Unless you’re new to the planet, or just recently tuned into this thing called electricity, then the chances are you’ve heard of the beer brand Budweiser. Chances are, in fact, that you’ve either seen a Budweiser ad, caught a glimpse of the beer’s logo, or maybe even had a Bud–or two– within the last hour or so.
How big is Budweiser? Well, let’s just say that the sales folks at a company called Coca Cola–you may have heard of it–would probably answer “pretty, pretty…pretty darn big.”
Why is it named Budweiser?
If you’re like most people, then you already know that Budweiser comes in red and white bottles and is one of America’s most popular beers. You may not know, however, that the word “Budweiser” is one of German descent that means something or someone from the city of Budweis in Czechoslovakia. If you feel like pulling a Cliff Clavin next time you’re drinking with your pals, be sure to lay that little bit of info on them. Assuming any of them are old enough to remember the show “Cheers,” of course.
One of the beer’s creators, Mr. Adolphus Busch, decided to name it Budweiser after he visited the European city and was inspired by the region’s tasty Bohemian lagers. Busch had partnered with his father-in-law, Mr. Eberhard Anheuser, who owned a small brewery in St. Louis.
The company’s name? Anheuser-Busch. Yes, THAT Anheuser-Busch. The same company that, by 1901, had already passed the one-million barrel production mark. It’s the same American institution that was, by the end of the 20th century, responsible for producing almost every second beer that was sold in the U.S.
In 2008, Anheuser-Busch merged with the Belgian-Brazilian brewing giant InBev for approximately $52 billion. Not bad for a little brewery out of St. Louis!
Why is Budweiser called the “King of Beers”?
Yes, Budweiser has been a big deal for many, many years, and for decades it was America’s top-selling beer. So, this is why it’s called the “King of Beers,” right? Not exactly.
The real deal on the catchy slogan is that the Bohemian pilsner that originally inspired Budweiser was traditionally called the “beer of kings” in Czech culture. Since the whole royalty thing has never really been America’s cup of tea, Anheuser-Busch elected to go with “King of Beers” instead.
Of course, the “King of Beers” marketing scheme became an integral part of the Budweiser brand, and has no doubt contributed to the beer’s success. Considering that the average American probably encounters a Budweiser advertisement every fifteen minutes or so, it should be no surprise that the expression “King of Beers” is pretty much synonymous with the famous brew.
The times, are they a-changing?
So, is Budweiser still the “King of Beers” in terms of sales? Apparently not. While Bud is still the preferred choice for millions of beer-guzzling folks, over the last few decades more and more people have been buying into that whole health trend thingy. Being healthy evidently means you should drink beers with less calories and a lower alcohol content.
This is, of course, why Anheuser-Busch decided to pump serious cash into promoting Bud Light, which became another smash success for the brewing giant. In fact, Budweiser’s lighter sibling went on to surpass the original “King of Beers” in sales.
In addition, many in the latest generation of drinking-age adults prefer to drink craft or different styles of beers like Indian Pale Ales (or what the cool kids call “IPA”) and stouts. To say nothing of hipsters, who prefer to drink other beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon (they call it PBR), when they’re not trimming their beards or shopping for ironic t shirts.
The “King of Beers”, alongside its brewing competitors, has had to deal with more recent trends that deemed drinks with hard liquor were, in fact, the cool way to go. First, thanks to shows like “Sex in the City,” martinis became the thing. More recently, however, as a result of programs like “Mad Men,” pounding back straight whiskey and cocktails is more en vogue…just not necessarily during a business meeting or at 9:30 in the morning.
What about those three frogs?
Of course, Budweiser has become an American institution, not just because of its impressive sales and “King of Beers” slogan, but due to several memorable marketing campaigns.
Perhaps you may recall, while watching Blossom or Friends in the ’90s, Budweiser’s seemingly constant television ads that featured the “Bud”, “Weis”, and “Er” frogs. You know–the ads where the first frog would say “bud,” the second would say “weis,” and the third…well, you get the idea.
While the ads were certainly memorable, and are forever emblazoned onto the memories of millions, they were eventually pulled in controversy. Critics argued that the ads were targeting kids, which was a charge the Bud overlords denied.
And then, of course, there was the “Whassup” ad campaign from Budweiser. How big was it? Well, unless you didn’t watch television from 1999 through, say, 2002, or you didn’t correspond with another human being during that same time period, then you likely helped spread the obnoxious catch phrase.
What did the ad have to do with beer? Not much. It just made you want to say “whassup” to anyone you saw before ordering a Budweiser. Thankfully, the annoying salutation has been removed from our collective, short-term memory.