Anheuser-Busch Cos. has formed a separate spirits subsidiary. The move, announced yesterday (7 November) signals the company's recognition of a shift away from beer towards spirits by US consumers.

Long Tail Libations Inc., also based in AB's hometown of St. Louis will develop, test and market distilled spirits, including Jekyll & Hyde, two bottles of different distilled liquors that are intended to be mixed into a single drink, AB said. The new drink will be trialled in Columbia, Mo., Denver, Las Vegas, and Orlando, Fla.

Speaking to Associated Press, Pat McGauley, Anheuser-Busch vice president of innovations, said: "Big beer is still number one - 60% of total alcohol - but consumers are looking for more variety, more options, more choices."

Jekyll is a "60-proof, scarlet-red product with a wild berry flavour," and Hyde is "80-proof, black in colour" and "a little liquorice tasting," said Mic Zavarella, Long Tail director of innovations.

The product will be sold only in restaurants and bars in the test markets, and its price is comparable to other call brands, Zavarella told the press agency.

Looking ahead, Zavarella said: "We've got quite a few ideas in the hopper," although he declined to elaborate further.