Lucie Hennessy of Elk Grove gets downright poetic when describing a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita.
"When you pour it in a glass, there's a little bit of a head, and it settles down on the ice and gets frothy," Hennessy said. "It's refreshing, like limeade with a kick. And it pairs well with popcorn and M&Ms."
Try as she might, though, Hennessy can't quench her thirst for Lime-A-Ritas, a pre-made margarita-flavored beverage in cans and bottles introduced in April by Anheuser-Busch. The beverage has emerged as a surprise hit on beer shelves, and consumers are draining the supply.
"I've been to Raley's, and then BevMo," she recalled. "They said they had ordered them two weeks in a row, and they were waiting for them to make some more."
When she visited her sister in Reno, they searched the Save-Mart store, then went to a liquor store, but still didn't find the slender lime-green and silver cans or the opaque bottles.
Hennessy finally scored five precious 8-ounce cans from a friend who had stocked up on four cases of Lime-A-Ritas. It made Hennessy want some of her own even more.
"I can't find them," she said.
She's not the only one searching for the elusive Lime-A-Rita.
Consumers and retailers are reporting Lime-A-Rita fever hitting the Sacramento area, and according to Facebook users, there's similar scouring of shelves in other parts of the state and country.
As the newest addition in the growing line of Bud Light offerings, it may be partly responsible for buoying Bud Light sales, which rose this year following three years of decline.
Scott Ulmer, manager of the Elk Grove BevMo store, speculated that Budweiser was caught off guard by the instant, almost cultlike fan base of Lime-A-Ritas after their debut in April.
"My understanding is, they had absolutely no clue it was going to be so popular, and they can't keep up with production demand," he said. "It's a major mover."
Customers either come in to the store or call asking for the product at least twice a day, but Ulmer hasn't had it in stock for weeks.
"We only get it about 25 percent of the time recently," he said. "Whatever they give us, we sell out in one or two days."
According to supermarket sales data, Lime-A-Rita is the second-best-selling new beer of 2012, behind Bud Light Platinum.
A report in Beer Business Daily said the margarita-inspired brew was selling so well in the summer months that distributors nationwide were having trouble keeping it on the shelves, and cited one wholesaler describing it as "a sleeper of a winner out of nowhere."
Mike Esterl, a Wall Street Journal reporter following the beverage industry, said Anheuser-Busch acknowledged "out-of-stock issues amid healthy demand."
Esterl said the company suggests Lime-A-Ritas have captured about 0.5 percent of the market share in the beer/malted beverage category.
The beverage follows a shift by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer, toward flavored, sweeter and higher-alcohol products in glitzy packaging for premium prices. While Lime-A-Ritas don't contain tequila, they weigh in at 8 percent alcohol by volume, compared with between 3 percent and 4 percent for a typical beer.
Originally introduced as a summer seasonal beverage, Anheuser-Busch has now switched to year-round production of Lime-A-Rita. By May 13, nationwide sales had hit 122,000 cases. The product retails for about $10.99 for a 12-pack of 8-ounce cans.
Mike Sundet, vice president of Bud Light, said beer drinkers had been mixing Bud Light Lime into hand-blended margaritas to create "beer ritas," so the company decided to create its own take on the margarita, "with a twist of Bud Light Lime."
Sundet said the Lime-A-Rita is just more convenient. The product, which can be consumed from the can or bottle or poured over ice, meets a growing demand among drinkers seeking sweeter alternatives and shifting from lagers and spirits, he said.
Ulmer started stocking Lime-A-Ritas on May 9, and the first eight cases "sold pretty quickly," so he ordered more. In July, Ulmer sold 146 cases.
"We probably would have sold 500 units, if they had it, which is just ridiculous," he said. The last time they got the product, they moved 60 cases in a weekend.
Carrie Boyle, manager of Total Wine & More on Arden Way in Sacramento, said she can't keep Lime-A-Ritas in stock, either.
"We tried to order it last week, but it didn't come. There's huge demand for it. We just sell it, then get more and sell more. It's crazy. There's not enough to go around."
Wholesale distributors did not return calls about supplies, and Anheuser-Busch marketing officials wouldn't say if other areas of the state or country are feeling the dearth of Lime-A-Ritas or whether they plan to ramp up production.
But online reviews and Facebook posts reflect frustration at locating the product nationwide.
"Oklahoma is whack. I had to drive to Texas to get some," a Facebook user named Andrew Smith posted on Lime-A-Rita's Facebook page Sept. 17.
Janis Rawson Menicucci answered with this post: "I have a hard time finding it in my NoCal area. Mostly I get told, 'We have ordered it, warehouses are out.' "