UPDATE NO. 2: Thought it would be good to address some questions that many are asking. There were no law changes necessary for Budweiser to post higher-strength items for sale in Oklahoma. The sticking point is that because of Oklahoma regulations, Budweiser is only able to self-distribute its 3.2 beer. Their stronger beer must be entered into the market the same way all other strong beers are, which means the further distribution and sale of said beer is out of their control. My understanding is that Budweiser and Miller/Coors have opted for about 30 years not to post higher-strength beer for sale in Oklahoma because they didn’t want to lose control of the product. That leads to the question I have asked Budweiser reps: Why flip the script and post these products now?
UPDATE: Since posting this earlier this morning, I’ve attained the list of Budweiser products posted with the state’s ABLE Commission for sale for November. Here is the list:
-Budweiser Black Crown (keg)
-Bud Light Lime Lime-A-Rita (can)
-Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita (can)
-Bud Light Lime Cran-Brrr-Rita (can)
-Land Shark (keg)
-Rolling Rock (can, bottle and keg)
-Shock Top Belgian White (can, bottle and keg)
Availability of the beers will vary. As I understand it, just because AB-InBev has posted these items for sale doesn’t necessarily mean they will ship all of them, and it doesn’t necessarily mean distributors will decide to pick them up. Of course, it also doesn’t mean retailers/bar owners will decide to buy them from distributors and stock them. Still a lot up in the air. I’m interested in Budweiser’s strategy with these price postings, and I have a call out to Budweiser reps for a response.
Big news for Oklahoma’s beer industry came to light last night.
Liquor store owner Freddy Lamport passed along the news that high-point Budweiser products have been cleared for sale in Oklahoma.
That means higher-than-3.2% Budweiser, Shock Top, Rolling Rock and Black Crown could be available in liquor stores as early as November.
This move has sparked quite of bit of discussion among beer fans.
On the plus side, one theory is that getting high-point Bud in liquor stores could eventually lead to convenience stores/gas stations demanding they can get high-point Bud as well. In turn, that could lead to refrigeration being allowed at liquor stores. Once that happens, that could lead to convenience stores/gas stations carrying good craft beer. It could also lead to liquor stores being able to sell ice, soda, glasses and accessories like convenience stores can. In short, it could completely turn Oklahoma’s beer laws upside down.
In fact, the majority sentiment in beer social media circles seems to be that this is a good development for the beer consumer.
While I tend to agree, something about this makes me skeptical. Bud is not pushing this change for the benefit of the consumer.
Bud has an agenda here, and that agenda is making money.
Think of it this way: For years, craft brewers have complained that they can’t get access to shelf space in grocery stores and tap handles at bars because the BMC’s (Bud-Miller-Coors) of the world have squeezed them out with favorable distribution agreements and strong-arm tactics.
This move by Bud to gain access to liquor stores, to me, seems like an aggressive move by Bud to strike at craft beer on craft beer’s home turf. What makes me nervous is that Bud et al may try to swipe shelf space in the liquor store the same way they do in grocery stores.
If that happens remains to be seen. The key will be strong, beer-forward liquor store owners maintaining a good supply of quality, independent craft beer.
And just as importantly, consumers will speak in the end, and they will need to speak out in favor of craft beer. If that’s that case, craft beer and BMC can exist in the same space. After all, that is exactly what is happening in many other states in the country.
Hopefully, if this move by Bud accomplishes anything, it will be moving Oklahoma closer to modern, progressive liquor laws.