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A-B Buys Rolling Rock

Last week it was just a rumor, today it’s now official. Anheuser-Busch, in it’s drive to pick up new brands, has agreed to purchase the Rolling Rock brand from rival brewing giant InBev for $82 million.

Since Rolling Rock is not technically a craft brewer, buying them is perhaps a little more curious than their courting of other craft brands. But Rolling Rock was sold, nationally at least, beginning in the 1980s as if it were a microbrewery. This was done quite successfully and it did in fact create a pretty good image for itself when their weren’t very many national micros. Those of us who grew up in Pennsylvania weren’t fooled but generally speaking the unsophisticated beer consumer believed — and perhaps still believes — Rolling Rock is a craft beer. And I think it’s that very quality, it’s status as essentially a faux micro, that makes it ideal as an A-B product. A-B is very good as selling brands as much more than they are in reality so this will, I think, be a marriage made in heaven, albeit a heaven with no real beer.

From the press release:

Introduced in 1939 by Latrobe Brewing Co. and acquired by InBev’s Labatt U.S.A. in 1987, Rolling Rock is an historic American lager that is well-known for its distinctive, full-bodied taste and painted green bottle. Rolling Rock has established itself as an authentic, iconic American lager with a loyal following.

Anheuser-Busch acquires the Rolling Rock brands and recipes with the transaction, and will now start to work with the existing Rolling Rock wholesaler network and Anheuser-Busch wholesalers to define plans for the future. Anheuser-Busch will begin brewing Rolling Rock and Rock Green Light in August using the brands’ same time-honored recipes, maintaining Rolling Rock’s craftsmanship and heritage that its fans expect and appreciate. Internationally, Rolling Rock will continue to be sold in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“We have an ideal opportunity to grow this historic brand,” said August A. Busch IV, president of Anheuser-Busch Inc. “This beer is not like others, and its consumer following is equally distinctive. We live in a diverse world where consumers are hungry for variety. Acquiring Rolling Rock enables us to reach a new audience and to continue building our broad portfolio of products that meet the wide-ranging needs of consumers.”

InBev plans to sell its brewery in Latrobe, Pa., separately to focus its U.S. business on imported beers. It is in discussions with potential buyers to determine the best available options for the brewery and its employees.

“The decision to sell the Rolling Rock brands was based on InBev’s strategic approach to the U.S. market, which is to focus on the high-growth import brands in our portfolio,” said Doug Corbett, president of InBev USA. “Our sales and marketing efforts will emphasize our leading imported beers, including Stella Artois, Bass Pale Ale, Beck’s, Brahma and Labatt Blue.”

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