Going against the grain in courting the young cocktail crowd, beermaker Anheuser-Busch Cos. is launching a new "brew" to go head-to-head with classic mixed drinks — traditional suds spiked with caffeine, fruit flavoring, herbal guarana and ginseng.
The world's largest brewer's nationwide rollout this week of B-to-the-E — the "B" standing for beer, the "E" for something "extra" and shown as an exponent of B — came as beermakers look to piggyback strides liquor companies have made in luring young consumers to flavored and mixed drinks.
Anheuser-Busch test marketed B-to-the-E from in the fall, eventually assessing in 55 U.S. cities whether the new "beer" appealed to 20-something consumers craving something zippy in their highly social, fast-paced lifestyles.
"It's producing a lot of excitement for this beer category in that consumers and bartenders are not looking at this as a typical beer," in many cases with B-to-the-E served over ice, said Dawn Roepke, the St. Louis-based brewer's brand manager of new-product development. "It's going right up against mixed drinks."
She declined to reveal sales data.
Slightly sweet but tart and coming in the aromas of blackberry, raspberry and cherry, B-to-the-E is to be marketed toward "active 21- to 27-year-old experimenters looking for new tastes and options."
B-to-the-E comes against the backdrop of the company's existing line of Bacardi liquor-branded flavored malt beverages — or malternatives — and the ever-increasing line of alcohol-free energy drinks, often used as mixers in clubs.
Anheuser-Busch — maker of Budweiser, Bud Light and low-carb Michelob Ultra beers — trumpets itself as the first major brewer to infuse beer with caffeine, ginseng and guarana, the latter a caffeine-bearing herb used in a popular Brazilian soft drink.
Anheuser-Busch said each can of B-to-the-E packs 17 grams of carbohydrates, along with 4.5 percent alcohol by volume, 54 milligrams of caffeine and 145 calories. By comparison, Anheuser-Busch's Bacardi Silver Low-Carb Black Cherry has 2.6 grams of carbs and 96 calories per 12-ounce serving.
Before taxes, B-to-the-E generally will fetch $1.29 for a single can, $4.99 for a four-pack of 10-ounce cans, Roepke said. A bottled version is to arrive by the end of February, she said.
Rival Miller Brewing Co. has no immediate plans for a similar product, but "certainly we'll follow the results of the product and be keeping a close eye on it," spokesman Pete Marino said. Colorado-based Adolph Coors Co. did not return calls for comment.