Latest Beer Gimmicks: Boy Bands, Star Trek, Baseball Bat Flavor

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What will marketers think of next to entice you into picking their beer out from the staggering number of beverage options available this summer? You might be surprised.

Here are a few of the odd and innovative new ways brewers are trying to attract the interest (and thirst) of beer drinkers:

This summer, Budweiser is being sold in limited edition “patriotic packaging,” with the red, white and blue of the American flag featured prominently on cans and bottles—and with a portion of sales benefiting the families of soldiers killed or disabled in service.

A group of craft brewers is also involved in a charity benefitting the families of American service members. Through the Hops for Heroes project, nine small breweries are selling a beer called Homefront IPA through the summer. Sales help Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that provides emergency aid to soldiers and their families. All of which is terrific. But part of Homefront IPA’s recipe is basically a gimmick that attempts to give the brew a connection to America’s pastime. Chris Ray, a former pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, teamed up with the Fremont Brewing Company two years ago to create the first Homefront IPA, a hoppy ale that’s aged in unfinished maple Louisville Slugger bats for three weeks.

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What do the bats add to the beer’s taste? Not much of anything, Ray told ESPN:

“I’m not sure if it adds a ton of flavor, but it ties it into baseball and gives it a unique twist,” Ray said. “It might add a little bit of flavor, but maple is a hard wood — that’s why they use it for bats — so there’s not a whole lot of absorbing going on. There are a lot of beers that age on oak chips and toasted oak chips, so we just thought if it added a little flavor, great. If not, it’s a nice story.”

Presumably, the story didn’t hurt in getting Louisville Slugger on board as a sponsor for the project. Now that the brew is made and the beer-scented bats have served their purpose, they’re going up for online auction starting on June 3. Bids will be accepted for nine different bats (one from each participating brewer), and auctions will be closed after ten days.

Fruity Flavors
Bud Light Lime has proved to be such a sales hit that you just knew more sweet, fruit-flavored beers would come. Anheuser-Busch InBev’s followup to Bud Light Lime is Straw-Ber-Rita, a “malt beverage that blends the refreshment of Bud Light Lime with the taste of an authentic strawberry margarita” introduced this spring.

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Meanwhile, Shock Top, a brand also owned by AB-InBev, has rolled out a Honeycrisp Apple Wheat beer made with sweet cider, as well as a Lemon Shandy (lemonade-beer concoction). In fact, CNBC notes that 2013 could shape up as the “summer of the shandy,” as large brewers such as Molson Coors and SABMiller also push shandies of their own.

Pop Culture
People like to drink beer while listening to music or watching TV, so why not officially brand brews with the folks who are on stage or on the boob tube? That’s exactly what happened with Trooper, a new beer made in collaboration with iconic heavy metal band Iron Maiden, and Iron Throne, a blonde ale with a “Game of Thrones” theme. Brewers in Canada will soon be selling a beer for Trekkies: Vulcan Ale.

The latest, arguably oddest beer-pop culture pairing is Mmmhops, a pale ale created in a partnership with the boy band Hanson, of “Mmmbop” fame. Make that former boy band Hanson, because the Hanson brothers are all old enough now to be able to buy beer. Businessweek reported that the beer was featured in “The Hangover III,” though Mmmhops won’t be available for sale until the fall.

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“Just Beer”
The range of beer options has exploded in recent years. The selection and taste has both arguably grown overcomplicated, and critics have made the case that all sorts of beers have become too hoppy, or too heavy, or too something. As a backlash to the gimmicks of the modern craft beer movement, Alan Newman, who created the Magic Hat brand in Vermont, has come up with an anti-gimmick gimmick: Just Beer.

“The Just Beer Project’s mission is to deliver beer drinkers un-complicated, world-class craft brews that are delightful in their simplicity – nothing too complicated or exotic and with all natural ingredients,” Newman writes on the website of his new venture. The project’s first “un-complicating” beer is called, simply, Just IPA.