Historic Beer Birthday: August A. Busch III

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Today is the birthday of August Anheuser Busch III (June 16, 1937- ) He is the great-grandson of Anheuser-Busch founder Adolphus Busch and was the company’s Chairman until November 30, 2006. August Busch III is informally known as “Auggie” and as “The Third” or “Three Sticks” by subordinates and employees at Anheuser-Busch. I’d actually heard “Triple Sticks” as a nickname.

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Here’s some biographical information from his Wikipedia page:

August Anheuser Busch III was born in St. Louis, Missouri on June 16, 1937. He attended the University of Arizona, but dropped out after failing. His father then gave him an ultimatum, and he began working in an entry-level position in Anheuser Busch.

August Busch III served as President of the Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. (ABC) from 1974 until June 2002, and Chief Executive Officer of ABC from 1975 until June 2002. He was Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABC from 1977 to 2006.

He was succeeded as the day-to-day operational head of Anheuser-Busch by Patrick Stokes. Stokes’ tenure marked the first time in the history of the company that a non-Busch family member ran the day-to-day operations. Busch also conferred the chairmanship to Stokes effective December 1, 2006. He retired from their executive functions at the company on November 30, 2006. He will continue to serve on Anheuser-Busch’s board.

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August A. Busch III, when he was President of Anheuser-Busch, February 1974.

He has been married twice. His first wife, Susan, is the mother of his two older children August Anheuser Busch IV and Susan Busch-Transou. His second wife, Virginia, who is a practicing attorney, is the mother of his younger two children, Steven Busch and Virginia “Ginny” Busch.

Unlike his father Gussie Busch, August III has been a lifelong supporter of the Republican Party, and a friend, ally, and financial supporter to Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and President George W. Bush. August III’s eldest son, August A. Busch IV, is a strong supporter of Democratic Party politics, just like his grandfather Gussie.

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Lou Rawls and Frank Sinatra sharing Budweisers with Triple Sticks in 1982.

Venezuela’s President Gives Brewery Ultimatum: Brew Or Go To Jail

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There’s an interesting development going on in Venezuela. Empresas Polar, the country’s largest brewer — with an 80% market share — completely shut down their operations in April, apparently because of “supply problems of its main raw materials.” The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, according to the drinks business, “has now threatened to take over the closed breweries, saying that the business owners risk being ‘put in handcuffs.'”

The country has been hit by a dire economic downturn over the last several years, and the president has not exactly been helping. John Oliver has covered the situation there hilariously at least twice, first in early May 2015 and then again last Sunday. In that report he mentioned that Marcos was threatening to jail owners of closed factories and have the government seize the buildings and take them over. And apparently one of those businesses he’s targeting is Polar. Here’s the rest of the story from the drinks beverage:

He said he was also ordering action “to recover the production apparatus, which is being paralyzed by the bourgeoisie”.

Meanwhile, Polar said it could no longer access the US currency needed to import the malted barley for beer production, and had to close the last of its breweries. Access to foreign exchange is currently under the control of the country’s government.

The beer shortage has had a big impact, as Venezuelans really like their beer. The tropical country has the highest per capita consumption rates of any nation in South America, and ongoing economic woes have to some extent been softened so far by the affordable luxury of a cold beer.

It’s the latest chapter in a long-running set of shortages and supply problems for beer and other food in Venezuela.

Polar’s billionaire owner, Lorenzo Mendoza, has been a vocal opponent of the President, with Maduro accusing him of waging an “economic war” on his government. Over the past year, Polar has been embroiled in a strike by brewery workers, conflict with the trade unions, and has seen its distribution centre occupied by the military.

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Apropos of the nothing, it was almost impossible to find an image of Polar Pilsen that didn’t include a model in a bikini. Go ahead, Google it and see how hard it really is.

ABI To Introduce Budweiser Prohibition Brew, Non-Alcoholic Bud

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Anheuser-Busch InBev is introducing a new non-alcoholic beer, at least in Canada (for now), called Budweiser Prohibition Brew. According to AdAge:

Budweiser is introducing a buzz-free version in Canada. The new non-alcoholic beer is called Budweiser Prohibition Brew. It could enter other countries, including the U.S. “Budweiser Prohibition Brew is only available in Canada for now, but we’re excited by the prospect that it could eventually be offered in the U.S., the birthplace of Budweiser, sometime in the future,” said Ricardo Marques, VP for Bud in the U.S.

The beer “leverages the latest de-alcoholization technology to create a beer that has 0.0% alcohol by volume and yet delivers the great taste of Budweiser,” according to Budweiser Canada. It is “an ideal choice for a work lunch or casual afternoon with friends, as well as designated drivers and people with active lifestyles,” said Kyle Norrington, vice president, marketing for Labatt, which is the Canadian division of Anheuser-Busch InBev. In the U.S., A-B InBev currently markets the non-alcoholic O’Doul’s brand.

