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The venerated 10-ounce cans of Budweiser and Bud Light have been altered, 56 years after they were first introduced to St. Mary’s County.

Ten-ounce cans are immensely popular in St. Mary’s, so much so, that Anheuser-Busch’s competitors also sell their brands in the smaller can in this market.

But just a short trip away to Calvert and Charles counties, 10-ounce lovers will only find the standard, fatter 12-ounce cans.

The changes, which make the 10-ounce can a bit taller and a bit slimmer, came about a month ago and Guy Distributing Co., the Anheuser-Busch distributor for St. Mary’s, had no idea the change was coming.

“We didn’t even get a message,” said George Guy, chief executive officer. “We had no control over it. They sprung this on us. We were not ready for it.”

There was a lag between when the old inventory ran out before the new versions arrived.

The new 10-ounce can is .41 of an inch taller and .012 of an inch narrower in diameter.

“The koozies don’t fit now,” said Mark Guy, vice president of the distributing company. New custom-fitted koozies to keep the cans cold have been ordered and are on the way.

“Blame it on the Lime-a-Rita,” said Glenn Guy, president.

Anheuser-Busch/InBev introduced Bud Light Lime-a-Rita earlier this year, a margarita-flavored malt beverage. Sales exploded over the summer, Mark Guy said.

“The demand for Lime-a-Rita was incredible. It just drove packaging crazy,” he said.

All of the beer that goes into 10-ounce Budweisers and Bud Lights are exclusively made at the Houston brewery, said George Guy. Anheuser-Busch has 12 breweries in the United States.

The brewery used to make the old 10-ounce can specifically on the automated line according to demand. When the demand slackened, the line would sit idle. “They want to be able to use that line for other cans,” George Guy said.

The new 10-ounce can was brought in line to meet the same diameter as the 8-ounce Lime-a-Rita and 10-ounce Michelob Ultra, so the canning lines run continuously, pouring different brews into the same-sized diameter cans.

“At the [St. Mary’s County] fair, there were some negative comments,” Mark Guy said, about the new can. “The beer is no different.”

“I didn’t notice the change and I was holding it my hand,” said John Wiggins, a dedicated 10-ounce drinker who recently visited Guy Distributing.

J. Scott Ridgell, owner of Buzzy’s Country Store in Scotland, said of his regular 10-ounce club of drinkers, “they’ve noticed and they’re not too thrilled about it, but they’re still drinking it.” But they don’t fit into the beer koozies anymore, he noted.

“We’re lucky they’re still giving us the 10-ounce can,” George Guy said. If it went away, “I would go on extended vacation,” he said.

“I hope they don’t mess with the taste,” Ridgell said. “Why mess with it if it’s working?”

St. Mary’s County is not the only niche market for the 10-ounce. It is popular across the Chesapeake Bay in Easton, as well as in Puerto Rico, New Orleans and at a few locations in Philadelphia, the Guys said.

The 10-ounce Bud Light outsells the 10-ounce Budweiser in St. Mary’s, just as Bud Light outsells Budweiser and all other beers in America. From May through July this year, 76 million cases of Bud Light were sold, more than the 24 million cases of Miller Lite and the 29 million cases of Coors Light combined, Mark Guy said.

“We were where the 10-ounce started,” George Guy said.

The 10-ounce Budweiser was introduced to St. Mary’s at the county fair on Sept. 21, 1956. Baltimore-brewed beers were popular in St. Mary’s at the time, brands like Gunther and Arrow.

Guy Distributing, which George Guy took over from the family in 1948, began distributing Budweiser. It was more expensive and didn’t sell as well locally.

After consulting with August Busch Jr., then president of Anheuser-Busch breweries, Budweiser was put on sale in St. Mary’s in a 10-ounce can. It was the same price as a 12-ounce can of the Baltimore beers, but considered more of a premium lager.

The Budweiser Clydesdales came to the county fair that year in 1956 and the 10-ounce became entrenched in the heritage of St. Mary’s County.

George Guy noted that 10-ounce Budweisers and Bud Lights don’t sell as much in Lexington Park as in other parts of St. Mary’s County. He said many of those who come to work at Patuxent River Naval Air Station from elsewhere around the country probably aren’t aware of the 10-ounce tradition.

jbabcock@somdnews.com