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Will Joe Sixpack still love Anheuser-Busch?

Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi!

The King is dead. Long live the King.

Anheuser-Busch will no longer be the largest American brewery. The weak U.S. dollar allowed Belgian beer manufacturer InBev to go bargain shopping, and they found a plum deal in Anheuser-Busch and their iconic Budweiser and Michelob lines.

The proposed new company, which would become the planet's leading brewer, has been given the inclusive name of Anheuser-Busch InBev. Despite top billing in the company name and A-B's attempts to make the deal look like a merger rather than an acquisition, InBev will be in charge of the maker of "The Great American Lager," Budweiser.

Things will not change much for Joe Bud-drinker. Favorite A-B brands will still be available on tap at the local watering hole. Stores will still stock every conceivable mix of A-B cans, bottles and aluminum rocketship-looking doohickeys. A-B products will still be the beneficiaries of millions of dollars worth of Super Bowl ads. A-B recipes and formulations will stay the same. The world will still turn. The Bud Light will still flow.

However, the deal could have an effect on long-time A-B customers. Budweiser enjoyed a position alongside Harley-Davidson, John Deere, Ford and Chevy in the American lexicon, shining examples of the quality and heritage of American products. That distinction, along with a massive advertising budget, helped A-B keep a great many consumers loyal to Budweiser even as the company saw increased competition from import, regional and micro/craft brewers.

It can be argued that Anheuser-Busch's status as an American icon was its most valuable asset. A-B was keenly aware of that status and worked hard to cultivate it. This explains the anachronistic endeavor of caring for and maintaining a fleet of Clydesdale horses and archaic horse-drawn wagons as the symbol of Budweiser's public image.

The symbolic status of Budweiser even crosses flavor lines. On craft-beer focused Web sites such as ratebeer.com and beeradvocate.com, members, many of whom say they dislike the taste of Budweiser, lamented the loss of a distinctly American icon.

Many A-B fans opposed the proposed takeover. A Web site sprung up, savebudweiser.com. Songwriter Phil McClary penned Kiss Our Glass, an A-B Anthem with lyrics extolling the virtues of Americana and Bud's place in it (watch it at tinyurl.com/5sf33s).

Yet as the business world becomes increasingly global, the protests of those seeking to keep Budweiser American seem as much of a throwback as the Bud Clydesdales and their Dalmatian companion.

Time will tell just how loyal A-B customers will remain now that the shots are being called from Belgium.

Will Joe Sixpack still love Anheuser-Busch? 07/17/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 1:31pm]
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