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Anheuser Bush brewery is introducing organic beer as a test run

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

Anheuser-Busch, whose empire is built on Bud and Bud Light, is test-marketing its first organic beer in the North Bay, Santa Barbara and six other smallish cities in California.

It's a lager that goes by Wild Hop, not organic Bud, and it's being cold-brewed in at the St. Louis-based company's Fairfield plant. A second organic beer, Stone Mill Pale Ale, is being brewed at Anheuser-Busch's Redhook brewery in Portsmouth, N.H., and will be on the market shortly.

People who might buy Wild Hop and Stone Mill are "more affluent, highly educated, more high-end shoppers" who buy organic, says Patrick McGauley, a vice president for product development at the St. Louis headquarters. The packaging offers no clues that it's a Budweiser relative. Nowhere does it say Anheuser-Busch -- instead it says Green Valley Brewing Co., a newly created business name.

The marketing strategy is deliberately low-key. The company plans to depend on in-store displays and word of mouth, plus a donation to the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, CA, to drum up publicity. If test-marketing is a success, Anheuser-Busch plans to take the beers national.

News that a beer giant had waded into the organic beer pool hit the organic beer pioneers at the Eel River Brewing Co. in Fortuna, Humboldt County, like a small but sharp earthquake.

Eel River is one of just a handful of American microbreweries who are bottling organic beer for the retail market, including Butte Creek Brewing Co. in Chico, Wolaver's in Vermont, and North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg. "They're not doing this for the love of organics," Ted Vivatson from Eel River says. "They're just doing this for market share." But he realizes that organic Bud doesn't have to be a threat -- and could even be a boon.

"If Budweiser comes out and does this, a whole lot more consumers are going to say hey, maybe there's something to this organic beer thing,' " Vivatson says. "And they'll buy more and that's good for me."

Organic barley, the main ingredient, costs a little more than conventional but is in good supply. But organic hops, used to give beer its bitter edge, are harder to find in the US and most have to be imported, mainly from New Zealand and Europe.

Brewers' flavor palettes are limited because only a few hop varieties are grown organically.

Wild Hop is 95 percent organic, and uses non-organic hops. Butte Creek uses some non-organic hops to preserve its taste options. Eel River is 100 percent organic.





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