Anheuser-Busch gives new punch to old beer brands

Budweiser Black Crown and Beck's Sapphire are stronger at 6% alcohol
Bottles of Anheuser-Busch InBev's new line of Black Crown beer leave the labeler machine at the company's downtown St. Louis bottling plant.MCT

Two new beers rolling off Anheuser-Busch's production lines in St. Louis carry brand names with a familiar ring.

Tapping into the power of the Budweiser and Beck's names, A-B is offering variations that have higher-alcohol content: Budweiser Black Crown and Beck's Sapphire.

The brewer is betting that the flavor variations with higher alcohol content and new designs will boost the two brand families' allure among U.S. drinkers.

"We have American iconic brands and brands that have been part of the brewing tradition going back 800 years," Paul Chibe, A-B's president of U.S. marketing, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "That gives us a great opportunity to deliver on consumers' needs."

The two new beers have 6 percent alcohol by volume compared with 5 percent with the main brands, a new feature clearly aimed at the U.S. market.

"The higher (alcohol content) provides a taste portfolio consumers are looking for, which we know from testing," Chibe said. "Those are the ones consumers are gravitating toward."

The higher-alcohol beers come on the heels of Bud Light Platinum, a 6 percent alcohol beer A-B introduced in January 2012 that quickly gained market share.

Anheuser-Busch, the St. Louis-based unit of Anheuser-Busch InBev, is hoping to replicate that success and inject new energy in some sagging brands in the U.S. market.

Anheuser-Busch started the new year by introducing Beck's Sapphire, a golden pilsner brewed with German Saphir hops. It's brewed in St. Louis.

Beck's Sapphire's sleek black bottle took two years to develop and must go through the furnace twice when it's being formed to give it its black color. The distinctive look is meant to help the beer stand out in upscale nightclubs, bars and restaurants.

The new brew will inject new energy into Beck's, Chibe said of Sapphire."

Budweiser Black Crown, a crowd-sourced beer, will be available nationwide by Jan. 21. As a sign of the new beer's importance, its first TV ad will run during Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3.

The amber lager, a blend of two-row caramel malt and four types of domestic hops, was the result of a challenge A-B put to its 12 U.S. brewmasters, dubbed Project 12, to create a unique take on its flagship Budweiser beer. Customers sampled the offerings in the past year, and the winning result — developed by Los Angeles brewmaster Bryan Sullivan — was Budweiser Black Crown.


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