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Area Code Beer

After Anheuser-Busch InBev‘s recent acquisition of Goose Island for just under $40 million, it seems they may be taking a page from the Chicago microbrewery’s success. One of Goose Island’s most popular beers is 312 Urban Wheat Ale, named for the Chicago telephone area code.

Officially known as the Telephone Numbering Plan, it was first implemented only in large metropolitan areas in the late 1940s, and was nationwide by 1966. Until the number of area codes exploded due to fax machines, beepers (remember beepers?) and then mobile phones, many cities became closely associated with their area codes, being recognizable at once to anyone in the know. Thanks to such positive associations — not to mention being a tasty brew — Goose Island’s 312 became their best-selling beer, especially in their local market.

It appears that ABI is hoping such positive associations with local area codes will work as well in other cities as it has in Chicago. Earlier this year, in May, they applied for a federal trademark for the area codes in fourteen metropolitan areas. So far they’re seeking a trademark for 202 (Washington, D.C.), 214 (Dallas), 216 (Cleveland), 303 (Denver), 305 (Miami), 314 (St. Louis), 412 (Pittsburgh), 415 (San Francisco), 602 (Phoenix), 615 (Nashville), 619 (San Diego), 702 (Las Vegas), 704 (Charlotte), and 713 (Houston). I’m a bit surprised that both New York (212) and Philadelphia (215) are both missing from the list. Both seem more well-known to me than several on the original list. So far, there’s no information about ABI’s plans for the trademarks, whether it’s to market the Urban Wheat branded for specific markets or to do different beers in each city. But it’s certainly possible we could see some version of the beer below at some point in the future. Stay tuned.

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