AB-InBev Announces Dogfish Head Collaboration

AB-InBev announced today that its St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch division would brew a collaborative beer with Delaware-based Dogfish Head Brewing. Based on Dogfish Head’s 60, 90 and 120 Minute IPAs, the new beer is to be called Bud Light 30-Second IPA.

“After years of brewing ‘off-centered beers for off-centered people'”, said AB-InBev spokesperson Anton Spargewater, “Bud Light is happy to help Dogfish Head brew its first ever all-centered and middle-of-the-road beer made especially for people who follow the herd.”

Spargewater says that AB-InBev developed a new brewing technology to make the beer. “Our normal brewing process involves showing a bag of hops to someone who will turn a valve to fill the brew kettle,” he says. “We found that for a beer this complex we needed to actually let the hops touch the wort. Luckily, we were cleaning out a storage room and came across a commemorative Budweiser tea infuser from the old Busch Gardens gift shop. It works great as long as we don’t fill it too full.”

Asked how the collaboration came about, Spargewater said it was another innovation by the multinational conglomerate. “Every time we call a small brewery about doing this, they either hang up on us or start talking about our Super Bowl commercial. After a while we just gave up,” he said. “We spill more beer in a day than most of these guys make in a year, so we just hired a few more gross of lawyers to handle the lawsuits and decided to do the collaboration without the knowledge or participation of the other brewery. It’s really a win-win for us.”

Asked to describe the flavor profile of the beer, Spargewater declined comment. “I never touch the stuff,” he said.

Reached for comment, Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione said, “What? Who is this? Are you drunk? Did [Stone Brewing’s] Greg [Koch] put you up to this”

On Tap at the 35th Annual Taste of Cincinnati This Weekend

This weekend is the 35th annual Taste of Cincinnati hosted by the Downtown Council and the Greater Cincinnati Restaurant Association. I made some calls to find out what would be on tap for those headed downtown for this year’s flavorful festival. It looks like the price is pretty much $5 for a small and $7 for a large across the board. Here is a run down of the beers we know will be there:

  • Alltech Lexington Brewing, Booth 412 – KY Bourbon Ale, KY Bourbon Barrel Stout, KY Ale, KY Kolsh (Lite), and KY IPA
  • Bell’s Brewing, Booth 526 – Two Hearted, Oberon, Lager and Midwest Pale
  • Christian Moerlein, Booths 206, 230, 318, 400, 508, 614, 802 & 1002 – OTR Ale, Original Golden Helles, Exposition Vienna Lager, Elixir, Seven Hefeweizen, North Liberties India Pale Ale, Specialty Pints & Firkins
  • Christian Moerlein Tapping & Tasting Area, Booth 232 – OTR Ale, Original Golden Helles, Exposition Vienna Lager, Elixir, Seven Hefeweizen, North Liberties India Pale Ale, Specialty Pints & Firkin
  • Great Lakes Brewing, Booth 222 – Wright Pils, Dortmunder Gold, Burning River and Com Perry IPA
  • Hudepohl, Booth 602 & 716 – Amber Lager, Summer Pilsner, Classic Porter & Delight
  • Leinenkugel, Booth 200 – Summer Shandy, Red Lager and Berry Weiss
  • Rivertown Brewing, Booth 820 – Helles, Hop Bomber Pale Ale, Blueberry Lager, Jenneke
  • Samuel Adams, Booth 114 – Sam Adams Lager, Summer Ale

The website www.tasteofcincinnati.com lists the following breweries as being in attendance but we weren’t able to determine which of the beers would be on tap.

  • Yuengling, Booth 524 & 534 – $4 Small and $6 Large
  • Miller Lite, Booth 810 – $5 Bottle
  • Heineken, Booth 730
  • Budweiser, Booth 430 – $5 Bottles

The Taste of Cincinnati hours are 12 (noon) to 12 (midnight) on Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26 and 12 (noon) to 9 pm on Monday May 27th.

