My Twitter (@davekean) proudly proclaims I am a beer snob, I like good beer and the allegations that Anheuser-Busch (owned by Europe’s InBev) is watering down their beer made me nod knowingly (and feel a little superior). Yep, of course they are, have you tasted it?
Anheuser-Busch has of course denied these accusations and stated, rather flatly, that they are in compliance with labeling standards.
Is Anheuser-Busch watering down Budweiser? Probably, yes. Years ago I went on a tour around the Coors brewery in Memphis (twice in a row, second time for more free samples, I was a student at the time) and at Coors the guide talked about how they “condition” the beer to bring it to the correct specific-gravity.
“Conditioning” involved adding spring water, and specific-gravity is a fancy way of saying alcohol content. The poor tour guide, having to deal with 5 British students who were clearly there for the free samples, finally admitted that conditioning did involve watering the beer down.
Now I know more about the process and have been involved in a few home brewing experiments, understand that there will always be differences batch-to-batch. It’s a very controlled process on an industrial scale, but inevitably there will be little things that alter it a little one way or another.
It makes sense that if you want a consistent 5% alcohol by volume beer then you would aim to brew it a touch stronger and water it down a little to get your perfect 5% every time. I think I’m am experienced and somewhat picky beer drinker, but I’m pretty sure I can’t taste the difference in a beer with 4.5% AVB and one with 5% ABV.
While I do think the Coors, Budweiser and Miller is tasteless to begin with (and watering it down will not improve that), it does very well in the market place. Over three-quarters of American beer drinkers choose these rather flavourless, fizzy beers and their beers of choice on a Saturday night.
There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s so unnecessary.
We live in an exciting time for beer in the US, the variety and quality of craft beers have gone through the roof. Unencumbered by tradition there are thousands of small craft breweries making some very interesting and innovative beers. With in 15 miles of my house I know of 8 craft breweries and at least three proper alehouses with an ever-rotating assortment of top class local beers. Some breweries are in strip malls, others in converted garages, but they nearly all have tasting rooms or attached bars.
I have friends that would turn up to my house with a 6-pack of Budweiser in hand and they would be pressured into trying something else, stretch themselves a little and explore what beer can be. It can be a slow journey, but is so worth it.
Rob made it to 42 years old as a staunch Miller guy, that was his beer of choice and that was that. Over the last couple of years he’s slowly wandered along the path and will pull a Wheat beer or even a Pale Ale off the shelves in Safeway. He’s a long way from the deep hoppy bite of an Imperial IPA, and indeed may never get there, it’s not for everyone. But he does know that beer should have some flavour and is able to recognize what he likes in a beer. And that’s good enough for me.
American style IPAs, a little lighter than a traditional IPA, are just one example of what local craft brewers are giving us.
Everyone lives close to a brewery, give them a visit and look for something brewed locally in the supermarket. You may be surprised, like what you are tasting and want to learn more. And you’ll be doing something good for your community.
Local Everett Brewers (opens into a new browser)