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Monday, September 07, 2009

Living In The Lime Light

I started off this long weekend hopeful that I would be able to get my hands on Moose Light Lime, a product which was introduced in Eastern Canada earlier this summer by Moosehead, but has yet to make it's way to Ontario.

On Friday morning, I caught some info that Moose Light Lime was supposed to be introduced into Ontario in time for Labour Day weekend.

Many phone calls and visits to LCBO and The Beer Store later, I still haven't been able to locate this brew.

However, I was able to locate a locally brewed lime beer. Produced by Brick Breweries in Waterloo, ON, Red Baron Lime was available at my local beer store and I picked up a case of it.

Yes, Bud Light Lime has been available in Canada for most of the summer. Or, I could drive across the border and buy a case of Miller Chill. But I didn't want a foreign produced lime beer. I wanted to enjoy a Canadian brewed version, knowing I was supporting an actual Canadian brewery.

During my investigation into finding a genuine Canadian lime beer, I discovered some news articles covering the fact that Brick Breweries is being sued by Anheuser-Busch, foreign owners of Labatt Brewing Company and producers of Bud Light Lime. These mega giants are part of "AB In-Bev", the world's largest brewer.

In the same aggresive manner that Labatt swept into Hamilton as part of a marketing blitz to do their best to crush then local Hamilton brewer Lakeport and take over the "honey" beer market that Lakeport was dominant in with Lakeport Honey, Labatt is suing this small Waterloo company. (Additional Note on that: When Labatt couldn't properly dominate the honey-beer market, they bought out Lakeport Breweries and absorbed them into the Labatt Brewery line -- more evidence of the mantra: "If you can't beat them, BUY them!" That seems to be the popular plan for chain booksellers and beer companies here in Canada)

In any case, among other claims, the lawsuit objects to the use of limes and the colour green as well as use of young people wearing swimsuits in advertisements promoting Red Baron Lime.

Er, excuse me?

First of all, young people wearing swimsuits or scantily clad is virtually a staple of advertising for beer products. Since when does AB own the use of young people in swimsuits?

Second, since when does a single brewer own the use of a piece of fruit? (If anything, shouldn't the makers of Corona, traditionally the beer often associated with lime, be offended that everyone else is trying to get in on their game? And if "green" is the objection, shouldn't the good people at Moosehead be the first ones objecting?)

Here are the two "looks" of the beers in question.

Bud Light Lime's main webpage "look"

Red Baron Lime's main website "look"

Admittedly, I really like the look of the BL logo. I think it's really snazzy. The young people in the Red Baron picture look to me like they're having more fun. But the only real similarities between the two beers seem to be the use of a clear bottle and some green on the label.

But I tend not to buy beer based on how cool the logo is or how hot the people in the ads are. More and more often, I have been buying beer in support of local and Canadian brewers. I used to be a huge Molson Export fan until they sold out to an international company. Lakeport, from my home town of Hamilton was my beer of choice for many years, until Labatt bought them out. Lately, my beer tastes tend to roam around, as I like trying out new suds, with Moosehead Lager and Waterloo Dark (both produced by independent Canadian brewers) being my default brands of choice.

Let's be honest for a moment here on the "taste" of beer -- as passionate as I am about beer, I'm aware that most of the brews and tastes from the major brewers and many of the larger independents are very similar -- preference isn't necessarily based on taste but rather on something else within the product's branding that a person associates with -- ME, I like associating with independent Canadian brewers -- perhaps as the manager of an independent bookstore I think of them as like me.

But back to the whole lawsuit thing.

It looks to me like Mr. Largest Brewery in the world is worried. Worried that a small, independent and local brewery like Brick is going to kick their ass in the beer market the same way that Lakeport kicked their ass when it came to honey beer. How? By putting out a similar, perhaps even superior product at a more affordable price.

Perhaps one of the other reasons why AB is launching a lawsuit might be because they had the hold on the Canadian lime beer market and seemed to be sucking it for all it was worth. Many a week went by this summer when everyone was scrambling for Bud Light Lime and it was sold out. It looked to me like a marketing ploy where they were purposely keeping Bud Light Lime in short supply and thus often in the media and minds of consumers. But lo and behold, now that Red Baron Lime is available, I haven't heard a single story about Bud Light Lime being out of stock -- if fact, I've never seen it merchandised so powerfully at The Beer Store and LCBO. Interesting how that happened in time with them no longer holding a monopoly, isn't it?

In any case, hearing about this ridiculous law suit makes me glad that I have not yet spent a dime on Bud Light Lime and makes me more adamant that when purchasing lime beer, I'll make a definite point of purchasing either Red Baron Lime or Moose Light Lime (whenever I can finally find it) -- after all, I want to show my support for the smaller independent brewer.

1 comment:

Wiley said...

I'm with you all the way on avoiding the multinationals products.Sometimes our choices are limited with which beers really are independent.
As for the Bud Light Lime, I was floored by the sell-outs of this product. Can't people squeeze a shot of REAL lime into ANY beer? Lager and lime has been a staple in the British Isles for ages, it's not a revolutionary idea!