Hope to see you all there supporting our local craft breweries.


Chris (#212)

Required Reading Assignment: A Good Look at AB InBev

It’s been a while, I reckon, since we’ve offered a Required Reading Assignment around these here parts.  But then, I guess that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since we have a hard enough time just keeping up with the local beer news these.  I mean, have you really looked at the Growlers and Tasting report, lately?  The term paper I had to write as the culmination of research spanning most of my junior year in high school wasn’t as long as the weekly G & T.

Anyway, since today is November 1, I imagine most of us are probably waking up with at least a small dollop of remorse about that final (dare I say, over-the-top) pumpkin ale last night when the trick-or-treating dust settled, the kids were (finally) put to bed, and it was just you, a gross of leftover fun-sized Twix bars, and the remains of that six-pack in the dark. 

In other words, there’s a potential for a slow start this morning, which means it’s probably a good day to do some reading.

Luckily, I have just the thing for you!  My brother in the tweeting of beer-related things, @BradOnBeer tweeted a link to this Business Week article the other day about the merging of Anheuser-Busch and InBev: The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer.  Honestly, I think the title of the piece is a bit melodramatic, but it’s pretty good nonetheless.  You should read it.  As usual, you can just go do that now (in a new tab, obviously) while I wait here.

All done?  Great!

Admittedly, I suppose that to a large degree, this story is largely preaching to choir, especially for a blog that includes the subtitle, "Believers in Better Beer."  But, still, there’s a point to be made here.  For me, personally, as an advocate of craft beer, the hardest thing I find myself having to deal with is that idea that I’m one of those nefarious "beer snobs."  The term itself, at least in my mind, conjures an image of a haughty fellow with a long, possibly pointed, nose – decorated ridiculously by a pencil-thin mustache, a monocle, and a sneer – who makes revolted faces and regularly waves away IPAs because everyone knows South American hops pass their floral-scented prime on Oct. 15th.

I don’t want to be that guy.  No one wants to be that guy.  At least no one I know.  But when I occasionally crinkle up my nose at the thought of drinking a Bud Light, I’m nevertheless accused a being that guy, and should just shut up and let people like what they like.

By all means, I do think people should like what they like.  But by that same token, I also think they should know what they’re getting in regards to what the like.  And paragraphs like the one below illustrate exactly the point that many of the conglomerate brands are pretty much the modern equivalent of snake oil (in that they don’t care what’s in it, so long as they can convince you to buy it with a flashy sales pitch):

A former top AB InBev executive, who declined to be identified because he didn’t want to get in trouble with his old employer, tells a different story. He says the company saved about $55 million a year substituting cheaper hops in Budweiser and other U.S. beers for more expensive ones like Hallertauer Mittelfrüh. It is hard to say whether the average Bud drinker has noticed.

In other words, the executive team at AB InBev doesn’t seem to care much about the beer it makes, so long as you still buy it.  And, in fact, if they can make it cheaper somehow and still get you to buy it, well, that’d be just downright awesome, and they’ll happily giggle and skip all the way to the Ferrari dealership.  Oh, and when they’ve squeezed every drop of precious, precious profit imaginable out of a brand, they’ll just move on to the next brand (Pepsi, anyone?) like a swarm of cost-cutting locusts, until they’ve gotten all the cars, watches, and houses they can buy.

I realize, of course, that this seems to run counter to the post I wrote earlier this year in defense of Blue Moon, an SABMiller product.  But, really, it’s not; it’s the same argument applied to a different topic in somewhat different light.  Because, see, all indications are that Blue Moon actually cares about their brewing.  They see it for both the biological science and the art that is.  At AB InBev, however, many of the brands they’ve acquired appear to be tinkered with by financial and economic scientists, often without regard to how it might effect the end product.

And that’s where the line rests for me. 

That said, by all means, I do now (and always will) encourage anyone to like what they like.  Taste, obviously, is subjective.  But if I can manage, from time to time, to help someone realize that there are brewers out there making other beers that they’d like just as much but who care much, much more about what they’re putting into it rather than just what they’re getting out of you, well, that makes me smile.

