Well if you haven’t heard, those enterprising folks at AB InBev have decided to seize a marketing opportunity from this year’s tumultuous election year by renaming Budweiser as America, starting on Memorial Day weekend, all the way through to November, with the cleverly snarky motto: America is in your hands.
The Brazilian Belgian Beverage Behemoth has been trotting out faux nationalism for quite some time, attempting to provoke consumer tribalism by claiming that Bud is “brewed the hard way” and they “won’t back down” by attacking other breweries as elite snobs, while at the same time acquiring successful upstarts (Goose Island, Breckenridge, etc.), but maintaining their St. Louis, Missouri American veneer.
What is truly ridiculous about all this, is that most devoted drinkers of Budweiser are not even aware that Budweiser is not even an American company. I discovered this several years ago when I was verbally accosted for buying some Samuel Adams, and was told by the Bud devotee that he only buys American beer.
Many of these hard core Bud drinkers seemed to have missed the memo about how August Bush IV revealed that the last heir of the Anheuser- Busch dynasty was indeed a party hardy screw up that wound up selling the entire company to Carlos Brito’s InBev.
The sale of Anheuser-Busch to InBev for $52 billion was a stock market bonanza that common folks like Warren Buffet could lend his pick axe too. The immediate result of the merger was that 1400 people lost their jobs at A-B. We all know the cost-cutting drill about being leaner and meaner, in the case of the great American lager, this meant that broken rice grains could be used, and expensive Hallertauer Mittelfruh hops were no longer necessary.
Which is par for the course for an outfit like AB InBev who took pride in saving $55 million by this hop substitution. Perhaps this is the ultimate meaning of their Proudly A Macro Beer motto.
In their never-ending quest for more market share, AB InBev has revealed that even politics is fair game for their ubiquitous cereal beer branding. I can hear those sirens calling: Make America’s Bud Great Again, from a global corporation whose only gospel is the bottom line. So much for patriotism. That is just another marketing ploy that Samuel Johnson had something to say about, centuries ago. This rebranding is authetically delusional.
The term pilsener or pilsner or simply pils are terms used to cover a wide range of beers that utilize the Sacchraromyces Pastorianus yeast to create bottom fermenting beer (widely known as lager) that, it is often repeated, changed the world of brewing forever.
This harkens back to 1842 when the Czech town known as Plzen created the first golden coloured beer that is still made there today, Pilsner UrquellStill regarded as a classic example of bohemian pilsner with its use of Saaz hops combined with caramel malt sweetness, using open-flame triple decoction. This became (and still is) a benchmark for a style of beer so popular that even Germany had to find an equivalent, which they did in 1895, when Spaten, created Munich Helles
This was all apart of the obsession with golden coloured beer that to this very day, has taken the world by storm. Pilsner started the pale lager ball rolling that has lead to it being the best selling style of beer in the world. Although many of these new golden beers used corn and rice and sometimes wheat, there is little doubt that the term cold beer took on a new and profound meaning.
So it was with great pleasure to se that this year’s birthday beer from the Spoetzl Brewery is in fact a pilsnerShiner Birthday 107 is a very satisfying tribute to this revolutionary style, providing a malty showcase for botanically aromatic hops. This is significantly focused because of Spoetzl’s German and Czech roots, thus Saaz hops are combined with Hallertau.
One of the very best examples of Bohemian Pilsner in the United States is Samuel Adams Noble Pils which uses Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, Saaz, and Hersbrucker hops combined with 2-row pale malt and Czech pilsner malt. This produces a pilsner with delicious complexity.
On the other hand you have Goose Island Four Star Pils An Anheuser-Busch ImBev production that is a rather mediocre take, seeking I think, to appeal to the hoppy palates of younger drinkers. This golden pour puts emphasis on the hops grown at Elk Mountain Farm in Idaho. Which produces a beer that seems more like an India pale lager than a pilsner.
Having respect for the bohemian tradition has its benefits. Such is the case with Great Lakes Turntable Pils An excellent seasonal tribute from Ohio where nothing is out of balance.
A very good, relatively inexpensive import is Wolters Pilsener which adheres to the German purity law, somewhat simple but lively, and quite drinkable.
From pilsener to pale lager lead to the creation of diet beer. Namely, Miller LiteA calorie conscious cereal creation that once, many decades ago, actually put a dent in Budweiser’s market share. A disco-era creation that has recently been marketed with retro packaging. No matter. Its the same innocuous suds it has always been. In fact, the whole light beer category is for the beer doctor, liquid boredom. The only one that catches my flavorful attention is Yuengling Light.
I have a very ancient refrigerator in my house. This Norge is over sixty years old. All the plastic fixtures have broken off, so the metal shelves have disappeared, except for those found on the door. But the thing about this ancient decaying monument to American appliances is that it still works. And it is cold. So much so that storing stuff in the back can make things icy. Thus, the cold storage locker has been given a name, it is affectionately known as The Lagerator.
