As I have written before, I have a fondness for Bud Light (BL)*. Sadly, Russia does not import it. It used to, but in 2010 Anheuser-Busch (AB) prematurely terminated its BL import and licensing agreement, due to abysmal sales. Apparently BL’s superior drinkability™ only won it something like 0.1% of the import beer market share. How do I know this? Because I went on a recon mission** after not finding any BL among my supermarket’s 100-something beer varieties, foreign and domestic. I was distraught.
The logical course of action was to find an appropriate substitute among local offerings. After tasting pretty much every single mass-produced Russian beer and a number of imports (over several weeks, ok?), I settled on Klinskoye. The ‘light’ iteration is the flagship Klinskoye product (I also enjoy the ‘living’ version – Russian term for unfiltered beer, like Blue Moon or Hoegaarden) and is one of the most popular local beers – practically the Russian Bud Light***. As a matter of fact, Kilnskoye is owned by AB, making the ‘Russian BL’ moniker even more fitting.
Still, the taste of Klinskoye was noticeably different from BL, and I kept being drawn back to the closest thing to the original BL that Russia had to offer – Bud (Budweiser in the US, but simply Bud in Europe, because of a trademark dispute). So, six to eight months into my repatriation, Bud became my beer of choice.
Everything was fine and dandy for about a year, until a couple of weeks ago I walked into my local Pyatyorochka (a small grocery chain) and noticed that the price of Bud has dropped by more than 10% since the previous week. By the way, this was a second price drop in 6 months – Bud went from costing RR52/16oz can mid-winter, to RR50 in early spring, to RR44 ($1.35) today. This, in a country not exactly known for deflationary tendencies!
Naturally, I panicked – what if this is AB’s dumping price before Bud exits the market too?!?!?! – but after a frazzled web search, it turned out that my worries were for naught: apparently, Bud is actually gaining popularity in Russia! Who knows, maybe it will give AB the incentive to try a Bud Light re-launch sometime soon? A girl can dream!
Also, last week I discovered this magnificent establishment:
Yes, it is a Bud Diner. Right in my neighborhood. The reviews are pretty bad, but for me it is a ‘win’ by default, simply because of the name association.
*A few weeks ago I once again Googled “’bud light’” and “Russia” and this blog showed up in the top 10 query results. That might have been my proudest life accomplishment to date. I am hoping this post will push me even higher.
**Thanks again, Google Search! I think it was an industry report of sorts but I was not able to find that document again for this post. But I will!
***I think Baltika is the primary exported Russian beer, and thus is the best known Russian beer internationally – I used to buy it at Brighton Beach in NYC.