Anheuser-Busch

How Breweries Survived During Prohibition

When Prohibition ended in 1933, only a handful of breweries in the United States were still operating. Nick Green of MentalFloss.com explains how these breweries survived a 13-year period during which their main line of business was illegal.

To begin with, brewery owners knew well in advance that Prohibition was coming, and thus had time to think of alternatives. The most common was “near beer,” which the Volstead Act defined as having less than 0.5 percent alcohol. Brewers had experience with low-alcohol beer, thanks to a World War I emergency measure that outlawed beer with an alcohol content higher than 2.75 percent.

Breweries got into numerous other lines of business. Ice cream was one. Anheuser-Busch owned a fleet of refrigerated trucks, and put them to work carrying a different product. Adolph Coors mass-produced ceramic tubes and rods for the military, along with lines of dinnerware. Many of the big breweries sold malt extract “as a cooking product” which was in fact used for homebrewing, then prohibited by the Volstead Act. Other breweries converted their equipment to dye-making: the transition was easy, and a shortage of imports created a postwar “dye famine.”

The Friday Mash (Superstition Edition)

Today is Friday the 13th, a day dreaded by the superstitious. However, Ludwig and his staff at the Mash agree with baseball (and beer-drinking) legend Babe Ruth, who said, “I have only one superstition. I make sure to touch all the bases when I hit a home run.”

And now…the Mash!

We begin in Chicago, where Old Style beer will end its 63-year run at Wrigley Field at the end of this season. Next year, Anheuser-Busch will become the Cubs’ exclusive beer sponsor.

Shares of Boston Beer Company (ticker symbol: SAM) have appreciated by 1,000 percent in the past ten years, which means the company’s CEO, Jim Koch, is now a billionaire.

Since 1935, Wyoming’s beer tax has been two cents a gallon. State lawmakers are considering raising the tax to help fund substance-abuse programs. The nation’s median beer tax is 19 cents.

East Asian beer lovers can now buy Hello Kitty beer in six tropical fruit flavors. The brewer points out that the beer is aimed at adults who grew up with the cartoon cat, who turns 40 next year.

Good beer in Vegas? You bet! (Sorry, Ludwig couldn’t resist.) Renee LiButti of Blog.Vegas.com offers her list of the five best places in town to get a craft brew.

A feral pig in Australia had a fight with a cow after guzzling three six-packs of beer left out by campers. The pig was later found sleeping under a tree, presumably nursing a hangover.

Finally, three friends have invented the Case Coolie, a lightweight carrier that keeps a 30-pack of beer cold without ice. Just in time for football tailgating.

The Friday Mash (”States You Never Heard Of” Edition)

On this day in 1784, delegates from eight counties in what was then western North Carolina voted to secede from the state and form the independent Republic of Franklin. The tiny republic, which was denied statehood by Congress, lasted only four years.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in St. Martin, Austria, where the Hofstetten brewery has resurrected a beer brewed in the town’s castle in 1720. The beer contains emmer as well as barley and wheat.

Big brewers are having second thoughts about Russia, whose beer market has gone flat thanks to high taxes, a ban on late-night and kiosk sales, and other restrictions.

If you couldn’t get a ticket to this year’s Great American Beer Festival–it sold out in just 20 minutes–the Denver Post has a calendar of other beer events in town around festival time.

Here’s a way to get your brand noticed. A brewery in Dayton, Ohio, calls itself the Toxic Brewing Company, and its logo is a skull and crossbones. Local bars are clamoring for the brew.

Good news for athletes: when electrolytes are added, beer can hydrate you faster. The bad news: the hydration comes at the expense of alcohol content.

The “beer wars” are on again. Anheuser-Busch has filed a complaint with the Council of Better Business Bureaus over Coors’s claim that it has “the world’s most refreshing can.”

Finally, TheBleacherReport.com reviews new products that allow football fans to sneak alcohol into the stadium. They include iPhone look-alikes, booze-filled “binoculars,” and fake beer bellies.

Beer in the Legislatures

These items caught Ludwig’s attention:

In Indiana, the state’s convenience store association has gone to court to overturn a state law that prohibits them from selling cold beer. Liquor stores are the only sellers allowed to do so.

Beer is back on the agenda North Carolina. A bill that would allow grocery stores, restaurants, and other retailers to sell and refill growlers passed the House by a wide margin.

Both houses of the Illinois General Assembly have passed a bill that would require Anheuser-Busch to divest itself of a minority interest in a Chicago-based distributor.

Lawsuit Alleges A-B Waters Down Its Beer

Anheuser-Busch has another problem to contend with: class-action lawsuits accusing the brewer of watering down its beers. The lawsuits, which demand millions of dollars in damages, allege that A-B added water to the beer before bottling it, thus reducing its alcohol content to less than what is advertised on the label.

Josh Boxer, the lead attorney in these lawsuits, says that the allegations are based on information from former employees at A-B’s 13 U.S. breweries, some of whom worked in high-level plant positions.

