This is a story about baseball and beer. Okay, it is not about any ballpark, since I don’t have the scratch to throw away on that. This is about a few carefree (mindless?) hours watching a televised baseball game, from an air conditioned beer cave basement, complete with a forty year old refrigerator that I swear, will continue its chilling function, as long as there is electricity.
Now if the game being televised is the Chicago Cubs from Wrigley Field, advance planning requires that I travel to place where I can obtain Heileman’s Old Style, the unofficial but nevertheless, the beer of the Chicago Cubs. But since planning is not always in place, and I seek a beer within very short walking distance, InBev’s Labatt Blue is usually the alternative. But on the night of the all-star game, they were completly sold out. The store’s owner put forth another solution:
“How about some Budweiser? For the Beer Doctor I have 18 bottles for eight dollars.”
$8 ? I thought, even with states taxes that is less than $8.60 !
Sold I said and buy it I did. This proved to be a huge mistake.
I have not tasted a Budweiser in 9 years. The last six pack was their millennium edition, during a Monday night NFL game. It was pretty bloody awful.
This time, with a “born on” date of May 30, these bottles were well within their 110 day window for freshness. The first thing I noticed was the colour. It was more golden than it was 9 years previous. The nose too seemed a bit more malty. As to the taste…
A bland refreshing coldness is the gist of it. Even the one time cloying sweet presence of rice seems to have vanished.
Suddenly I remembered someone had left a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the fridge. I thought, it is time to do a taste test, reviving the clash of the titans that occurred back in 1893.
Anyone who wants to know more about this history should take a look at Maureen Ogle’s Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer.
There has been a fascination with pilsner style beers ever since they were introduced. Part of this was due to an expansion of the working class, who saw for the first time, to order a golden coloured carbonated drink that aesthetically competed with upper crust champagne. So vitally important that the beer be not only golden but clear. This is what lead Anheuser-Busch to use beechwood strips during fermentation, to collect those unsightly particles that would still be floating around. Their discovery of using rice as an adjunct grain proved to be a goldmine to this very day. They also started bottling Budweiser to make sure you got the Genuine article. Soon there after, they began shipping the beer cold, using refrigerated railroad cars.
Leaving the land of rice for corn, Pabst Blue Ribbon pours with substantial foam. There is some flavor and it has more of a finish. As in 1893, Pabst beats Bud. In fact that is where the self-congratulatory Blue Ribbon comes from.
Perceptions can be very fickle. I remember a time when yuppies, or at least people who thought of themselves that way, frowned upon Budweiser as “the working man’s beer”. For them, the beer you preferred was Miller High Life in returnable long neck bottles. Pabst, voted America’s best in 1893 (according to Pabst) was now relegated to the bottom of the hillbilly ladder. But times changed, and Bud, with the help of Hollywood, soon became hip again. Pabst enjoyed a resurgence as the rockabilly beer of choice.
All of this macro-brewed investigation has left me nearly exhausted. The night of the all-star game, which went late into extra innings, all I had were these bottles of Bud, so bland that they became undrinkable, no matter how cold or what glass was used. Even drinking it straight from the long neck just didn’t cut it. Cold water was a welcome alternative.
This brings up something I want to state, because, as the Beer Doctor it needs to be said. Four of the worst beers in the world. They are: Budweiser, Warsteinner, Stela Artois, and Corona. Which makes me appreciate the efforts by those U.S. brewers who take the flavor of  their beers seriously.
I can not name them all, but some of The Best Brerwers In The United States, would surely include The Boston Beer Company, The Anchor Brewing Co., Penn Brewing, and F.X. Matt. The recent controversy over InBev’s purchase of Anheuser-Busch, brought charges that foreign ownership would prompt them to change Budweiser’s recipe. Considering the marketing driven swill that nearly everyone embraces, I think they’ll keep it cold and fresh and lousy, the way it is suppose to be.
I was recently asked, what is the great national lager. I would have to say Samuel Adams Boston Lager. What a surprise to the Bud light crowd, a beer with actual flavor.
Peace and thank you.


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