Budweiser's new Freedom Reserve Red Lager was inspired by George Washington's handwritten recipe found in his military journal, according to a company statement. The product will be available from May through September 30, or while limited supplies last.
The lager is available in both a vintage stubby bottle and a one-pint can and is made with toasted barley, hops and malt. It has a hint of molasses in the finish, Budweiser said.
The company said it tapped veteran brewers to make the new lager, and their signatures are on the product bottles and cans. Also, Budweiser is donating a portion of sale proceeds to Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that gives educational scholarships to military families.
Budweiser is checking a lot of boxes with this limited-edition lager: history, patriotism, veteran support, nonprofit assistance and upcoming summer beverage opportunities. The timing for this new product is likely to benefit from the current NBA finals and NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, plus upcoming Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day celebrations.
The company said it is launching an integrated marketing campaign to take advantage of some of these opportunities. It plans to do in-store displays, online advertising, digital marketing programming — and TV spots during the basketball and hockey finals, which are likely to be seen by millions of potential lager drinkers.
Budweiser also plans to join forces with Drizly, the alcohol delivery service, to bring Freedom Reserve Red Lager to new Drizly customers nationwide. The beer company is offering a $5 off promotion between May 1 and July 15 for those who take advantage of this home-delivery option.
Given the recent drop in beer sales — Bud Light posted a 5.7% volume slide last year, it's biggest ever — Budweiser knows it needs to do something to bolster interest in its brands. The company re-released patriotic labels for some of its beer last summer, and the company plans to launch a collaborative beer with Jim Beam bourbon whiskey this fall called Budweiser Reserve Copper Lager.
Budweiser also needs to boost the marketing budget behind its brands since distributors have been cutting back in that area in response to slipping sales. No doubt that's one reason for the big integrated marketing push for this new Freedom Reserve Red Lager product.
Other big beer companies are introducing new products to try and draw consumers back who may have migrated to craft or imported beers, wine and spirits. MillerCoors is targeting youthful, budget-conscious consumers with a new light beer featuring fruit flavors, Constellation Brands has come out with higher-priced, lower-calorie Corona Premier, and AB InBev, Heineken, Coors and Guinness have been rolling out low-alcohol and no-alcohol beers.
Whether all this activity can turn things around for the country's top brewers remains to be seen, but it won't be for lack of trying. For Budweiser, the timing is right, and if the price is as well, thirsty consumers may soon be toasting a variety of spring and summer celebrations with George Washington's recipe.