Anheuser-Busch Thinks Craft Beer Lovers are Idiots

No doubt everyone on the planet has seen the recent commercials for Bud Light featuring the medieval-themed storyline with the Bud Light King delivering the now ubiquitous catch-phrase “Dilly-Dilly.”

The latest installment of the story, called “One Sip,” features the Bud Light King and Queen at a banquet with the annoyingly pompous “Count Pamplemousse.” The King, trying to be a good host, reluctantly agrees to taste the Count’s gift of mead. Before the King can get a taste, however, he is interrupted by the Count’s endless admonishments—a reminder to take in the “layered aromas” before drinking, to assess the mead’s color and mouthfeel, to note its fantastic “after essence.” The King’s patience eventually runs out and he summarily banishes the Count (and Countess) to the “wine cellar.”

Yeah, it’s funny, but it is also a big swipe at the craft beer industry.

Pamplemousse’s prompts—to take in the aroma, check the color, note the mouthfeel, and so on—seem to be directed at “craft beer snobs” who spend more time critiquing and evaluating beer than drinking it. But aroma, color, and mouthfeel also have direct parallels to the work of the Cicerone, whose very nature is to promote the experience of craft beer.

My Cicerone training has taught me that beer really is a remarkable beverage. Indeed, it takes craftsmen and artisans to coax a wealth of delicate flavors out of a few simple ingredients. Drinking beer is better when you consider the total sensory experience, as opposed to just pounding a six-pack during the game.

This leads me to a natural question: What is Anheuser-Busch (A-B) really saying in this commercial? Are they simply making fun of beer snobs? I don’t think so. There’s much more to it.

A-B clearly advocates that beer drinkers should NOT take the time to assess their beer. By mocking Count Pamplemousse, A-B is telling you they just want you to slam their product as fast as possible. Don’t ask questions…just drink. Why is this? Perhaps by encouraging you be less critical, you may not realize how unappealing their beer is. [The typical American lager is made up of a mix of barley and corn or rice. So, that ‘light’ lager you are drinking is perhaps 40% corn/rice water. Ew.] When you become wise to the fact of how bland their product is, you might drink something else.

Perhaps, that has started to happen already.

In 2017, the craft beer market grew 5%. That’s on the heels of 6% growth in 2016. Overall, craft breweries accounted for 12.7% of the total domestic beer market in 2017, an increase of almost 5% since 2013. In the first quarter of 2018, A-B reported that their U.S. beer sales to wholesalers dropped 4.4%. Hmm.

So, to counter this and regain market share, they make fun of the craft beer drinker, creating the character of Count Pamplemousse. How does that work? Follow the thinking: Craft beer is cutting into A-B's sales. So, to get you to stop drinking craft beer and start drinking Bud Light, they make fun of you? In academic circles, that’s called an ad hominem attack, and it’s a logical fallacy. Attacking the person means you are avoiding the issue. And the issue is that Bud Light just isn’t that good. Maybe they are trying to shame you into drinking Bud Light, showing you how silly you are, drinking and smelling and savoring that craft beer. If that's the case, they simply think you are an idiot.

Consider this too: Over the last few years, A-B has acquired several craft breweries, including Goose Island and Arizona’s own Four Peaks. What does that tell you about how A-B feels about craft beer? For me, it’s kind of a mixed message.