Anheuser-Busch to Offer Herb-Infused 'Beer'

In an effort to revive flattening sales and attract new drinkers, Anheuser-Busch Co. Inc. (BUD) is unveiling a new concoction — a fruity-smelling beer, spiked with caffeine, guarana and ginseng.

The world's largest brewer said Monday its planned offering — pronounced B-to-the-E, with the "E" denoting something "extra" and shown as an exponent of B — should appeal to 20-something consumers looking for something zippy in their highly social, fast-paced lifestyles.

The St. Louis-based brewer said the new "beer" — pending governmental approval — should debut in November against the backdrop of the company's existing line of Bacardi liquor-branded flavored malt beverages — or malternatives. The drink also faces competition from the ever-increasing line of alcohol-free energy drinks, such as Red Bull (search), often used as mixers in clubs.

Anheuser-Busch said each can of the B-to-the-E beverage would pack 22.5 carbs, along with 6.6 percent alcohol by volume, 54 milligrams of caffeine and 203 calories. By comparison, Anheuser-Busch's Bacardi Silver Low-Carb Black Cherry (search) has 2.6 grams of carbs and 96 calories per 12-ounce serving.

"The majority of beer drinkers and the people we're trying to approach with this product are not concerned with carbs all the time," Bob Lachky, Anheuser-Busch's vice president of brand management, told reporters during a conference call.

Convinced the carb-counting craze may be waning, Lachky said "there's plenty of room in the beer industry for innovation not tied to carbs."

B-to-the-E will be slightly sweet but tart, coming in the aromas of blackberry, raspberry and cherry.

Anheuser-Busch trumpeted itself as the first major brewer to infuse beer with caffeine, ginseng and guarana (search), the latter a caffeine-bearing herb used in a popular Brazilian soft drink.

The brewer did not specify possible pricing for the new beverage, suggesting only that the "very unique product" would fetch slightly more than Budweiser as a premium product.

"It's not that people aren't drinking beer," Lachky said. "It is one of those things where variety and innovation is more of a factor than anything else."

Some analysts suggested that Anheuser-Busch was trying to set itself apart in a market with increasing choices for consumers while appealing to a demographic whose taste buds go beyond conventional beer offerings.

"It's consumer marketing — everyone's trying to do something," said Juli Niemann, a St. Louis-based analyst for RT Jones.

Anheuser-Busch shares fell 28 cents to close at $50.20 on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.