Tuesday, December 6, 2011

This Bud's for Jude

On the first day of the blog, a home town friend Jude made a Facebook comment was that "Budweiser rocks....Just saying."  I have had Budweiser on exactly three occasions in which "This Bud's for You!" actually rocked my world.

The first time was many years ago at the State Fair (pre-2004 since I did this experience well before the brewery tour below).  Anheuser-Busch (AB) set up multiple semi-trailers back to back in which the history and process of Budweiser was detailed.  At the end of the mini-tour, we received some much deserved samples after sitting through the slick advertising presentations.  Those samples are not in my database, but I distinctly remember thinking "If Budweiser was this fresh and cold all the time, it would be a much better beer to drink."  Under perfect conditions, it's a pretty good beer.  Unfortunately, I have only had Budweiser served this well one other time.

The second time Budweiser impressed me was when my wife and I toured AB in St. Louis just before New Year's of 2004.   The historic nature of the grounds, especially the horses and the stables, makes this a very interesting brewery tour.  Also, the massive size of the facility and the ageing tanks were incredible compared to every other brewery tour I've been on, including Miller and Coors.  Again, the samples were fresh and well served, and not typical of what I've tasted in other locations.  Admittedly, I don't test this theory extensively.  Of all of the interesting tidbits on the tour, the discussion of quality control on the tour was the most amazing.  Unfortunately, I've lost the exact details of the lecture to the mists of memory, but the according to the Budweiser website the fifth and final quality check is for a sample of Budweiser to be flown daily from each brewery to St. Louis for a 3 pm tasting.  Samples are cross checked against a standard base and only those that taste like Budweiser are allowed to be bottled.  I recommend the tour for this part alone (minus my snarky comment of "Too bad the taste testers didn't get a job sampling better beer!").  Regardless of a beer geek's opinion of their beer, AB has to be respected for being able to have a Budweiser taste like a Budweiser everywhere in the world.  I can't get two batches of homebrew to taste the same.  AB's accomplishment is truly remarkable.

The most recent time AB made my day was when I tried Brew Master's Reserve All Malt Lager in February 2006.  I saw it on a beer buying trip to Blue Max, and bought it for a Superbowl party we were hosting.    As pulled the wine sized bottle out of its matching box, "All Malt" and other platitudes reminiscent of craft beer stood as as their proof of quality.  When we tried the beer at the party, it was clearly an improvement over Budweiser, but nothing overly special.  A clean, crisp lager with a nice quality--not surprising from AB since that's their specialty.  What was truly special about the bottle--or so I told anyone who would listen--was that this meant the beginning of the end.  I trust AB's marketing research, and if they feel compelled to brew and package anything other than their regular brands, they see the writing on the wall.  In the words of Joey from Friends, "I know that you know that I know!"  I won't attempt to untangle the relationships between AB and regional brewers like Redhook, Widmer, Kona, Goose Island and others; however, AB has clearly worked to diversify it's portfolio into craft and premium brands for some time now, which is a part of the diversified super beer company Anheuser Busch InBev.

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