Anheuser-Busch Moves to Trademark Area Codes: Set to Roll Out the Goose Island Barrel Nationally?

Anheuser-Busch, after purchasing craft brewery, moves to trademark area codes.

July 8, 2011, 5:42 PM

July 10, 2011— -- For conspiracy theorists, the plot may be more complicated than the DaVinci Code.

For beer enthusiasts, it demonstrates the growing power of craft beers and micro breweries.

In reality, Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, by recently applying for federal trademarks in 15 cities, is probably just trying to protect a recent investment made by purchasing micro-brewery Goose Island as well as keep the door open for the possibility of extending the brand at some point in the future.

So, the facts first, and then the fun.

In late March, Anheuser-Busch In-Bev purchased Chicago-based Goose Island Brewery for $38.8 million.

Goose Island makes a very popular beer called 312 Urban Wheat Ale described by the brewer as "densely populated with flavor." Locals call the beer "312," as the Chicago area code is prominently featured on the label.

The recent move by Anheuser Busch to purchase area codes is fueling speculation that the brewer might be readying a marketing push to extend the brand by making craft beers for beer lovers in other area codes.

That would not be a surprise in an industry where overall beer market growth was down last year by 1 percent, but, according to the Brewers Association, craft beer market growth was double digit at about 11 percent.

Now the fun. When President Obama held his teachable moment on the White House lawn, popularly called the "beer summit," with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley and Vice President Joe Biden; two of the four beers served were craft brews: Samuel Adams and Blue Moon. President Obama had a Bud Light and the Vice President had a non-alcoholic Buckler.

The president's choice of Bud Light was likely a smart PR move, as Bud Light is the American made beer with the number one market share and the whole world was watching.

However, in June 2010, Obama bet British Prime Minister David Cameron a case of 312 Urban Wheat Ale that the United States soccer team would beat England in the World Cup.

The game ended in a tie, so both leaders paid off their debts.

So you have a president dead set on stimulating the economy promoting his hometown brew, which is then purchased by the world's largest brewer. Then, said brewer begins buying up area codes.

It's a safe bet we'll need to revisit this story in the future.

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