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'Tequila beer' with a skull and a secret message (but no tequila) is set for US

Oculto ... spirit-like but no tequila

A tequila-flavored beer called Oculto is to be launched in the U.S. next year, aimed at younger consumers who are increasingly choosing spirits such as rum and vodka and Mexican beers.

Anheuser-Busch InBev plans to debut Oculto next spring, the Wall Street Journal reports. The beer will be made with blue agave—the same plant used to make tequila. It will be blended with beer aged with wood from tequila barrels.

The new lager will not actually contain tequila, but it will have an alcohol content of 6%, more than the 4% to 5% typical of American beers.

The product targets a U.S. market that AB InBev has “had trouble pursuing” since it bought Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo SAB de CV for $20.1 billion in 2013, said the WSJ.

Mexican beers such as Modelo Especial and Dos Equis were up 17% in the US through September, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights, a trade publication. Corona is the top-selling import.

When AB InBev bought Modelo, it had to give up U.S. import rights for that company’s most prominent Mexican beers—Corona, Modelo Especial and Pacifico—because of antitrust concerns.

It sold the U.S. distribution rights to Constellation Brands - and was left without a Mexican beer in the U.S. market. AB InBev markets Modelo brands in Mexico and other markets world-wide.

Earlier this year, the company began limited U.S. distribution of Montejo, a Mexican lager made by a Modelo subsidiary. Oculto will be the second beer with a Mexican profile in AB InBev’s U.S. portfolio.

In 2012 AB InBev also launched Bud Light Lime-a-Rita, a flavored malt beverage designed to taste like a margarita, and which has 8% alcohol content. It has since rolled out several flavour variations.

The tequila-flavored Oculto will have a label printed directly on a clear bottle similar to Corona. The name Oculto is etched into a white skull that recalls the style of Mexican “Day of the Dead” art. The logo turns fluorescent and the skull’s empty eyes glow green when the bottle is cold.

Oculto means “hidden” in Spanish, and each bottle will reportedly have a secret message. Details of the launch date and marketing campaign and will be announced next year.

Earlier this year, Heineken USA began selling a tequila-flavored beer in Florida and Georgia called Desperados, which Heineken Holding NV, makes and sells overseas.

The company, which also sells Mexican beers Dos Equis and Tecate, plans to release Desperados nationally in the US in 2015.

The tequila beers are aimed at beer drinkers who have been defecting to cocktails. U.S. sales of spirits have grown at an annual rate of 2.4% over the past five years while beer has fallen 1.2%, according to Euromonitor.

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