Last Call: Budweiser Becomes ‘Official Beer’ of Women’s Soccer League; California Revises ‘Beer’ Definition

A-B Makes Budweiser ‘First’ Beer Sponsor of National Women’s Soccer League

Last Sunday, prior to the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team winning its second consecutive and fourth ever World Cup, Anheuser-Busch announced a multi-year deal to become the “first official beer sponsor” of the National Women’s Soccer League by taking out a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times.

The ad — titled “The world will watch them play today. Who will watch them play tomorrow?” — noted that while the U.S. Women’s team plays before packed stadiums, they often play in empty arenas throughout the year.

“Becoming the official beer sponsor of the NWSL is our way of not just supporting the U.S. Women’s Team once every four years, but also supporting women’s soccer every single day,” Budweiser vice president of marketing Monica Rustgi said in a press release.

The world’s largest beer company also released a video narrated by soccer star Brandi Chastain called “We Won’t Stop Watching.” Throughout the video, star players from the national team are shown playing in empty stadiums during NWSL matches.

The sponsorship makes Budweiser among the league’s largest sponsors, with the brand acquiring the naming rights to the NWSL playoffs, championship match, MVP trophy and “most valuable supporter” award for the league’s biggest fan, according to a press release.

Additionally, A-B executives will provide business training to NWSL players during the offseason.

NWSL president Amanda Duffy added that the Budweiser sponsorship “is significant and will amplify the visibility and influence of the league,” its players and fans.

In other A-B sponsorship news, the company recently filed a trademark request to become the “official beer of esports,” according to AdWeek. Esports, unlike traditional sports, isn’t too broad to trademark, the outlet reported. A-B is already active in the space; Bud Light currently sponsors Activision Blizzard’s popular Overwatch League.

Earlier this year, MillerCoors, via its Miller Lite brand, sponsored the “Complexity Gaming” esports team. It also created a functional Miller Lite can controller.

A-B Drops Asia Pacific IPO

Anheuser-Busch InBev announced today it won’t proceed with a planned IPO for its Asia Pacific subsidiary, Budweiser Brewing Company APAC Limited, on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The world’s largest beer company cited “prevailing market conditions” for not going through with the IPO, which was expected to be among the biggest of 2019, commanding as much as $9.8 billion.

A-B Acquires UK Beer Subscription Service

Beer Hawk, a U.K.-based craft beer retailer owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev’s innovation and growth arm ZX Ventures, has acquired the BeerBods beer subscription service.

In a July 5 blog post, BeerBods co-founder Matt Lane wrote that his company was linking up with Beer Hawk to “build the U.K.’s leading retailer of craft beer.”

“It has become increasingly clear that in order for BeerBods to reach its full potential, we need a partner that can help take us to the next level,” he wrote. “We’ve therefore taken the decision to join forces with Beer Hawk who have acquired our business in full.”

Beer Hawk was acquired by ZX in 2016.

California Revises Definition of ‘Beer’

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Tuesday revising the definition of beer to include production using “honey, fruit, fruit juice, fruit concentrate, herbs, spices, and other food materials, as adjuncts in fermentation.” The law also says beer aged in empty wooden wine or spirits barrels is defined as “beer” and should “not be considered a dilution or mixture of any other alcoholic beverage.”

California beer companies were previously required to hold a wine making license in order to use fruit in the fermentation process, according to KSBW News. The clarification aligns state law with the existing federal law.

BA Examines California and Maryland Data

Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson recently took a dive into data from two states — California and Maryland — in a member’s only blog post. A few highlights:

California added about 170 small breweries making 15,000 barrels or less between 2016 and 2018. Those 797 companies combined to produce 855,788 barrels in 2018, about 302,000 more barrels of beer than in 2016. Also, according to Watson, 97 percent of that beer is sold in-state.

Meanwhile, California regional breweries (those making more than 15,000 barrels a year), increased production five percent in 2018, with out-of-state sales growing 12 percent, compared to in-state sales increasing 1 percent.