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It certainly seems like ABI is beginning to take some radical marketing steps recently. First, there was renaming Budweiser as “America” and now using the Budweiser brand for a non-alcoholic beer, both of which seem like steps the old management would never have taken, because of concerns of harming the core brand perception. But ABI, of course, has no loyalty to the brand, or indeed anything, as long as profit can be squeezed out of it. Their approach seems more like a scorched earth way of thinking.

And we still haven’t seen what they’re planning to do, if anything, with all of the area codes that they tried to trademark. And you know there’s an end game with all of the acquisitions of smaller breweries they’ve been buying up. If history is any judge, the last time there were over 4,000 breweries, consolidation was rampant in the next few decades, and by 1900 — just 25 years after the high point — there were only a little more than 1,800. And by the time Prohibition took effect, there were less than 700, which represents only 17% of the 4,131 in 1873. So there is some precedent to watch out for, consolidation is nothing new. Some is inevitable due to market forces, the fact that not every brewery can compete in their local market for a variety of reasons (quality of their beer, business acumen, etc.), but sometimes its predatory as a way to squash competition. The next decade will certainly be enlightening as everything plays out.

Here’s the reaction from the Canadian press, or at least the Globe and Mail and the Financial Post.

The Top 50 Annotated 2015

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This is my ninth annual annotated list of the Top 50, skipping two years ago because the BA provided that information then, so here again you can see who moved up and down, who was new to the list and who dropped off. So here is this year’s list again annotated with how they changed compared to last year.

  1. Anheuser-Busch InBev; #1 last ten years, no surprise
  2. MillerCoors; ditto for #2
  3. Pabst Brewing; ditto for #3
  4. D. G. Yuengling and Son; Same as last year
  5. Boston Beer Co.; Same as last year
  6. North American Breweries; Same as last year
  7. Sierra Nevada Brewing; Same as last year
  8. New Belgium Brewing; Same as last year
  9. Craft Brewers Alliance; Same as last year
  10. Lagunitas Brewing; Up 1 from #11 last year
  11. Gambrinus Company; Down 1 from #10 last year
  12. Bell’s Brewery; Same as last year
  13. Deschutes Brewery; Same as last year
  14. Minhas Craft Brewery; Up 2 from #16 last year
  15. Stone Brewing; Down 1 from #14 last year
  16. Sleeman Brewing; Down 1 from #15 last year
  17. Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits; Rocketed up 20 from #37 last year
  18. Brooklyn Brewery; Down 1 from #17 last year
  19. Firestone Walker Brewing; Up 3 from #22 last year
  20. Founders Brewing; Up 3 from #23 last year
  21. Oskar Blues Brewing; Jumped up 9 from #30
  22. Duvel Moortgat USA (Boulevard Brewing/Ommegang); Down 4 from #18 last year
  23. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Down 4 from #19 last year
  24. Matt Brewing; Down 4 from #20 last year
  25. SweetWater Brewing; Down 1 from #24 last year
  26. Harpoon Brewery; Down 5 from #21 last year
  27. New Glarus Brewing; Down 2 from #25 last year
  28. Great Lakes Brewing; Up 1 from #29 last year
  29. Alaskan Brewing; Down 3 from #26 last year
  30. Abita Brewing; Down 3 from #27 last year
  31. Anchor Brewing; Down 3 from #28 last year
  32. Stevens Point Brewery; Same as last year
  33. Victory Brewing; Up 2 from #35 last year
  34. August Schell Brewing; Down 1 from #33 last year
  35. Long Trail Brewing; Down 1 from #36 last year
  36. Summit Brewing; Down 2 from #34 last year
  37. Shipyard Brewing; Down 6 from #31 last year
  38. Full Sail Brewing; Up 5 from #39 last year
  39. Odell Brewing; Up 1 from #40 last year
  40. Southern Tier Brewing; Up 1 from #41 last year
  41. Rogue Ales Brewery; Down 3 from #38 last year
  42. 21st Amendment Brewery; Jumped up 7 from 49 last year
  43. Ninkasi Brewing; Down 1 from #42 last year
  44. Flying Dog Brewery; Same as last year
  45. Narragansett Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year
  46. Pittsburgh Brewing (fka Iron City); Down 1 from #45 last year
  47. Left Hand Brewing; Up 1 from #48 last year
  48. Uinta Brewing; Down 2 from #46 last year
  49. Green Flash Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year
  50. Allagash Brewing; Same as last year

Not too much movement this year, except for a few small shufflings. The top is virtually unchanged, with only numbers 10 and 11 switching places. And apart from those two small changes, the top 13 were all the same as 2014. The biggest jump came from Ballast Point, which leapt up 20 spots, while Shipyard slipped the furthest, dropping six slots. Only two new breweries made the list; Green Flash Brewing and Narragansett Brewing. Off the list was World Brew/Winery Exchange, a California contract label brewer making private label beers for retailers, and Bear Republic Brewing.

