Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm Surprised

I found a bottle of Budweiser American Ale at a Racetrack gas station in Marietta today on the way home from the in-laws' place, and I picked it up to go with my Snapple white tea and Kim's bottle of water. Anheuser-Busch was pushing this beer pretty heavily during the Olympics, but I was skeptical. Let's face it. The makers of Bud Light don't really take brewing as a craft. Instead it's entirely a business for them. They focus on making beer as blandly and cheaply as possible and then spend the rest of their money on advertising and promotions. That's not to say that they're bad brewers. They're actually very good brewers who have mastered consistency. They don't make mistakes, they just don't make very tasty beer.

I honestly kind of assumed that they'd take the same approach to their foray into more serious beer styles. I think it's a safe assumption. They have, in fact, produced a few decent beers in interesting styles under their Michelob label like the Michelob Bavarian Hefeweizen and a couple of beers with no reference to their St. Louis origins like Shock Top Belgian White, Bare Knuckle Stout, and Green Valley Brewing Wild Hop Lager, but never anything under the Budweiser label.

Now, I'm not saying that any of these beers are great examples of their styles. There are much better examples of Belgian whites, hefeweizens, dry stouts, and all-malt lagers out there, but my point is that they do make decent beer when they want to.

What makes this beer special is that Budweiser is emblazoned across the label for all to see and it turns out to be a pretty decent little beer. Honestly, if you poured me this beer and didn't tell me the brewer, I wouldn't have had a clue that Anheuser-Busch had anything to do with it. There's a surprising amount of malt in the aroma and flavor with toasted nuts and caramel notes from the darker malts, although their advertising their use of Cascade hops is pretty silly. I'm not noticing much of the grapefruit aroma Cascades bring to the table at all, but I'm not holding this against them. They're marketing this as an amber ale, a style that usually isn't very hoppy to start with.

So, am I advocating people to go out and buy this beer? Not really. If you live in a place like I do where Sam Adams is too exotic for the local stores to stock, you may be able to find this beer in stores, and it's a worthy alternative to the macro lager crap that fills the rest of the shelves. You may also find yourself looking for good beer after the good stores close and this may very well be your best option at the gas station beer cooler. But, if you have the option of purchasing something from a smaller, more local brewery, go that way instead. Anheuser-Busch (or is it InBev yet?) isn't hurting. In fact, the downturn in the economy may help them as the less passionate drinkers start turning toward their cheaper products. Your local craft brewer, on the other hand, is cutting things a little more closely in their business, and they typically make better beer and care more about their products that the big boys do.

American Ale still isn't a bad beer, though.


Chris said...

Good to know beer snobs will have a less expensive alternative, without downgrading all the way to Bud Light.

Re InBev: Surely those guys didn't buy a hugely famous brand only to change the name. I'll be amazed if Americans ever see or hear that name again, other than on the sign at corporate headquarters. I would think the Anheuser-Busch brand will remain in use otherwise.

Julie said...

Way to give the man a shot. I'm glad you were somewhat rewarded for your efforts.

Jacob said...

I know you won't see the name Budweiser going anywhere. As for Anheuser-Busch, I'm not sure. It's already a fairly small part of their marketing, but I've got a feeling they'll keep it to keep up the appearances of being American despite, in fact, being Belgian.

There will now be the sudden urge in St. Louis to put mayonnaise on french fries.