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TheStreet Open House

Bud Light Platinum Not So Crafty: Today's Outrage

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Bud Light Platinum may have 6% alcohol, a sweetened flavor and that all-important "light" marketing term in the name, but it's a craft beer in the same way a V6 Hyundai Genesis is a performance car.

If the American beer drinker wasn't getting it before, he or she should well understand by now that Anheuser-Busch Inbev (BUD) and MillerCoors (TAP - Get Report) are going to do anything they can to slap that Samuel Adams (SAM - Get Report), Redhook (HOOK), Sierra Nevada, Three Floyds or any other big or small craft beer out of his or her hand and replace it with their own mass-produced product. Who can blame them? The two companies accounted for 66.8% of beer shipments in the U.S. last year, but each saw their volume drop by 3% during that same span, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.

Bud Light Platinum is just another flat Anheuser-Busch attempt to cash in on the craft beer market.

Meanwhile, Corona importer crown saw its shipments rise 3.3% and Guinness importer Diageo (DEO) put out 3.9% more product than it did in 2009. Of greater concern to the big brewers, however, is the 11% growth of craft beer last year that's spilled into 2011. A-B saw sales drop 3% last quarter, but the Brewers Association craft beer group says craft brewers watched their sales foam up by 15% in the first half of the year.

This makes A-B's push for Bud Light Platinum understandable, but no less offensive to a drinking public that's seen this before. Back in 1997, A-B decided to use its Michelob brand to parry the larger lines offered by craft brewers such as Boston Beer and released a pale ale, honey lager, marzen, pumpkin ale, bourbon cask ale and amber bock. Just four years ago, it tried the Michelob gambit again by not only launching and relaunching pale ale, marzen, porter and Bavarian wheat varieties, but creating a multimedia campaign that mimicked Samuel Adams' videos and commercials as much as Michelob's lineup aped its beer selection.

When that didn't work, A-B tweaked its flagship Budweiser brand in 2008 to include Budweiser American Ale, an American amber ale brewed with cascade hops and featuring modestly more alcohol per volume (5.3%) than the average can of Bud (5%). Critical reception wasn't overly enthusiastic, but surprisingly BeerAdvocate gave it a "worthy" B- rating while RateBeer gave it a tough 25 out of 100.

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