Because, at the heart of it, at least when it comes to beer, I don’t think anyone should be little more than a source of revenue.

There’re plenty of other ways to be taken advantage of in life, why not at least patronize a brewery that cares about giving its absolute best to its customers, not its share holders.


Traveling Tuesday: Grant’s Farm – St. Louis

One of the most striking aspects of a visit to St. Louis is the overarching prevalence of Anheuser-Busch/Budweiser.  As much as we like to poke fun at the macro-brewers, it’s easy to forget that they are very important parts of their communities.  They sponsor community events, do charitable work, and provide a ton of jobs.  Just as with P&G in Cincinnati, even if you don’t like aspects of the company, you can’t deny that they do a lot of positive things in the community and have a significant economic impact on the region.

One of the more interesting contributions that AB makes in St. Louis is owning and operating Grant’s Farm.  The historic farm was once owned by Ulysses S. Grant, and it is right next to a National Historic Site.  The farm complex is free to the public and is filled with activities for families.  It’s clearly a great service to the community, even if it kind of feels a little like company propaganda.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that…it’s just…well, kind of strange.

Anheuser-Busch/Budweiser branding permeates the farm.

Visitors start with a tram ride through the farm to see all the animals, including these impressive buffalos.

Feed the baby goats in the petting zoo area!

Notice that one of the elephant’s “toys” is a half-barrel keg.  A few minutes later, the elephant gored the keg.  True story.

The farm has a beautiful beer garden.  There is food for sale, and the beer is FREE.  A little extra incentive to take your kids for a day out, right?

Believe it or not, this was the first time we had ever petted a camel while drinking a beer.

Of course, no trip would be complete without visiting the up-and-coming Clydesdales.

 *Thanks to our friends and hosts, Jack and Alicia, for taking us on this delightful field trip!

 -John (#13) and Erin (#102)

Short Hops: June 30, 2010

Samuel Adams rewards bars and restaurants with “Perfect Pour” certification

Wall Street Journal: No Glass Ceiling for the Best Job in Whole World
Turns Out Women Can Often Beat Men as Beer Tasters

American Homebrewers Association: 2010 Zymurgy Best Beers In America Poll
Number One is Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. Number Two is definitely a favorite around here.

Mutineer: Budweiser Becomes Victim of “Ambush Marketing” During World Cup

American Association for Cancer Research: Hops compound may prevent prostate cancer

Yeah, We Tried It: Bud Light Golden Wheat (with Bonus Editorial!)

I’ve often said that my main qualm with the macro brewers (Bud, Miller, Coors) is not that they make bad beer.  In fact, they make a very consistent, high-quality product on a gigantic scale.  That’s really hard to do with a product like beer.

No, my issue is two-fold: 1) They’ve defined beer as one singular style, and 2) Their interpretation of that style – while extremely clean and refreshing – is not very interesting.  So then Budweiser comes out with a new Bud Light…and it’s a wheat beer.  That’s a step at remedying my first issue with them.  Let’s see how it does on the second one.

First, the formal review.  I’ll keep it short and sweet.  I’ve done my best to try to judge it by its style…Light Wheat Beer?…like I said, I’ve done my best.  Down the hatch!

Appearance: 2/3
It has a nice light amber color, darker than I would have expected from a beer with the words “Bud” and “Light” in the name.  Pours very effervescent, but retains a surprisingly decent head.

Aroma: 1.5/3
Definite orange on the nose.  The aroma is weak, but there.  It’s actually quite pleasing.

Taste: 2/4
There is still orange there, but it is not very prominent – it’s definitely a light beer.  The profile screams of Blue Moon, no doubt who Bud is targeting with this.  The wheat and orange is so slight, though, that it feels like more of an “apology” than an actual flavor note.  It ends up coming off flat and a bit acrid because it doesn’t really commit to the orange and follow through.

