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Bud Light's on Sabres ice Brewery scores big with special brew bearing team's logo in marketing stroke

Sabres fans, this Bud Light is for you.

Anheuser-Busch Brewing Co. has a hit on its hands with a limited-edition version of its product that is only available in Western New York.

The special Sabres Bud Light, bottled at the company's Baldwinsville plant, comes in limited-edition bottles that bear the team's blue and gold logo with a streaking hockey puck.

"We sat down with the Anheuser-Busch people, and with the Sabres playing so strong, we thought it would be great to put out a team-specific product in time for the NHL playoffs," said Rich May, vice president of sales for Try-It Distributing, the Buffalo area's wholesaler for Anheuser-Busch beverages.

And that hunch has paid off. In the three weeks since the 50,000 cases of Sabres Bud Light arrived at Try-It warehouses, nearly all of it has gone out the door to retail beer sellers.

Dennis Brinkworth III, who operates Colter Bay, Brink's, Union Bar and W.J. Morrissey's Irish Bar in downtown Buffalo, said the Sabres-logo beer is selling "like gangbusters."

"People see other people with it in their hands and they want one too. This was a super-smart marketing idea. Everybody wants a piece of the Sabres," Brinkworth said.

Sabres fans are not only buying the team Bud Light for their personal drinking enjoyment, but they are also snaring it for resale on the Internet. More than 20 limited-edition bottles are up for grabs on eBay. The empty, but collectible bottles have suggested prices of between $1.99 and $7.99.

May predicts the last of the 1.2 million Sabres-logo bottles will be gone from the Try-It warehouses by late this week or early next. The beer is sold only in 24-packs of 12-ounce bottles.

"We were selling about 1,000 cases a day when the product first came in, but since the first playoff game, we're over a daily rate of 1,500, and when it's gone, it's gone," he said.

Wegmans Food Markets spokeswoman Ann McCarthy said the Sabres Bud Light is also flying out of the food chain's coolers.

"It's been extremely popular with our customers, not just with our Buffalo customers, but with our Rochester customers, too," McCarthy said.

St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch has produced a number of team-specific products in recent years. Its Budweiser brand, the official beer of Major League Baseball, offers various team-branded products this season for 26 clubs in their markets.

Buffalo-area Cleveland Indians fans can purchase Budweiser with Indians graphics on bottles and cans if they do a little bit of driving. The team-specific beer is sold at retail outlets within a 75-mile radius of Cleveland. Those seeking Yankees or Mets Bud will have to head to the New York City metro area.

Anheuser-Busch has also produced Buffalo Bills-themed lager in the past, which was distributed in the Buffalo area during the NFL season.

Currently, the Sabres and the Minnesota Wild are the only NHL teams with a Bud Light to call their own. And unlike Sabres fans -- who can purchase their blue and gold brew at HSBC Arena, a limited number of bars and restaurants and at retail outlets for home consumption -- Minnesota fans can only get Wild Bud Light at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

There are no plans to bottle up any additional Sabres brew for the playoffs, so if fans want to toast their team in style all the way through to the Stanley Cup finals, now is the time to stock up.

"It's a lot of fun to sit in your living room and have a beer with the Sabres logo on it. It adds to the whole playoff viewing experience," May said.

And if the Sabres should win the Stanley Cup, Try-It and Anheuser-Busch plan to offer fans a special way to celebrate.

"We don't want to jinx the Sabres, but we're thinking about a championship version," May added.

Anheuser-Busch is the nation's No. 1 beer seller, with a 48 percent market share, and Bud Light is the country's top-selling brew. In the Buffalo market, the company faces stiff competition from Canadian brewers Labatts and Molson, but Bud Light is still among the top five brands sold.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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