The Bud Zone dominates the Super Bowl

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Super Bowl XXXIX should be a gimme for Anheuser-Busch.

Thanks to its hugely popular commercials (the talking lizards, “Whazzzup,” Cedric the Entertainer), the world’s largest beer maker is almost inseparable from the world’s biggest sporting event. Moreover, with Alltel Stadium just a few miles south on I-95 from one of its 15 breweries, A-B has a decided home-field advantage at this year’s Super Bowl.

Yet, fans who attend pre-game events throughout this town will be drinking a good bit of one of the Busch family’s biggest competitors, Coors Light.

Through a quirk in licensing arrangements with the NFL, Coors is the “official” beer sponsor of the Super Bowl – even though A-B is the sole beer advertiser during the telecast.

Thus, though Florida is not historically a big market for the Boulder, Colo., brewer, Coors Light is often the ONLY beer available at the host city’s game week events. The company’s logo is everywhere in this town, and so are empty plastic bottles of the stuff. One of the city’s main entertainment sites is named the Coors Light Stage at the Shipyard. Today, the popular Coors Light twins, Diane and Elaine Klimaszewski, will be in town, doing interviews and posing for photographs.

Meanwhile, A-B can’t even use the phrase “Super Bowl. ” Its press releases, for example, refer to the game as “the upcoming professional football championship. “

That’s life when your competitor shells out an estimated $75 million a year for NFL licensing rights, as Coors did in 2002.

Steve Foppe, the resident brewmaster at A-B’s mammoth Jacksonville facility, shrugged off Coors’ presence in his town when I met him the other day.

“Coors pretty much has the Alltel footprint,” said Foppe. “But we have a Bud Zone inside the stadium, so we’ll be there. “

He had the look of confidence of a man who knows his factory will produce 9 million barrels of suds this year, regardless of whether a couple of hundred thousand football fans are drinking his competitor’s product for a few days. “We run full capacity all year, so there’s no need to change our production,” he said.

But it’s not like A-B is sitting back and letting Coors run wild in its town. The brewery parking lot has been taken over by Bud Bowl 2005, a free entertainment attraction featuring music, beer, NASCAR and, of course, Clydesdales. Cedric the Entertainer will be bartending at the site tomorrow.

A-B will also pony up big bucks for 10 30-second spots during the telecast. “There is no other media event in which we can reach so many beer drinkers at one time, which makes this a very efficient media buy for us,” spokesman Rick Oleshak said.

The company is expected to use one of its Super Bowl commercials to tease the national rollout of Budweiser Select, its new, low-carb brew (3.1 grams of the nasties, 99 calories, 4.3 percent alcohol per bottle). Foppe poured me a cup – it’s crisp and clear, like you’d expect from an A-B product. It’s a bit maltier than your typical light beer, but with absolutely no lingering tastes it’s quickly forgettable.

Personally, I don’t need another beer from A-B. I’d rather see the brewer bring back the old Bud Bowl, those famous tackling bottles of Bud and Bud Light. Now, those were the days when Budweiser and the Super Bowl were truly one of a kind.

Beer radar

Contrary to the evidence in Jacksonville, the Super Bowl is not the No. 1 beer- drinking holiday in America. It’s No. 7, behind July Fourth, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving and (?! ) Easter . . . Budweiser’s best Super Bowl ad won’t even make it onto the tube. It’s a spoof on singer Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction last year, which the Fox network rejected. See it at . . . Looking for a decent craft beer in Jacksonville? Good luck – micros are almost invisible here. The most popular brewpub is River City (835 Museum Drive), but it’s booked with so many invitation-only parties, you’ll be lucky to belly up to the bar. And besides, their beer is horrible. You might have better luck at Ragtime Tavern (207 Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach) or Southend Brewery on Jacksonville Landing . . .

Tom Mooney, owner of O’Neal’s (3rd and South streets), laid down a Super Bowl wager with the manager of Cheers, the Boston bar whose facade appeared during the long-running sitcom. The loser has to wear the other team’s T-shirt on the day of the winning team’s parade . . . Lucy’s Hat Shop (247 Market St., Old City) is tempting fate with a Super Sunday “all-the-damn-food-and-booze-you-can-drink” . . . Eulogy (136 Chestnut St., Old City) has dressed up its coffin skeleton in a Patriots sweater. The bar will host a Victory beer dinner on Super Bowl Sunday. That’s “Victory,” as in Victory HopDevil.

Joe Sixpack, by staff writer Don Russell, was written this week with a bottle of Pilsner Urquell. 


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