timmiI'm going to tread lightly here, because I work for the marketing agency that does nearly all of labatt (Anhueser Busch) promotions across Canada.
Yes they are taking a hit. But at the same time beer sales are down across the grid.
I think that there is a misconception that all microbreweries make good beer. I've had some that have honestly been crap. Muskoka Brewery for one up in Canada.
I will go against the grain and say that I genuinely think that Bud Light Platinum is a good beer (For what it's meant to be). High alcohol content, super smooth and drinkable, still comparatively low calorie. Budweiser Crown is the same deal, not my type of beer typically as it's a bit sweet but a lot of people like it and I think it's a pretty well made beer.
But as for the stuff that is actually directed at the Microbrew market - Alexander kieths is a massive Canadian beer brand, and they have in the past year or so come out with their Hop Series. Which one of the three is in my opinion one of the best beers on the market today. They managed to get hop flavour without the bitterness and create a very balanced beer that had a great flavour.
I'm really not familiar with American beer other than what we've got up here, but that is my take on it.
There are a few brands that you can look up that are in AB's portfolio that will surprise you though. Ones that the general conception is that they are independent.
Back to the original point, I can't say much about what we are doing in terms of promotions but I will say that there have been huge pushes on bud crown lately and they do have the money to throw around.
You're right about beer sales across the board, but I think they also realize they have reason to be proactive about craft beer. They're certainly not sitting around waiting for things to just work out.
You're not gonna like me for this, but honestly I feel marketing is generally bullshit. Sorry man. It's creative, it's smart, it's deceptive.. it's crap. For example, all the various cans and bottles accomplish one thing very well. It places (much) more product on the shelves. I can literally buy a macro lager in so many different formats.. 40s, 6 cans, 6 tallboy cans, 6 bottles, 12 cans, 12 bottles, 30 cans. I'm probably leaving shit out and I'm not even including the different shaped bottles or cans or any of the flavored variations. (Lime, etc.) When you line up all that beer in a store it will take up a significant portion of the wall. Consumers are bombarded by this huge display, and then they buy it. Marketing! Damn is it successful!
Compare that to a craft offering from your average brewery. If they're large enough they'll have a few different styles in glass 6 packs and possibly a few bombers. Some will have 12 packs, but most don't. Some have cans and bottles, but most only have one or the other. That's a pittance, that's nothing in shelf space.
I have nothing in particular against bud light. I still have a few in the fridge. As far as I'm aware there's no difference in bud light vs platinum other than alcohol content. And of course it's drinkable, it's a very light adjunct lager. I never said they're not good at making beer. They're just very limited* in what they can produce. These companies generally do one thing and one thing only. Their quality control is absolutely great, bud is bud no matter what. That's what people expect.
They're not going for out of the ordinary. So for the rest of us looking for something a bit more to tickle our taste buds, well there's everything else.
Moving on, yes there are craft beers that suck. I've thrown money at plenty of them. There are many beers I buy again, but very often I'm also buying something different. I've tried as many local beers as I can. There are those that weren't up to par. After I've worked through their lineup once I won't return, unless it's really good. I've come close to drain pouring some, even. You can look on beeradvocate if you'd like and I'm sure you'll find beers that many agree suck. Craft beers are subject to marketing too: barrel aged beers that weren't even good to begin with, unbalanced beers which have been hopped out the ass and are still not great. These breweries won't last forever. Craft brewers are in competition with each other, whether they would like to admit to it or not, and bad beer will be ultimately left behind.
That hop series you mentioned is not something I'd heard of, being in the US. It sounds like a good way for them to corner the IPA loving market. FYI look into the brewing process to learn about how adding hops at different times in the boil will change their characteristics. Typically hops added early in the boil will impart bitterness, while hops added mid to later will contribute more to taste and then aroma. I'd guess most if not every single brewery is utilizing this. Also there's dry hopping if you're interested in looking further into this.
I am aware of many abinbev/millercoors owned brands. Off the top of my head they bought out Hoegaarden and Goose Island, recently bought out Blue Point, have ties with Red Hook and Kona, and then there are 'brands' like Third Shift. No doubt I'm forgetting more. I think many beer geeks are aware of this.
^ Here is an interesting article I found sometime back about Budweiser Project 12. Their head brewers were given the opportunity to brew a unique beer, but were limited to using Budweiser's single strain of yeast. The yeast they use in all Budweiser products. It really shows how they may be a creative bunch, but unfortunately are not able to make full use of available ingredients. Not to mention the cost that would come into play if they began to produce these beers. Twelve dollars for a Budweiser sixer? That sure as hell is not their customer base.