In Maryland, out-of-state sales for the fiscal year (July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018), were down 12 percent, and overall local sales declined about 1 percent, Watson wrote. He added that total taxable production was down 7 percent.

BA members can read more, including a breakdown on draft beer sales in California, here.

June Beer Purchasers’ Index Hits Snag

After five consecutive months of expansion, the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) Beer Purchasers’ Index (BPI) — which helps explain U.S. beer distributors’ monthly buying behavior — contracted in June. June 2019’s reading of 48 marked the lowest June reading since the NBWA started tracking wholesaler purchasing behavior in 2015.

June’s contraction also follows a May 2019 reading that was the highest reading of the last three years. Digging deeper into the data, the FMB/PAB reading of 68 was the only index to grow over June 2018 levels. While still expanding, imports (54 index) and craft (50 index) were both lower year-over-year readings.

According to the NBWA, readings above 50 indicate expansion, while those below 50 indicate contraction.

Michigan Brewers Push for Self-Distribution Increase

Michigan craft brewers are attempting to increase the state’s self-distribution cap to 30,000 barrels annually, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. Currently, state law limits self-distribution to 1,000 barrels a year, forcing those who exceed the cap to contract with a wholesaler.

Eastern Market Brewing co-owner Dayne Bartscht has started an online petition to garner support for the effort. So far, more than 3,000 people have signed the petition.

Michigan Alcohol Producers Sue State Regulatory Agency

A group of alcohol producers are challenging the constitutionality of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s enforcement efforts and last fall’s revision of the state liquor code, according to MiBiz.com.

The plaintiffs — Greenbush Brewing Company, Farmhaus Cider Company, the Michigan Cider Association and Vander Mill LLC — argue that federal law supersedes state laws regarding the production and sale of cider, the outlet reported.

The lawsuit was filed after the MLCC seized Greenbush’s cider inventory, citing the transfer of product purchased from Vander Mill and telling the company that it “was required to ferment every drop of wine that it sold.”

Additionally, the MLCC barred Greenbush from using its small winemaker license, which would prevent it from selling cider or wine.

Heineken’s UK Pubs Under Investigation

Two weeks after announcing plans to sell off 150 pubs, Heineken’s Star Pubs & Bars chain is under investigation by the Pubs Code Adjudicator for allegedly requiring its publicans to overstock Heineken beer and its other offerings, according to The Guardian.

At issue is whether Heineken imposed unfair terms on tenants who tried to escape the so-called “beer tie,” which requires tenants to buy a certain amount of beer from their landlord, in this case, Heineken. If found to be in violation, the Dutch beer giant could face a fine of about $13.8 million, the outlet reported. Read The Guardian’s coverage here.

HUSA Chief Legal Officer Exits Company

Heineken USA chief legal officer Julie Kinch has departed the company after a 20-year career.

In a statement, the company said Kinch “made the personal decision” to exit the business. Her last day at HUSA was June 28.

“I have loved my time at Heineken USA but as I approached my 20th anniversary, there was a moment to pause and be thoughtful about what might be next for me,” Kinch said in a statement. “While there would be no ‘right’ time to leave, I am incredibly honored to have had this time with the company and proud of what I have accomplished and the strides Heineken USA has made in the area of gender diversity and leadership.”

Kinch, who started with HUSA in 1998 as vice president and general counsel, was the first woman to serve on HUSA’s management team, and she’s also credited with founding the Heineken Women’s Leadership Forum 12 years ago.

Founders to Sell CBS for the Last Time in 2019

The 2019 release of Founders Brewing Company’s popular CBS imperial stout will be its last “for the foreseeable future,” the company announced Thursday in an email to consumers.

The Michigan craft brewery added that it will sell 12 oz. bottles of CBS — in addition to 750 mL bottles — for the first time in the U.S. when the beer is released on November 1.

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