Very clean, very refreshing.  But not terribly interesting.

Surprisingly full for the style and appropriately carbonated.

Overall Impression: 3/4
I was pleasantly surprised, but I can’t say that my expectations were very high going in.  One sip, and it is obvious that this beer is engineered to capitalize on Blue Moon’s success, at least from the standpoint of the flavor profile.  But it also dances between that and the Bud Light parent brand.  And in the end, it underdelivers on the promised flavor of orange peel and coriander.

Final Grade: C (13/20)  It’s a Light Wheat Beer…if that’s not a style you’re looking for, then this is not the beer for you.  As a footnote, bear in the mind that this beer will more often than not probably be consumed directly from a bottle, so a lot of the tasting notes above kind of go out the window at that point.

So why review Bud Light Wheat, other than for the sheer entertainment?  Love or hate the macro brewers, they own the market and therefore shape it.  For decades they have stuck to American Light Lager as the singular style for their mainstream brands.  But craft brewing continues to grow, and even the macro brewers have tried to get in on the game with their more premium brands (Blue Moon, Michelob).

But Bud is taking their most mainstream brand and adding to its lineup a new style of beer?  That strikes me as huge.  And as much I and other beer lovers/connoisseurs/snobs might roll our eyes, I propose that this is a good thing.  That’s right, I said it.  This is great.

Why?  Because maybe this will be one more thing that helps get more folks interested in better beer, even if it’s only slightly better than what they are drinking now.  The truth is, most Americans only drink American Light Lager because that’s the only option that they’ve been given in the mass market.  Once their options are opened – perhaps by a mainstream, trusted product like Bud Light – they might be more likely venture out and try new things like…wait for it…ALES.

It’s the Starbucks effect.  Studies have been done that show that when a Starbucks moves in across the street from an independently owned coffee shop, that shop almost always sees their business go UP.  Why?  Because overall awareness of coffee in that area has been elevated by a known, trusted brand.  I have no love for these types of techniques employed by Starbucks (or the macro brewers and their distribution practices), but the data supports this effect indisputably.

Do I think that Bud Light Wheat will change the beer world?  No, but I think it’s a recognition of the success of the craft brewing movement and a sign that it isn’t going away.  And maybe it will help turn a few more folks on to a world of better beer.

A few months ago, I was at the Dilly Cafe with some friends of my fiancee.  I was raving about their beer selection, but it was clear that none of them were big beer drinkers, let alone knowledgeable of things like Belgian sour ales.  “Well, what are some beers that you like?  Do you like Blue Moon?” I asked.  Oh, yeah, they liked Blue Moon a lot when they’ve had it.  Before long, they were nose deep in a strange goblet of the challenging, yet very accessible, Tripel Karmeliet.  And dammit, they liked it.  I’ll have ’em drinking Dogfishhead 120 Minute in no time.

Am I completely off-base?  What do you think?

Budweiser’s Select 55: Kinda sorta almost like beer.

I will let it be known at the outset of this review that I am not a fan of low calorie beer and never have been. In fact, had certain events not unfolded this past Sunday, I would have continued to happily skip along through life and perhaps never have even tried Select 55.

I attended the Swiss Wine Festival in Vevay, Indiana and was pleasantly surprised to find a “Beer Garden” on the map of the festival. My mind wandered and I was soon craving some sort of new beer that perhaps was only brewed in this small river area of Indiana. It was not to be. I was disappointed to find myself staring down a small collection of mega brewed fizzy yellow beer. Still craving a beer and undeterred I decided to try the only new thing I saw: SELECT 55

If Perrier and Bud Light had a baby, you would have SELECT 55. This new Super Ultra Light American Style Lager has not only taken calories to a new low aroma, appearance, and taste have also suffered the same fate.  What you end up with is barely yellow, highly carbonated, lightly malty, white bread scented beer with a finish that elicits memories of those times when the soda fountain runs out of syrup.  “Excuse me, sir. . . I think your beer tap is out of syrup. All I’m getting is carbonated beer flavored water”.

