Anheuser-Busch InBev appears prepared to launch another Mexican import in the U.S., this time 95-year-old "craft" brand from Baja California called Cerveza Mexicali.
The St. Louis-based brewer on Oct. 15 received approval from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for labels of the 4.5-percent alcohol-by-volume Mexican lager, which will be packaged in both 12-ounce cans and 12-ounce bottles.
ABI acquired the brand in November 2015 via a subsidiary of Grupo Modelo in a deal that included the craft breweries Cervecería Mexicana and Cervecería Tijuana, according to Forbes Mexico. In addition to Cerveza Mexicali, Cervecería Mexicana owned brands such as Pilsner, Mexicali Light, Mexicali Dark, Day of the Dead, Red Pig, Chili Beer, Rio Bravo and San Miguel. At the time of the transaction, those brands were marketed and sold in Mexico as well as in parts of the U.S., Australia, Japan, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain and New Zealand.
It is unclear if Cerveza Mexicali is available in the U.S. today; its one-time U.S. website, mexicalibeer.com, is inactive, and its social media channels are largely dormant. The brand's Mexican website also appears largely untouched since 2015.
The brand got its start in 1923 in the Baja California town of Mexicali. After about 50 years, the brewery closed, but the brand was picked up by Cerverceria Mexicana and brewed at its Tecate brewery. The Pilsner is "lightly fragrant and spritzy" with "more special hopping than others" and added crystal malt to "enhance its character," according to a description posted by an Arizona distributor in early 2015.
If it hits the U.S. in 2018, it will become the latest of a spate of new imports introduced here this year, joining the Australian brand 4 Pines, Spain-based Cervezas La Virgen and fellow Mexican craft import Bocanegra.
Like Bocanegra, which was introduced in Los Angeles and New York, Cerveza Mexicali was part of ABI's Mexican shopping spree in 2015 and 2016, which also netted Cucapa.
It will be imported by St. Louis-based ABI subsidiary Import Brands Alliance, the unit that also imports Stella Artois, Estrella Jalisco and Leffe, among other brands.
An Anheuser-Busch spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has not revealed its plans for the brand, but it has said it plans a major investment in another Mexican import, the more mass-market Estrella Jalisco. Its moves with Mexican brands come as the market for Mexican imports continues to flourish.
Mexican brands such as Corona Premier and Corona Familiar have been fixtures on the Nielsen Top 10 Growth Brands lists this year, helping boost the brand franchise up 8 percent year-to-date in sales volume, per data through Oct. 13. Modelo Especial, meanwhile, has pushed the Modelo franchise up 13 percent.
MillerCoors brand Sol, which relaunched earlier this year with a new marketing campaign and updated packaging, has likewise been on a tear, up 171.2 percent year-to-date.