As someone who writes a lot, I know that you must choose your words wisely. Sometimes this is more important than others, like when describing the very essence of a thing to a highly sensitive and knowledgeable audience. Call a tomato a vegetable, and a carpologist is going to call you out on it. Tell a Japanese person that sushi means “raw fish” and they’ll quickly (and probably quite politely) tell you it actually mean “sour rice.” Call Budweiser’s new Bud Light Platinum a “craft beer” and you’re going to hear it from me.
That’s what the headline of Drinks Business Review just called Bud’s new offering, a boozed up version of Bud Light that raises the alcohol level in the beer from 4.2% up to 6%, which raises the calorie count (like you care) from 110 to 145 per 12 ounce serving. While DBR isn’t Beernews.org, it does seem to be a legitimate drinks-industry resource.
The fact that they referred to Bud Light Platinum a “craft beer” is telling. Obviously Platinum isn’t “craft” by any stretch of the imagination, but it may show who Budweiser sees as a threat.
Of course, DBR’s source for their story is the L.A. Times, whose piece contained this paragraph:
Some beer enthusiasts suggest that Platinum is Anheuser-Busch’s attempt to take advantage of growing interest in craft beers, whose popularity has also sparked a recent boom in beer gardens and micro-breweries.
And Business Insider points out that Bud has been chasing the craft beer drinker lately:
Bud Light launched a pair of spinoff brands in the last few years — Bud Light Lime and Bud Light Golden Wheat — in an attempt to attract more craft beer drinkers. Bud Light Platinum’s differentiation will most likely rely on its marketing as a ‘premium’ brand, as its name implies (though it does sound a bit like a credit card rewards program).
So maybe the speculation by beer geeks printed in the L.A. Times was taken by Drinks Business Review as a fact, or maybe they were influenced by Bud’s track record of late. I dunno. Drinks Business Review’s language may be imprecise, but I still find it telling, especially when overall beer sales are down 1% for the year, but craft beer sales are up 11%. There’s a shift happening, and the slow-moving giants are starting to stir. Craft beers typically have a higher alcohol content than their macro-swill cousins, so perhaps that’s what made DBR think of “craft beer.”
If there was any doubt that this isn’t a true craft beer, check out this quote from Anheuser-Busch, which says that Bud Light Platinum was designed to “appeal to a key group of beer drinkers and expand consumer occasions to drink beer.” Beep-boop-bop-consumer occasions-erp-zeep-norp-key group of beer drinkers… That business-babble sounds like something a robot would say, not a brewer.
I think we need to come up with a Reinheitsgebot for craft beer, giving it a clear and precise definition. Otherwise it’s going to become like “all-natural” and “artisan” – words that are slapped on crappy products by large corporations in order to trick the consumer into thinking it’s something better than it actually is. It looks like that day might be here sooner than we think.