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But they’ll still call the beer Budweiser

ABInBevHow fast are things changing at Anheuser-Busch now that InBev is in charge?

Bob Lachky, chief creative officer, will retire from the company at the end of this month. Six weeks ago Tony Ponturo quit his job as A-B’s top sports marketing guru. Notice a trend?

Not yet? Try this, although from a business standpoint it’s not as big a deal. While in Germany I heard that Dr. Val Peacock, who knows about as much about hops as anybody in the world, was taking early retirement from A-B.

We all love to complain about the lack of hop character in most A-B beers, but the fact is the company has long been a stickler for hop quality. Way beyond what you can taste in the beer. This has helped subsidize the production of low alpha (high flavor and aroma) hops in areas such as Germany’s Halltertau region. If A-B isn’t paying top dollar for these — and InBev has specialized in avoiding paying top dollar for anything — what will hop growers do? Go out of business or turn to high alpha hops such as Magnum (a great hop, but entirely different than Hallertau Tradition or Mittlefrüh).

Back to the bigger story, which is Lachky. As well as getting credit for the “Whassup?,” “I love you, man” and Budweiser frogs campaigns more recently he was the guy behind “Here’s to Beer.” Talking to him well into one evening a while back — he had a Budweiser in hand — it was dang obvious how important he thinks the last one is.

Is there a common thread that ties together Val Peacock, hops, “Here’s to Beer,” and Bob Lachky? I’d say culture.

Agreed that when ownership changes at any company lots of people retire. Cultures change, sometimes combining the best of the old and the new.

Is that what is going to happen in St. Louis?

(Thanks to Maureen Ogle for spotting this story.)


6 Responses to But they’ll still call the beer Budweiser

  1. SteveH February 11, 2009 at 6:03 am #

    The visual of rats from a sinking ship comes immediately to mind.

  2. Stan Hieronymus February 11, 2009 at 6:31 am #

    I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean it the way it sort of sounds to me – but these guys are definitely not rats.

  3. Thomas February 11, 2009 at 8:10 am #

    Interesting, I didn’t know they were involved in the Germany hop production, I just assumed that the Pacific Northwest fields they have supplied most of their crop. Makes sense to diversify crop base in case of crop failure I suppose.

  4. Swordboarder February 11, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    Different soils, different hop characters. Styrian Goldings, East Kent Goldings and US Goldings all have their own distinct character.

    This does give me a ray of hope though. The kind of people who were driven enough to make it to the top of AB won’t just sit back and retire. My hope is they bring their knowledge and ambition to craft beer.

  5. Mitch February 11, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    The Willamette hop growers in Oregon are also in peril because of this “culture change”. It will be a shame if we start losing some of these real nice low alpha hop varieties.
    It’s saddens me to see this happening, but I guess I saw it coming, because I jumped ship several years ago.

  6. SteveH February 11, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    “…but these guys are definitely not rats.”

    No, not what I meant — just that it sounds like they know when to get out, I was really pointing more toward the “sinking ship” analogy.

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