Malt Mich on tap for troubled A-B

Anheuser-Busch is geared up to introduce its new all-malt Michelob and Michelob Light on Feb. 26, thereby reversing brewing history.

The new formula will be sold in the teardrop bottles A-B is bringing back. It also will be selling an all-malt Amber Bock, but not in the same shaped bottle.

The teardrop bottles were introduced in 1961 when A-B began using rice in the formula for its "super premium" beer it introduced in 1896. The return to malt is, in the words of a company statement from Doug Muhleman, vice president of brewing operations and technology, for a taste that "will reflect the basic style that Michelob is known for -- but with an added dimension of taste intensity. The beer will have a rich toasted maltiness, a balanced hop profile from the use of noble aroma hop varieties, a rich color and a smooth velvety finish.”

It will be interesting to sit back and watch the reactions roll in to this attempt at craft brewing from a mega brewer.

Noted beer writer Lew Bryson says, "I see this as the latest sign that craft beer's tide is rising faster and stronger than anything can slack it, and A-B is taking the shift in consumer mood seriously enough that they are re-tooling one of their major marques to meet it."

Obviously, the formula change isn't just on a whim. As Mike Beirne reports in Brandweek, "With the exception of Michelob Ultra Amber —which made its debut last February supported by a Super Bowl XL TV spot -- ... the Michelob family has been sliding. Michelob Light dropped 9.8% from 2005 to 2006, Michelob Lager is down 16.3% and Michelob AmberBock slipped 2.4% ... . And Michelob Ultra declined 9.2% despite raising media spend from $39 million in 2005 to $45 million January-November 2006."

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