Redbridge gluten-free beer is made by Anheuser-Busch. It was introduced in late 2006 in certain markets and available nationwide in the Spring of 2007. In most markets, Redbridge was the only gluten-free beer game in town and therefore was fairly well received by the gluten-free consumer market in the U.S. Bard’s Tale gluten-free beer captured a much smaller percentage of the market but that’s mostly due to the fact that unlike Redbridge, Bard’s Tale was not widely available. In late 2008, Bard’s Tale became available in the Atlanta market and sales really took off. Bard’s Tale is sold in Whole Foods stores in the area and served at several Atlanta area restaurants.
Last month rumors started up about the possibility that Redbridge was being discontinued, but Anheuser-Busch stated (and continues to state) that there are no plans to discontinue the beer at this time. Please note that historically, Anheuser-Busch has not shouted from the rooftops when they have chosen to discontinue any products. No companies do that because they want all the existing products to sell out of the market and much product is often in the market place long after a product has been discontinued. Only time will tell what the real deal is with Redbridge. Maybe it’s here to stay and maybe not.
In the Southeast, Publix is a major player in the mainstream grocery store business, with over 1000 stores in five states. Each January, the company redesigns the massive beer display in their stores and the 2010 line up does not include Redbridge. The sales were not there to support the shelf space so Redbridge, the only gluten-free beer sold at Publix, didn’t make the grade. Once Bard’s Tale was available here, many people spent the extra money to buy it over Redbridge, even though most people live closer to a Publix than a Whole Foods store – currently the only place to purchase Bard’s Tale except for restuarants. On average, a six-pack of Bard’s Tale costs $2.50 more than Redbridge.
After not being able to find Redbridge at any Publix in my area for almost two months, and hearing complaints that others could not find it either, I finally spoke to the manager of a store near me to find out exactly what the deal was. As I expected, he confirmed that Redbridge did not sell well enough to continue to be kept on the shelf at Publix. This is a corporate wide decision – no Publix stores are stocking Redbridge with chilled beer now. However, customers can contact the manager of their store and request the product be brought in just for them. That is, it can be brought in as long as the local distributor carries it and the manufacturer makes it. Publix carries Woodchuck cider and all the flavors in that line are gluten-free.
Whole Foods stores here sell Bard’s Tale, Greens (from Belgium) and New Grist gluten-free beer. Kroger reports that they carry Redbridge in their stores presently. No company should continue making a product that they aren’t making money on, and no store should have to sell something that’s not profitable for them. Companies are not making gluten-free products to “be nice” to gluten-free consumers. Like any business, manufacturers are only interested in making profitable products. Retailers are interested in selling products they can make a decent profit on and the products have to turn quickly enough to justify the shelf space they take up.
Unfortunately, Redbridge might end up falling into the category of failed gluten-free products. Redbridge is considered by some people to be the “Budweiser” of all gluten-free beers, but it’s the only one available in many markets. For that reason, it will really be unfortunate if the product ends up disappearing from all store shelves eventually. Let us know if you like Redbridge, or if you prefer other gluten-free beer brands.