Michigan brewers respond to Budweiser's craft beer jab

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
Bell’s Brewery will release only 48 bottles of Pumpkin Peach Ale as early as this week. Proceeds will benefit the Kalamazoo River Trail Association.

"Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale, we'll be brewing us some golden suds."

That was the message Anheuser-Busch sent to millions of beer drinkers with their Budweiser commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLIX in February. The ad, which showed mustached, hipster-looking guys sniffing beer, poked fun of craft beer culture.

Some craft beer breweries and fans have taken the ribbing personally and have decided to poke back. Shortly after the Super Bowl, (a craft beer-boosting website) released a spoof of the Budweiser commercial that stated "we will savor our hundreds of styles, you keep pushing your one."

Larry Bell of Bell's Brewery of Kalamazoo was watching the Super Bowl when the Budweiser ad aired and wasn't pleased.

"I just about jumped out of my chair," Bell told The Detroit News on Tuesday. Then he thought about the pumpkin growing on his roof.

He was staying at his Chicago home and about to head to Kalamazoo to the brewery the next day. In spite of the cold winter, he still had a pumpkin growing on his rooftop garden, so he took it with him to the home-brewing store near Bell's Brewery and asked brewers to make him 5 gallons of beer using peach puree and his rooftop pumpkin. Bell's Pumpkin Peach Ale was born, if only for a short run.

The 5 gallons was only enough to fill 48 bottles, which Larry Bell will sell at his Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo once it's approved for sale by the state, which could be this week.

"We're getting crushed with calls already," said Bell, who will sell the limited edition fruity ale for $20 a 12-ounce bottle. All proceeds will be donated to the Kalamazoo River Trail Association. Any beer fans lucky enough to get one of the 48 bottles must drink it at the bar. They can take the bottle home, but no unopened beers will be allowed off the premises.

Scott LePage of Birmingham's Griffin Claw Brewery had a similar reaction to the Budweiser jab and created Beechwood Aged Pumpkin Peach Ale.

Griffin Claw Brewery’s Scott LePage decided to brew Beechwood Aged Pumpkin Peach Ale in response to Budweiser’s snarky Super Bowl commercial.

He took Griffin Claw's popular Screamin' Pumpkin Ale and added fresh peach to it. The brewery went one step further and aged it in beechwood. (The Budweiser commercial claims it's the only beer aged in beechwood.) The label also has little images of a griffin riding a Clydesdale horse, Budweiser's mascot.

"We just had fun with it more than anything," LePage said. "The beer ended up being really good."

LePage said they made about 600-700 bottles of the Beechwood Aged Pumpkin Peach Ale earlier this year and released it in late March. Half of it was sold at the Griffin Claw tap room in Birmingham, and the other half was distributed across the state. He's not sure where it all went exactly, but he knows he's sold out of it at the tap room. It wasn't a money-making endeavor (he broke even), just a way to make a joke out of the Super Bowl commercial.

"I don't understand why they don't just embrace (craft breweries). There are two different customers" said LePage of Anheuser-Busch. "They're great at what they do, which is make flavored water, and we're incredible at what we do, which is making a beer that's a little more complex, and we're locally owned and operated."

Bell said the King of Beers is on the defensive. In November it was widely reported that for the first time craft beer sales as a whole out shined Budweiser's.

"We're starting to eat their lunch," said Bell, who founded his brewery in 1983. "Budweiser sales have basically been plummeting ... but typically in the industry you don't go after somebody else's beer, you promote your own."