It was unremarkable in a very well rounded kind of way. The normal rating system I use to review beer would fail this beer before I even made it to the overall impression category, however I’m not going to fail it.  I’m going to give it a D- and recognize that there is a niche of people who want a beer but don’t want calories, taste, or perhaps just want to drink a nice ultra light fizzy beer after they finish a 5K.

Overall: D-

-Jared Whalen

Yeah, we tried it: Budweiser American Ale

So this is the third review I’ve written for the site.  Both of the previous beers have gotten “A” grades from me, and I stand by them.  I do worry, though, that new readers (hey, it’s not like we have any longtime readers) might take me for a pushover. Besides, if you think I got it wrong, that’s what the comment section is for.  Plus, if you’re an official Hoperative (which means you’ve sent us an e-mail asking us to be one), you can write your own review and send it to us.  We’ll put it up.  You didn’t know that because I just made it up, but Carla agrees so we’re good.

Today I’m reviewing Budweiser American Ale in a review category we’re calling “Yeah, We Tried It.”  That should be a tip-off that the fine folks (and I mean that sincerely) in St. Louis (or Leuven, Belgium, for that matter) probably shouldn’t be expecting an ‘A.’  And I’m sure they’re in the process of alerting the media right now as a result.

It’s obvious to anyone who has two brain cells to rub together that this was Anheuser-Busch’s (now A-B InBev) attempt to blunt the craft beer movement.  Logically this has a couple of problems.  First, I don’t think anyone who’s really into craft beer has been waiting around hoping against hope that they could buy once again buy something with Budweiser on the label.  Secondly, while it may not be to my personal preference, a lot of people really seem to like plain old Budweiser.  They sell enough of it, after all, and have for a very long time. That counts for something.  If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, and all that.

What I really don’t get, though, is why they went with an ale instead of a lager.  Lagers are their heritage.  It’s in their DNA, for crying out loud.  I know the motto of the flagship brand is “America’s Great Lager” which doesn’t leave a lot of room for another one (“America’s Other Great Lager” probably wouldn’t cut it), but c’mon, just do an Amber Lager and call it ‘Budweiser Amber’ and stick it in the fancy bottle.  Better yet,  do a Pilsner and be done with it. Heck, as light and carbonated as regular Budweiser is, I’d really be kind of jazzed to see how they’d do a Pilsner.  A Budweiser beer using their traditional brewing style with an actual malt and hops flavor, that’s something I could get behind.

Alas, they decided to do an ale instead.  So with no further ado, I’ll talk about the beer they did make instead of the one they should have made:

It’s a gorgeous amber color with a lot of carbonation.  The head doesn’t hang around.  It smells like caramel malt.  It tastes like caramel malt.  There are no other discernible flavors.  Apparently no hops were harmed in the making of this beer.  OK, intellectually I know the hops have to be there, but to me the malt overwhelms them.  The malt flavor dissipates quickly at the end, and I’m assuming that’s the effect of the hops.  It’s a one-note beer.  It’s certainly not unpleasant.  If you like really malty beers, you might like this more than I do.

If offered this beer and a regular Bud, I’d check to see if they had caffeine-free diet Coke before making up my mind.  If the Coke wasn’t an option, I’d might pick the regular Bud. It knows what it’s trying to be.

Snarkiness aside, I really was hoping for better.

Budweiser American Ale:  C+

So What is ‘Better Beer’ Anyway?

Every once in a while I like to take an idea and beat the hell out of it think about it for a while.  It’s either the fact that I have a bit of a philosophical bent, or that I’m just bent.

Take your pick.

Anyway, I have to be honest and say that the motto of this blog makes me a little nervous. It seems like an invitation to mindless snobbery.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t have anything against snobbery.  I just don’t like it when it’s mindless.

Continue reading “So What is ‘Better Beer’ Anyway?”