The "King of Beers"
"...the true American lager..."
I suppose that sooner or later it had to happen. I've been living in California for most of six years now, and despite drinking possibly hundreds of brews, had never tried two classic American favourites - Budweiser and malt liquor. Well that's not strictly correct. Let me say that I have not tried them over here. I do recall having a Bud in one pub back in England that (if memory serves me well) sold nothing but lager, and a friend once gave me a Colt 45. I did not have great memories of either.
Still, that was in the past, in a different life altogether, and as people frequently remind me "you're in America now". It was also before I had read an article shared with me by one of our current houseguests, in which the author waxes both polemic and lyrical in support of this, the "King of Beers". Sometime when you have ten or so minutes, have a read of it†.
This same houseguest decided that I needed to sample the delights of Budwesier, and I will give you that story in a short while. Meantime, I will give you a precis of the writer's arguments before proceeding with my taste test. His major arguments run thus:
Budweiser has been around a long time - longer than most British breweries, beginning in 1876 (before the Budvar brewery), and has been using the same recipe ever since.
It's brewed with all-natural ingredients, barley, hops, yeast and rice ( with beech chips for conditioning). It is then filtered and pasteurised (common to many other beers).
"Adolphus Busch in 1876 was a German master brewer of exactly the sort that beer nuts go gooey over, he was trying to make a high quality beer (as proved by Budweiser’s use of expensive Saaz hops), and he decided that the best way to brew a lager was to use rice." I quote, because I can think of no better way of putting it.
It neither tastes like piss, nor it it a cissy beer. Apparently it has a lower pH than urine, hence is "definitely more acidic than piss".
He argues that the modern microbreweries are a product of the Industrial Revolution, and their beers are not "artisanal" in the sense that they are under industrial quality control, just as Bud is, presumably.
Budvar does not have a right to call itself the original, Busch neither stole the brand nor sought to copy (given that they were brewing before Budvar, who began in 1895). The original Budweiser Bürgerbräu was, according to Wikipedia, founded 1785, and imported to the US in 1871.
Let the Judging Begin!
First up, Peter (the instigator of this whole enterprise) bought a rather large can of the true American lager which were dutifully poured into glasses. It was crystal clear, a pale straw colour, exactly as I'd expected. As is my wont, I then stuck my schnoz in to get a good hooterful (the "nose" of a beer, as a wine, is an important part of the enjoyment to me, as regular readers will know). My first reaction was that there was a little yeastiness in the nose, but it was momentary. This was replaced by a slight musky aroma, but again, just for a moment. I took another snootful. There was something there, a little sweet malt, and sipping it didn't do much for me.
Peter, bless his heart, agreed with my analysis despite his bluster that it would be a good drink. We tossed the undrunk portion in the sink and poured a snobbier brew for ourselves.
Is it refreshing? Well, yes - but then pretty much anything served at close to freezing point is going to provide that. Is it disappointing as a stand-alone beer? Well, frankly it is. But then I'm not about to be a snob about this - Budweiser is not a beer to drink and enjoy as a beer, it's a beer to quaff on a hot day, after a hard day's work, in front of the television, or indeed, all three.
It's not for nothing that Anheiser-Busch sells a lot of this to a mass audience, one that their marketeers knows well. The pitch is clear - simple beer, a standard and reliable recipe that never changes. Maybe the beer snobs should just suck it up and allow the drinking masses to enjoy it.
† In Praise of Budweiser