Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets-branded Budweiser flying off store shelves

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You might not be able to see the Winnipeg Jets on the ice at the MTS Centre but you can have a Jets beer on ice in your cooler.

Labatt Breweries of Canada has launched a Jets-branded Budweiser in a new vessel -- aluminum bottles -- for the Manitoba market, lockout or no lockout.

"We realize that people in the community still have a strong passion for the team. This is our way of continuing to honour that passion," said Dan Chubey, district sales manager at Labatt.

Along with the Jets beer, Labatt has simultaneously launched Budweiser and Bud Lite in the distinctive aluminum bottles, which have proven very popular in the U.S., largely because they get colder faster than traditional glass bottles.

These aren't the first aluminum bottles to be found in liquor stores, however. Earlier this year, Molson Coors launched a pair of brands -- Molson Canadian and Coors Light Iced T in wide-mouth, resealable aluminum bottles.

Chubey said while this first batch has a limited run, Jets Budweiser will be a permanent fixture in the province.

You won't be able to pick up a 12-pack of Jets beer, though. Labatt is selling it in individual bottles. And unlike last season's Jets Fan Brew, this recipe doesn't include any Winnipeg water blessed by Jets fans.

Susan Harrison, a spokeswoman with the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, said the aluminum bottles have been selling "very well" since they were introduced a couple of weeks ago.

"The Jets bottle especially is selling really well. It has sold five times as much in the last month as the plain aluminum (cans) did the month before," she said.

Bud and Bud Lite have been the top-selling beers in Manitoba for several years running. Sales at the MTS Centre last hockey season didn't put the two over the top again last year but 15,003 largely beer-drinking fans filling the building more than 40 times a year certainly didn't hurt.

"It was a unique year. (Draught sales) were tough to quantify but they definitely added to our totals. The Winnipeg sports fans and Budweiser consumers surprised me to no end last year with their passion for our team and our brand," Chubey said.

"But we're missing the Jets this season. We look forward to seeing them on the ice again."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2012 A2

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