Drinking beer for science: Which brew is the best?

Who doesn’t want to taste a beer that has been chosen as best beer amongst a crowd of over 25,000 people from all across the USA? In 2012, Budweiser introduced Project 12. The American brewer challenged its twelve brewmasters to create a unique beer recipe. Only one could be the winner, resulting in the Budweiser Black Crown.

Project 12 is a typical crowdsourcing project. As the name describes, crowdsourcing is a type of outsourcing, utilizing a crowd of people instead of an external organization (Howe, 2006). Since the introduction of the concept in 2006, the technology industry was one of the early adopters. However, in the last couple of years, this industry has been overtaken by the fast-moving customer goods (FMCG) industry (Roth et al., 2015). The evolution of crowdsourcing usage per sector is depicted in Figure 1 (Roth et al, 2015).


Figure 1: Evolution of crowdsourcing usage

Crowd consultation

Companies can use different ways to exploit the crowd. The main purposes for crowdsourcing are problem solving, gathering ideas, collecting designs, and outsourcing tasks. With problem solving and ideation contests, the crowd comes up with the ideas and solutions. Decisions on the results are often done internally by companies. Budweiser used a variation on this crowdsourcing model. The brewer created the beers itself (the ‘’ideas’’ / ‘’solutions’’), and used the crowd as consultants (‘’decision makers’’). Hence, the company reversed the typical crowdsourcing model. In summer of 2012, the company traveled across the USA to get in contact with thousands of customers at local events, festivals, and other activities to gather opinions. As such, the participants acted as consultants for Budweiser.

Project 12

In 2012, Budweiser asked twelve of its brewmasters, located in the USA, to create a distinctive beer recipe worthy of the Budweiser name. The beer recipe had to be inspired by regional influences of their brewing location. Out of these twelve, six beers were chosen to join the Budweiser brewers on their tour across America. Consumers with many different backgrounds had the opportunity to taste the different beers and rate them on taste, flavor, freshness, and style before picking their favorites. A summer-long sampling program resulted in the biggest focus group in brand history, maybe even beer history, according to AB InBev, parent company of Budweiser (Brady, 2012). See the video below about Project 12.

There can be only one

Eventually, three brews were distributed in limited edition. One of them was the winner, called ‘Black Crown’. Each beer was named after the zipcode of the brewery location it was created. The  winning beer was introduced using TV ads and even a 30-second Super Bowl commercial. However, the question is whether this expensive marketing tools were really necessary, since Project 12 was already a marketing tool itself. Crowdsourcing projects namely have an advantage that the crowd becomes eager for the product to come out. Participants already become brand ambassadors through spreading the word during the project (IdeaConnection, 2014).

Whether these marketing expenses were really necessary or not, Project 12 turned out to be really successful. The success was so enormous that the brewer decided to launch a similar project the following year (IdeaConnection, 2014). Hence, Budweiser benefitted from their crowdsourcing strategy.

Nowadays, Budweiser is still the most important brand of Ab InBev (largest brewer worldwide), and is even the best selling beer in America (Statista, 2016). That’s why Budweiser is called ‘’The King of Beers’’.


Howe, J. (2006). The rise of crowdsourcing. Wired magazine14(6), 1-4.

Roth, Y., Pétavy, F., & Céré, J. (2015). The state of crowdsourcing in 2015. eYeka Analyst Report.

Brady, S. (2012), AB InBev Woos Beer-Drinkers With Crowdsourced, Locally Developed Bud Flavors, brandchannel [Accessed 17-02-2017 from: http://brandchannel.com/2012/11/05/ab-inbev-woos-beer-drinkers-with-crowdsourced-locally-developed-bud-flavors/].

IdeaConnection (2014), Crowdsourcing a New Beer Bevarage with Budweiser [Accessed 17-02-2017 from: https://www.ideaconnection.com/open-innovation-success/Crowdsourcing-a-New-Beer-Beverage-with-Budweiser-00510.html]

IdeaScale (2017), Crowdsourcing Ideation [Accessed 17-02-2017 from: https://ideascale.com/service/crowdsourcing-ideation-2/].

Statista (2016), Sales of the leading domestic beer brands of the United States in 2016 [Accessed 17-02-2017 from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/188723/top-domestic-beer-brands-in-the-united-states/].

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