Session #56: This Bud's for everyone

For many opinionated drinkers, global brewers are a god-send. They can be pilloried from post to blog post; capitalist behemoths, industrial swill-merchants, adjunct-addicted purveyors of pap. Even better if they have the letter S in their name. So the lazy perpetuation of hackneyed myth can be combined with the liberal insertion of dollar signs into their name.

For instance: Budwei$er.

Yeah, that $tick$ it to The Man.

This month's Session is hosted by The Tales of The Ale, on what he perceives may be hard for some bloggers: giving thanks to the 'big boys'. For me, it's a gimme.

Let me tell you why every beer fan in the world ought to give eternal thanks to Anheuser Busch.

Actually, no. Let Charles Bamforth, Professor of Malting and Brewing Science at University of California Davis, explain why:

"The reality is that it is substantially more challenging to consistently make a product of more subtle tone, there being far less opportunity to disguise inconsistency and deterioration than can be the case in a more intensely flavoured beverage". 1

If you can visit anywhere in the world and a Bud tastes like a Bud... that's supreme control. I know enough brewers who produce a raft of 'specials'. All roughly similar, minor changes in ABV and recipe. For keeping the tickers happy? No. It's because they cannot brew a beer consistently to spec.

As for the brewers who disguise fuck-up beers by mixing them into darker brews and lacing them with a far-out flavour... you can't polish a turd.

You may not choose to make Budweiser your fridge beer of choice. I remember a radio interview with Bamforth where he said something along the lines that he loved cask bitter in a sidestreet pub back in England. But in 100 degree heat at a ballgame, he'd rather be drinking Bud.

So, here's an American institution with a history of fastidiousness. Of borderline-freakish quality control standards. Of absolute faith, backed by researched science, that what they do is absolutely the best they can do. That brews a consistent, popular beer whose sales fund barley and hop development programmes. And the professorship that Charlie Bamforth holds.

And, if along the way, they give the young turks and old grumps something to rail against, even if it's misguidedly, that's great.

If it makes just one brewer stop and think about how they can make better beer, that's a result.

If we see more eclectic, adventurous, flavour-forward beer - still brewed with technical perfection - then that's job done.

Adolphus Busch: this Bud's for you.

1. "Beer Is Proof God Loves Us" (2011), Charles Bamforth 


  1. And yet, if you believe the story that got in the US press earlier this year (?), quality control at AB is being compromised by the cost-cutting measures implemented by their InBev overlords. There's big and there's bigger.

    Or are you freezing a point in time?

  2. Strangely, I really like the point about freakishly obsessive quality control. That's nothing to be ashamed of, no matter of the size of the operation. And yes, I've read Sid's point, but I think that your statement can still be applied to the overall history of the company, espcially when discussion growth / explosion.

  3. Thanks Simon. I am surprised by how many positives AB have got compared with the other macros.