumpkin peach ale.

Beer industry writer Joe Wiebe says each of the ales takes a very direct dig at Budweiser.

"It takes a month to put something out," Wiebe says. "So we are starting to see some pumpkin peach ale appearing on the marketplace."

He says several small brewers have their own pumpkin peach variations.

"Smokehouse Brewing in Columbus is putting out a 'Fussy Sipper' pumpkin peach ale -- and that's a quote from the Budweiser ad, the fussy sipper.  Griffin Claw did a beechwood-aged pumpkin peach ale, which is pretty cool considering the Budweiser beechwood-aged aspect.  And then Bell's in Kalamazoo, Michigan has released theirs as a, quote, 'screw you' to Anheuser-Busch."

Wiebe says it might come off as a bit of a joke. But many in the craft beer industry feel the original ad from Budweiser was a serious dig, particularly because Anheuser-Busch has spent the last several years acquiring small microbreweries that brew the sorts of things the Budweiser ad made fun of.

For example, Anheuser-Busch recently acquired Elysian Brewing Company in Seattle - a brewery which ironically has a pumpkin-peach product on tap, and a slogan that declares "corporate beer sucks."

Craft beer gaining ground


Wiebe says the production of actual pumpkin peach ale is the craft community's response.

"I think it's become a bit of a symbol for craft beer standing up against the tide of industrial beer," he says. "I think that's kind of interesting as a way to hold something up and brand yourself against that macro-beer industry."

The craft beer industry, though, appears to be gaining ground in that fight.

Major breweries still own the lion's share of the market, but that share is shrinking. Meanwhile, craft beer has risen to fill the gap, and there's plenty of space to continue growing.

According to a report from the trade association Beer Canada, small breweries accounted for almost nine per cent of domestic beer sales in 2013 - up from under six per cent in 2008.

Much of that market share was gained without what Joe Wiebe calls "attack ads" - until now.

"All they've been doing is just making good beer and letting customers decide," Wiebe says. "But this Super Bowl ad that Anheuser-Busch put out was so directly focused on the craft beer industry, that a lot of them were quite offended by it and are fighting back against it, whereas before I don't think they felt they had to."

That appears to have lead to some staying power for pumpkin-peach products, which has gone beyond a short-lived Internet meme.

Aside from the growing list of craft breweries making pumpkin peach ale, you can now buy pumpkin-peach brewing kits, t-shirts, hats, and bumper stickers.
    

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