People who come over for a sampling session are surprised that I place bottles or cans outside the lagerator for minutes before opening. And even now, in 2016, you would be surprised how many people still drink ice cold beer, no matter what. So it was indeed a pleasure to obtain the Samuel Adams Adventures In Lager and store it in the lagerator.
This is an impressive collection. First off, there is Samuel Adams Double Black. An amped up version of their Schwartz bier style black lager. This is black bier and then some. A very lovely dark pour that has plenty of the delicious malt complexity associated with this cool cave style. Simply outstanding.
For those folks fascinated by hops, there is Ella Blanc India Pale Lager. Which is a very good example of the creative possibilities produced by the brewers of the Boston Beer Company. Here is a hop showcase for their lager yeast, using Australian Ella hops along with Hallertau Blanc hops from Germany, creating many flavor notes that are surprisingly complex. The body and texture is quite good, utilizing pale malts and flaked oats to tasty advantage.
Keeping it real, as it is said in modern vernacular, there is Double Pilsner. This is SA’s imperial version of Samuel Adams Noble Pilsner (also included). A full bodied, tawny coloured pour, which is a loving tribute to the ancient Hallertau Mittelfrueh hop. There is nothing small about this 8.6 ABV lager. Except a small reminder to proceed with delicious caution, because the alcohol is nearly invisible.
It is with great joy to see the return of Samuel Adams Double Bock. A legendary recipe in the Sam Adams portfolio. This beer is the meaning of the term liquid bread. Take me bock. Take me all the way bock. Take me way way way bock! Need I say more? I will always love this beer.
America has a tradition of running things into the ground. Anybody remember Jim Fixx? The joy of running guru headed the jogging craze until he fell over dead one day working out. Then enthusiasts started to consider walking instead.
Strangely this perception came to mind when I perused the latest batch of hop bombs, hatching out of the sprawling American brewing industry. As a beer writer, some would rightfully say ancient beer writer, I find it difficult to write about these beers. Flavourful? Yes. Often in a sledge hammer sort of way. But imaginative? Not really, in fact after I became acquainted with the citrus- bitter profile (there are so many of them) it becomes downright boring, with the buzz of high alcohol in the case of Imperial and Double IPA, off-setting any other considerations.
This is where a kind of Gresham’s Law of brewing has taken place. Just follow the money. How else can you explain all the IPA varieties being produced by Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams? Sampling their Rebel Rouser I realized the hop-forward juggernaut is unstoppable. Even the venerable Matt Brewing Company has succumbed to this criteria. Why? Because that is where the money is. Ask Yuengling or Leinenkugel’s about their India Pale Lagers.
So it is pointless to seek out and provide coverage for those expensive grapefruit-citrus-bitter concoctions rolling out of America’s breweries nearly everyday. Thankfully there are still malt forward beers being produced, but they have become more difficult to find. Take Bell’s Consecrator Dopplebock Easily one of the best American dopplebocks available. An expertly used old world yeast lets this malty spring tribute speak for itself.
Here in Cincinnati, the pride of its Germanic roots shines in Christian Moerlein Emancipator Dopplebock
An easy drinking celebration to the end of Prohibition, this modestly strong (6.9%) beer is a beautiful reminder that the spring bock tradition is still alive and well. Bock your house tonight.
But things like bock, dopplebock, brown ale, black bier, milk stout, are no longer in vogue. Bitter citrus tropical have become the vocabulary of the craft beer wunderkinds. Am I crying in my beer? Yes I am. So many recipes are coarse and shallow. Sadly, so many will purchase this outlook (session IPA anyone?) and will never know what truly great beer actually tastes like. So much for all this hoppy mediocrity.
Winter Solstice 2015 is here. I consider this my favorite winter holiday because this is the holiday that existed before religions and corporations monetized all merry making. Speaking of money, I read today that the Breckenridge Brewery is being bought by A-B InBev, so there famous Scotch ale style Christmas Ale will soon be a part of their vast portfolio, as if the acquisition of SAB Miller and all their other brewery purchases is not enough. But of course it is not. Capitalism has its own twisted logic, which was aptly explained by the late, famous show trial lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, who said: “We live by the golden rule. Those with the gold rule.”
But the creation of new beer continues, despite these business concerns. What better day than this, to review Anderson Valley Brewing Company Winter Solstice
It is a pleasure to see the return of this venerable Holiday ale, now given given additional freshness by being packaged in a can. This subtle wassail, with its vanilla note, is a beautiful reminder that recipes that are truly outstanding are enjoyed as an annual celebration, over several decades. Like its twin seasonal counterpart Summer Solstice, this is unmistakable Boonville beer.
Redhook Brewery who now have some production work performed in Memphis, Tennessee, have released their 31st edition of Winterhook
a winter ale with a recipe that changes year to year. This year’s #31 uses rye malt in the kettle, giving this a spicy departure from the more chocolatey versions of years past. The ale is festively good with plenty of malt and hops support.
