Anheuser-Busch InBev’s “Brewed the Hard Way” Super Bowl ad is still being given a hard time.
Hundreds of brewers have already taken to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to voice their disapproval for the way craft beer, and craft beer consumers, were depicted in the spot.
The commercial — which proudly proclaims that Budweiser is a” macro beer” and that it’s “not brewed to be fussed over” — features a mustachioed hipster nose-deep in a snifter of dark beer, three guys huddled over a flight of beer in the corner of a bar, and a dig at craft’s penchant for pumpkin and peach flavors.
Bud consumers, on the contrary, are portrayed as the kinds of folks who prefer beer that is “brewed for drinking, not dissecting.”
“Let them sip their Pumpkin Peach Ale. We’ll be brewing us some golden suds,” the ad proclaims.
Yesterday, Brewbound highlighted a few of the mixed reactions the ad received from brewers across the country. Since that article was published, however, a number of companies — including the country’s second largest beer maker, MillerCoors — have chimed with their own responses.
Louisiana’s Abita Brewing, which once produced a pumpkin and peach flavored version of its S.O.S. pilsner, made a short video mocking A-B’s ad, declaring “we don’t make one-size-fits-all beer.”
Meanwhile, Oregon’s Double Mountain Brewing brewmaster Matt Swihart poked fun at A-B by pouring a Budweiser into a miniature pumpkin and, after sniffing and sampling, spitting it out in super slow-mo.
“That’s f**kin awful,” he says at the end of the clip.
Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing also posted its own parody “Brewed the Easy Way?”
Firestone Walker posted a photo of brewmaster Matt Brynildson on its Facebook page. In the shot, Brynildson is seen sipping a small pour of beer, and above him a message is scribed: “Go ahead, fuss over it and dissect it; our beer is brewed the hard way.”
MillerCoors posted to Facebook and Twitter, saying it believes “all beers should be fussed over.” The company published a virtual billboard touting a commitment to quality across its wide-ranging portfolio that includes domestic light lagers and craft beers alike.
Others, like an online homebrew supply shop Northern Brewer, opted to capitalize on all the attention by creating and selling the “Peach of Resistance Pumpkin Peach Ale Kit” on its website.
One Brewers Association member even posted a note to the organization’s online forum encouraging an official “pumpkin peach ale day,” and suggested that craft brewers “fight back” against the commercial’s message of sitting in the corner fussing over beer.
Not every craft brewer is upset at the ad, however. Boston-area brewer Chris Lohring, the founder of Notch Brewing, believes craft brewers were the ones who poked the bear and provoked this kind of message.
Craft created us vs them. Why are we so upset, or surprised, “them” struck back?
— Chris Notch Brewing (@chris_lohring) February 3, 2015
It’s true, over the year many craft brewers have leaned on an “us versus them” approach to marketing and selling their products. In fact, six years ago, a group of small brewers got together and created the “I Am A Craft Brewer” video that played just before Greg Koch, the co-founder of Stone Brewing, delivered his keynote address at the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference. In the video, large beer companies like A-B are characterized as “snake oil salesmen” that “promise one thing and deliver nothing.” Their products are described as “lowest common denominator.”
The question is — should craft brewers be surprised that A-B finally responded in this way? Or maybe small brewers should be thanking the global brewing conglomerate for spending $9 million on what many have deemed to be the advertising equivalent of a missed field goal? Dan LaBert, the executive director of Brewers of Pennsylvania, sees it that way.
“They are showing their ignorance to the market they can’t capture,” he told the local ABC affiliate. “I would like to thank Anheuser-Busch for bringing even more attention to craft beer.”
Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter if you viewed the ad as offensive, or funny, or both. A-B was effective in grabbing a ton of media attention for a Budweiser brand that saw grocery store sales decline 3.3 percent in 2014, according to market research firm IRI.
And while many viewed the ad as a “defensive” strategy, and an attack on craft, the reality is that A-B simply deployed a narrative that even craft brewers have explored in the past. Last July, New Belgium sponsored a post on satirical news publication The Onion with the headline: “Insufferable Man Utters the Words ‘Craft Beer Movement.’”
So self-deprecating humor is okay if you’re a bona fide craft brewer, but if you’re A-B, poking fun at pumpkin peach beers incites a backlash? That’s where Lohring, a craft brewer, draws the line.
Get some thicker skin craft beer folk. — Chris Notch Brewing (@chris_lohring) February 2, 2015