The Winking Lizard Tavern chain is saying goodbye to Miller Lite and Bud Light on draft. The Winking Lizard is dumping those national brands in favor of Yuengling Light effective Nov. 1, saying it's tired of price increases by Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller and doesn't want to pass the cost onto customers.
"The big guys just don’t care anymore," Winking Lizard partner John Lane said. "They’ve been giving it to us on the chin for the last couple of years."
He said AB InBev raised its prices earlier this fall, and SABMiller followed suit this week.
The Winking Lizard will explain the change to customers this way, Lane said: "Better beer. Better pricing. American-made. All the profits are staying within the United States rather than going to South Africa or going over to Belgium." That's a dig on Anheuser-Busch and Miller being foreign-owned companies.
The decision is a big deal because one out of every three draft beers sold at a Winking Lizard is a light beer. (Miller Lite and Bud Light will still be available in bottle.) Lane said the chain -- there are restaurants and bars throughout Northeast Ohio and in Columbus -- would have to raise its draft beer prices for Miller Lite and Bud Light. A pint of those brands now goes for $3.50. He estimated that would have to go up at least 15 cents for a pint, and 25 cents for a 32-ounce beer.
The gap between the bottle price and draft price is narrowing so much with those brands that customers no longer get a value by purchasing a draft, Lane said.
A few other bar owners and managers contacted about the price increases either said the increase wasn't that large or they couldn't follow the Winking Lizard's lead because their customers love those brands. Bud Light is the best-selling beer in the United States, with Miller Lite being fourth.
An Anheuser-Busch spokesman confirmed that the company raised prices this fall and those increases varied by brand and market. "The company’s objective is to selectively manage the gap between its premium and value brands. Over the past 15 years, our beer prices have lagged CPI [consumer price index], and we have worked to narrow that gap."
Meanwhile, MillerCoors didn't respond when asked about the price increase.