Another winter edition that has hop heads in mind is New Belgium Accumulation White India Pale Ale where Mosaic and Amarillo hops perform their citrus magic. Although this is not exactly my choice for winter beer, this a very well made beer, designed for hop-forward drinkers seeking out aromatic bitterness.
For those who really want to go a-wassailing there is 12 Dogs Of Christmas Ale, from Thirsty Dog Brewing Company of Akron, Ohio
like Great Lakes and Anchor’s, this wassail is very well made. Very drinkable, with a (strange as it seems) very approachable complexity. An 8.3 % production that easily will enhance the merry making.
Locally, Rhinegeist has produced a collaborative golden stout with the Three Weavers Brewery of California and this PENGUIN is a very fine example of artisan creativity. My only complaints are I wish it was less expensive, and it would come in a six pack of 12 ounce bottles
Holiday/Winter beer has always been one of my favorite obsessions. Part marketing, part alchemy, the truly outstanding recipes have become a holiday tradition in their own right. An annual welcome return.It is always a supreme pleasure to experience, once again, a masterpiece of American brewing. Great Divide Hibernation Ale is such an example. A dry hopped version of English-style Old Ale, this is a beer of uncompromising quality. A very dark amber pour. This winter non-wassail speaks for itself. Enough said.
I have always liked the schwarzbier style and Brooklyn Insulated Dark Lager certainly answers the call. Rich in malt flavors it maintains the viscosity associated with this very drinkable style, whether it is Kostritzer, Saranac Black Forest, or Shiner No. 97. This is a welcome addition to the Brooklyn winter portfolio.
This is a dark amber pour with a spicy nose that announces that this is an unmistakeable wassail. A very festive (8%) ale indeed. This seems especially designed for beer drinkers who are not afraid of interesting juxtapositions between the malts and spices. There is no doubt: Christmas time is here.
Known in the United States as Warsteiner Winter Special Edition, this is imported to Warsteiner USA in West Chester, Ohio, which made this a deliciously fresh sample. A German reinheitsgebot contribution to the Winter/Holiday collection. This is an easy drinking, malt showcase lager, brewed with soft water, and given hop and hop extract support. Well worth an exploration or two.
A local holiday favorite for the Beer Doctor. This holiday amber has a direct simplicity, further realized in the very pleasant finish. It also reveals how brewing in Cincinnati has evolved in the 21st century.
Another great example of a Cincinnati artisan seasonal. This very dark coloured spiced take on the Scotch Ale style has an unmistakeable flavor profile. A full depth charge of malts and spices reminds me that I no longer live in the 20th century.
This was a bit of an unorthodox shock when I first sampled this, several years ago.Since then, I have grown to love this holiday dunkelweizen. Mostly because it is living proof that a creative brewery has its own distinctive personality. Peaches and Pecans? Who would have thought? This is both festive and unusual.
Another American classic, Bell’s Christmas Ale is a no-nonsense Scotch ale style beer that is perfectly balanced and a perfect delight to drink. A beautiful reminder that there still is much goodness in this world.
Please pardon me for saying this, but the recent post about the M&A of A-B InBev and SABMiller was for the beer doctor downright depressing. Why? Because all it means for beer lovers like myself is that we will see yet another increase in the price of beer, for no other reason than to make these avaricious business types take even more of our god damn money, while simultaneously, forcing many good folks to lose their jobs, in the holy name of streamline efficiency. It may be an early Christmas for the shareholders, but for everybody else, it is just more difficulties.
I take solace in the fact that the creation of beer is far greater than these counting-house concerns.
A prime example of this, is the re-appearance of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2015 Now brewed in California and North Carolina, this new world holiday classic remains one of the very best. Its hop signature is Sierra Nevada’s IPA contribution to the holiday/winter portfolio. Their hop-centric concerns are now manifest in all kinds of artisan brewing creations.
Which I should not be surprised that America’s oldest brewery now makes a seasonal version of this approach, in Yuengling IPL Which is a very hop-forward lager. What I enjoy about this one is the raw (some would say harsh) profile of the hops. A showcase for Cascade, Citra, Belma and Bravo hops, combined with Pale and Munich malts, and given a lively twist through the use of Yuengling’s house lager yeast. This is a powerfully flavoured 5% beer.
As November is halfway to December, I have come to realize after many years of sampling, that the best way to enjoy Great Lakes Christmas Aleis to drink this as fresh as possible. This legendary Midwestern wassail is truly a fantastic recipe. It is no wonder that people in Cleveland line up to experience the first tasting.
When it comes to the granddaddy of American wassail,ageing is not important. The 41st. edition of Anchor’s Our Special Ale is a kind of return to those earlier versions of their Christmas ale where the emphasis was on the malts, dialling back a bit on the spicy complexity, this dark brown (nearly black) pour has a subtle nose, and an almost stout like body. Beautifully balanced, this signature beer could have only come from the Anchor Brewery in San Francisco. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year indeed.