A can of Bud Light priced at $15 is no misprint at one Brandon restaurant.
The servers at Prairie Firehouse emphasize this to anyone asking for the popular brand of suds, which is double the price of nearly any other beer available.
Yet, "there’s a few people who still think it’s a joke," said owner Anna Dumas, who jacked the price in November, "and then they get their bill."
Pounding back a Bud Light became pricey at the restaurant located in the city’s former fire hall, not because Dumas wants to profit more on her formerly best-selling beer — she wants people frothing at the mouth for something not brewed by big beer companies.
A gentle nudge from a server to choose craft or Manitoba-brewed wasn’t enough, she reasoned.
"It was a more aggressive approach, I suppose," Dumas said.
Her idea has since garnered national media attention, after a picture of the establishment’s menu was posted to Twitter by Brandon Sun beer columnist Cody Lobreau.
One of Dumas’ chefs, who previously worked at a Calgary restaurant where Bud Light went for $25, first suggested the idea to her.
The reception has been positive from many, including beer enthusiasts who appreciate the promotion of small breweries that typically brew beer for longer and more naturally. She once sold approximately 100 cans of Bud Light a week and now only sells five on average.
Some criticized the move. Before it made news, only the occasional customer got upset, Dumas said.
Customers stumped by what else to drink can make an informed decision, Dumas said.
"Literally, free samples of every beer because I’m sure that they’ll be one of the other 19 that you’ll like," she said.
The move to favour small and independent breweries is in line with Dumas’ mantra to support locally run businesses. She recently helped bring a local-themed consumer loyalty program, Local Frequency, to Brandon.
"I know that there’s so much more care and passion that goes into making craft beers and a lot better ingredients," she said. "I want to make sure that people give them a chance."
In fact, sales of Lakeside Kolsch, craft beer’s answer to Bud Light, as Dumas put it, has been so successful since she hiked the price of the big-name brand, she added the beer to the tap.
For now, Dumas is sticking with her decision, which was never made out of vengeance, she said.
"This was a move that I needed to make to try and get people to go in a direction that I really believe, drinking something that people put so much time and effort into."
Dumas admits she may lose customers, and perhaps gain some as a result.
In response to the price hike at Prairie Firehouse, one bar in the city slashed the price on Bud Light.
In a Facebook post Thursday night, Joe Beeverz Bar and Grill declared they were "so proud to serve Bud Light" they’d sell them for a "ridiculously low price" Friday as patrons cheered on Team Canada at the world junior hockey championship.
For a day, owner Chad Wallin lowered the price of 25-oz. mugs of Bud Light by $3 apiece, and 14-oz. sleeves by $2.
Those expecting a restaurant war to brew out of this should look elsewhere, Wallin said.
"It certainly wasn’t a malicious thing or anything like that. We have a good relationship with Anna and the gang at Prairie Firehouse — they’re a small, independent local business, the same as we are," said Wallin, who explained poking fun, often at themselves, is part of his restaurant’s brand.
"We saw it as an opportunity for Bud Light drinkers to maybe be aware that we carry it and it’s on special."
And as a booster of local business, Dumas respects that Joe Beeverz found an opening in the market.
"If they can capitalize on something I’m doing, then again it’s another local business owner that I want to support," she said.
» Twitter: @ianfroese