If you want to see the previous annotated lists for comparison, here is 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Why The Big Beer Companies Will Fail To Court Women

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Earlier this week, I read in AdAge that Budweiser Pulls Puppies From Super Bowl Ad Plans for the very sensible reason that they weren’t terribly effective. As AdAge notes, “as cute as they are, the puppies apparently don’t sell beer.”

I also read in Bloomberg that ABI was going to shift their advertising focus away from the male-dominated imagery that they’ve employed for decades, objectifying and alienating one-half of the world’s consumers, in an effort to win over female beer drinkers. “‘Objectification of women is going away,’ said Jorn Socquet, AB InBev’s vice president of marketing for the U.S.” in the Bloomberg article, What ‘Gender Friendly’ Ads Look Like to Big Beer.

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That strategy has created a demographic where only about one-quarter of women drink their beer, yet when they were riding high they didn’t seem to care at all how they treated the mothers, aunts, sisters, wives and girlfriends of the people who bought their beer. Despite loud and vocal criticism of those practices for years and years, only now that their sales are slipping have they seemed to have noticed and decided they should “win back women.” To do this, they’re going to air an ad during the Super Bowl “built around the idea that coming together over a frosty Bud Light can help solve the world’s problems, including unequal pay.”

But can one ad, or even a series of ads, undo decades of tone deaf ads that were, and continue to be, downright awful to women? And it’s not like things have gotten much better in the more enlightened 21st century. If anything, attacks on women have increased in politics, business and in the media.

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As The Atlantic wonders, Are TV Ads Getting More Sexist? and Business Insider notes that These Modern Ads Are Even More Sexist Than Their ‘Mad Men’ Era Counterparts. And more specific to beer, Vinepair makes a compelling case that 13 Sexist Beer Ads Show How Little Has Changed Since the 1950s. There’s an entire Tumblr devoted to Bad Beer Ads for Women. There’s no shortage of material to show that it’s not really gotten any better in my lifetime.

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But if corporations are people, they are people with convenient Alzheimer’s Disease. They’ll undoubtedly try to convince women that they’ve had this change of heart because it’s right thing to do (and even though it might be) but the truth is that it only has to do with profit. They’ll hope that no one will remember how bad, and how consistently sexist, their ads have been for decades upon decades, right up to the present day.

Fortune magazine weighed in with their take on the new plan, with how Beer Companies Are Courting Women, and here’s how you know that they don’t really get it and it will fail.

In order to win over women, the beer companies are designing more colorful packaging and creating sweeter drinks, like the Bud Lite Lime-A-Rita. But taste isn’t necessarily the problem — MillerCoors and AB InBev are focusing on the social aspect of beer, too.

I love how the big brewers always think that changing up the packaging is the way to woo customers. The idea that women will only respond to “more colorful packaging” and only want “sweeter drinks” is laughably naive and almost criminally insulting. And this is, remember, them trying to “court women,” a similarly insulting turn of phrase. How many times have we seen beer companies try fruitier, sweeter beers and pink packaging to entice women? How often has it worked? The now defunct Beer West magazine had a good overview of such failed attempts in Have You Really Come A Long Way, Baby? How beer is(n’t) marketed to women.

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To illustrate that it’s not just Anheuser-Busch InBev wearing blinders, MillerCoors’ senior marketing insights director Britt Dougherty opined that they’re “going through a feminization of culture” as a way of saying the days of “airing ads that objectify women” are over. I’ll believe it when I see it. I suspect that as soon as this doesn’t prove as successful as they want, they’ll return to the tried and true male-oriented advertising that’s been their bread and butter my entire lifetime.

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Sexism, perhaps more than any of the destructive -isms, makes no sense to me. I’m male, and it makes no sense. Why do so many men feel they have to keep down women? Every one of us has a female mother. Most of us have sisters, aunts, and daughters. Why would we ever want to keep them from succeeding? I know there’s at least some religious reasons for it, but even that can’t account for all of it. Why would you voluntarily keep you mother, wife or daughter from being able to climb as high as they want to in life? Why would you harass, objectify or otherwise insult every other female, just because they’re female? I honestly don’t understand it. How can you hate your mother? How can you hate your wife? How can you hate your daughters? Because hatred toward some women, by using sexism, objectification and other insults, is hatred toward all women, your own family included.