A-B has called the claims “groundless,” and said its beers fully comply with labeling laws.

About Those Black Crown Super Bowl Ads

By now, you’ve likely seen Budweiser Black Crown on the shelves at your local supermarket. You probably know the Black Crown story as well: it was the taste-test winner of the beers created for Budweiser Project 12. And you’re no doubt aware that Anheuser-Busch, Inc., has forked out millions for air time during the Super Bowl to promote this new brand.

Donald Russell, who blogs as Joe Sixpack, has an interesting explanation for A-B’s decision to promote the new brand during tomorrow’s big game. He quotes from an email he received from Grant Pace, the ad man who created the famous Bud Bowl series of Super Bowl commercials. Pace explains that the ads are intended to “drive conversation”:

Sarah Palin drove conversation, love her or hate her. When she stopped being interesting to both sides, she faded. Same with beer. They’re fine if you love the new products or hate them, but don’t be quiet about them. Don’t say that Budweiser isn’t doing stuff, isn’t innovating, isn’t sitting still.

Perhaps, But it remains to be seen whether craft beer drinkers actually like Black Crown, and like it enough to switch brands.

“I’m Tom Dibblee and I’m a Bud Light Lime Drinker”

Tom Dibblee, of the LA Review of Books, has a confession to make. He enjoys Bud Light Lime because “it allows me to shed the burden of sophistication, and it restores beer to what it once was, when I was young–a tart nectar that makes me happy.”

Dibblee makes his admission as part of his amusing review of Bitter Brew, William Knoedelseder’s account of the rise and fall of Anheuser-Busch. Knoedelseder mentions BLL just once in his book, but the beer is central to Dibble’s review.

August Busch IV was a disaster as CEO, and was shown the door by InBev after it acquired A-B. By February 2010, he was “holed up in his mansion, grievously addicted to drugs, gripped by paranoia, beset by hallucinations, and armed with hundreds of high-powered weapons, including several .50-caliber machine guns.” But before falling into the abyss, August IV suggested that the company branch out into novelty beverages. All but one flopped: Bud Light Lime, which, in 2008, led to Anheuser-Busch’s best summer sales in years.

The Friday Mash (Trinidad and Tobago Edition)

Fifty years ago today, Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from Great Britain. This Caribbean island republic is the birthplace of calypso, steelpan, and soca music, chutney, and the limbo. A cold beer would go well with any or all of these.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Hyde Park, New York, where the Culinary Institute of America’s American Bounty Restaurant celebrates its 30th anniversary with a special black ale brewed by Tommy Keegan of Keegan Ales.

Craft beer in Kyrgyzstan? Writer Chris Rickleton, who lives in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, reports that the local beers aren’t bad at all, and that a couple of micros are open for business.

Three Portland, Oregon, women are planning to write a book titled Hop in the Saddle, a bicyclist’s guide to beer touring their city.

Now that Goose Island is part of the Anheuser-Busch family of beers, they will be available in all 50 states. The high-end Goose Island beers will continue to be made in Chicago.

The Yeastie Boys, a brewery in New Zealand, is a pioneer in open-source brewing. Bottles of its Digital IPA contain metallic blue QR codes which enable customers to brew their own versions of the ale.

Joshua Justice of the Houston Press lists the ten ugliest labels on beers sold in Texas. Some of the labels Justice can’t stand appear on bottles of very good beer.

Finally, iPhone users can play a new game that features bottlecaps from Michigan breweries. When you touch a bottlecap, the game gives you information about that brewery, including its location and a social media contact.

Beer…by the Numbers

  • Entries in this year’s World Beer Cup: 3,921.
  • Categories in which medals were awarded: 95.
  • Countries represented in this year’s competition: 54.
  • Anheuser-Busch distributors in the U.S.: more than 500.
  • Distributors actually owned by ABInBev: 14.
  • Distributor’s profit on the sale of a case of beer: $4.
  • Most expensive major league park for beer: Fenway Park, Boston (60.4 cents per ounce).
  • Second most expensive park: Busch Stadium, St. Louis (56.2 cents per ounce).
  • Cheapest park: Chase Field, Phoenix (28.6 cents per ounce).
  • American craft breweries that can their beer: 179.
  • Craft beers available in cans: 561.
  • Styles of beer available in cans: 73.
  • Australia’s per capita beer consumption in 2011: 4.23 liters.
  • Years since its per capita consumption has been that low: 65.
  • Its peak per capita beer consumption: 9.2 liters, in 1975.
  • A-B’s Ads: Not So Super?

    In the past ten years, Anheuser-Busch has spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars on Super Bowl ads. The ads are an artistic success, so much so that people put off their trip to the bathroom to watch football-playing Clydesdales and singing frogs. But have they helped sell the product? According to a study by 24/7 Wall St., the answer is no. It ranks A-B number one in money wasted, pointing out that in the past decade, its market share has fallen by 3.7 percent and its flagship brand, Budweiser, has fallen to number-three behind Coors Light.

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