Now that Anheuser-Busch will be brewing Rolling Rock at their facility in Newark, New Jersey, I expected they’d have to change some of the packaging. But in a press release from last Friday, A-B announced their intention to not change almost anything. I suppose that’s not too much of a surprise since their stated goal is to “produce the same beer and maintain its traditional taste,” according to Doug Muhleman, chief brewmaster of Anheuser-Busch.
Andy Goeler, vice president, Import, Craft and Specialty Group, Anheuser- Busch, Inc. said “[o]ur priority is to honor the Rolling Rock brand and its traditions. One way we’re doing this is through our packaging. The Rolling Rock pledge is an historic part of this brand, along with the mysterious ’33’ and the label’s other features. We wanted to take all steps possible to honor this tradition, so we plan to quote the pledge on the label in a tribute to this rich, proud history.”
Next month, when the beer will begin being brewed in New Jersey, the label will continue to read:
“From the glass-lined tanks of old Latrobe,
we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment,
as a tribute to your good taste.
It comes from the mountain springs to you.”
Other items printed on the bottle, including the steeplechase, horse and mysterious “33” will also remain unchanged.
Now is it just me or won’t it be pretty hard to claim that the beer is “from the glass-lined tanks of old Latrobe” when it’s brewed in Newark? Does that kind of announced deception spun as “honoring tradition” bother anyone else? It’s one thing to quietly keep the label intact, but to shout that you’re paying “tribute to this rich, proud history” while not, in fact, doing so seems arrogant in the extreme to me. If A-B had really cared about the tradition of this beer, they would have bought the brewery and continued making it in Latrobe. That would have honored the tradition and paid tribute to its history. This is spin and propaganda at its most openly brash. Curiously, this press release does not appear, at least as far as I can tell, on their corporate website where their other press releases reside. Instead, it came through PR Newswire, an online service that disseminates press releases to journalists and other industry watchers. Draw your own conclusions for that, but it seems at least a little odd.
Also from the press release:
Rolling Rock bottles will continue to have a two-color painted label on green glass from the same supplier in Pennsylvania. The front label will continue to recognize Latrobe Brewing Co., along with a required geographic designation. Anheuser-Busch will first brew Rolling Rock in the northeast, but expansion to other locations is expected. Therefore, the company is opting to place its St. Louis headquarters on the bottle.
Well that seems reasonable. A-B will be making Rolling Rock in Newark, New Jersey, stating on the bottle that it’s “from the glass-lined tanks of old Latrobe” (Pennsylvania) and listing its origin as St. Louis, Missouri. Let’s review once more the letter A-B sent to All About Beer magazine in response to some labeling criticisms beer writer Fred Eckhardt had made in a 1997 article.
We don’t take issue with contract brewing — we just think beer drinkers have the right to know who really brews their beer. We, along with many other traditional brewers and beer enthusiasts, object to those who mislead consumers by marketing their beers as “craft brewed,” when in fact their beers are made in large breweries.
It may not be a perfect fit, but it still shows the King has an arbitrary sense of moral righteousness and some curious notions of right and wrong, very much in the mold of Louis XIV and other Old World royalty. It’s wrong if they do it but when we do it we’re just “honoring tradition.” Uh-huh. We are not amused.