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And yet it seems to be rampant, and growing, in our society. It should be a thing of the past, a relic, but as Gamergate makes abundantly clear, there are males in our society who hate women to the point that they want to do them actual physical harm for saying things they don’t like, disagree with or just having an opinion. That seems nuts, but perhaps more confusing is that we don’t do more to put a stop to it as a society. Can there really be enough men who are deaf and blind to what’s happening, or do they secretly agree with them or just not give a shit so long as they’re on top of the perceived hierarchy? I have a daughter who I want to grow up in a world where she can do whatever she wants, follow every opportunity available to her and live her life to the fullest, exactly the same as her brother, my son, is able to do. And as it stands now, that seems like it’s too much for society to bear, that true gender equality remains as elusive as the end of racism. Why the fuck should that be the case? If we can’t even erase it from the beer industry, which ought to know better, what chance have we for the wider world? So while I think this is the right step for the big beer companies, they haven’t shown themselves to take any action except ones that help their bottom line. And while that is to be expected (being a problem with the institution of corporations) you’d like to think that even male executives have women in their lives that would make such decisions increasingly difficult, yet so far that remarkably hasn’t been the case.

Maybe if we celebrated our similarities — like enjoying beer — instead of pandering to our differences, that would be a good start. So yeah, let’s keep sexism out of beer advertising, out of beer culture and out of the breweries themselves. We’re all just people, beer-loving people.

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SABInBev Will Control 6 Of 10 Best-Selling U.S. Beers

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According to a new report in Business Insider, the new entity combining Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller will control six out of the ten best-selling beers in America, and it would have been eight, except the deal currently stipulates that “Molson Coors will take Miller off of SABMiller’s hands.” But I especially like the handy flowchart they created to show the evolution of the various companies that will come together to become SABInBev, or whatever they end up calling the new beer behemoth. Sadly, it looks like SABMiller, or what’s left of it, will simply be absorbed into ABI.

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SABInMillerBev, or “A Brief History Of Big Beer”

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Niall, at the Missing Drink, has an interesting post about the possible buyout of SABMiller by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Entitled A Brief History of Big Beer, he provides some analysis of the deal, but I especially like his helpful chart of the M&A of all the major players, which is below. It’s great to see them laid out to encapsulate the history of those big deals, especially in recent decades.

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Click here to see the chart full size.

Here’s his clever take on what the newly minted entity might be called, and what a new alphabet soup logo might look like. It was genius taking the “AB” from ABI and putting it with the “S” from SAB. It certainly will be interesting to see what new name (and logo) does emerge if the deal ultimately goes through.

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SABMiller Rejects Buyout Offer From A-B InBev

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SABMiller released a statement this morning rejecting the latest takeover offer from Anheuser-Busch InBev. You may, or may not, be able to read the statements released by SABMiller on their website, and there are some fairly scary disclaimers including language that, depending on your jurisdiction, claims that the publicly available information may not be legal to read, and in such case advise you to “exit this web page.” Which while I’m sure is required by some law, probably UK law, also feels fairly ridiculous. At any rate, quite a few news outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the New York Times are all reporting on it, so it must be okay for the likes of me.

The gist of it is the SABMiller board unanimously rejected ABI’s latest takeover offer, for the primary reason that they believe ABI’s offer “substantially” undervalues their company (currently the offer values SABMiller at $104 billion), among a few other technical reasons having to do with the timing, regulatory issues and others. The current offer is for roughly £65.14 billion, which is $99.76 billion dollars.

The Wall Street Journal helpfully created a graphic showing the recent history of the potential deal as it’s been unfolding.

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There’s little doubt this is not the end of it, but there will continue to be a back and forth as this high-stakes game unfolds. And it really is a game, sad to say. Apparently negotiations have been tense, which really should not come as a shock to anybody, yet you see statements like this. “AB InBev is disappointed that the board of SABMiller has rejected both of these prior approaches without any meaningful engagement.” The absurdity of that reveals the gamesmanship involved, as it plays out in the media. It’s going to be an interesting few weeks.

What The New Landscape Of Beer Might Look Like

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You’d have to be living under a rock to not have seen the news that ABI was planning a takeover bid to acquire SABMiller, which might work unless SABMiller might be able to buy Heineken, thus making itself too big for ABI to get in a hostile takeover. These rumors have long been circulating so nobody who’s been paying attention to the beer industry was too surprised at these announcements.

But so far I haven’t seen too much discussion about what the beer world might look like if any of these come to pass. The online news site Quartz filled that gap by producing a chart showing that This is what the family tree of beer companies will look like if AB InBev acquires SABMiller.

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Click here to see the chart full size.