In Defense of Bitter Beer 

Budweiser takes off the gloves in pursuit of the craft-beer market

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If you watched the Super Bowl on television this year, or the 40th-anniversary celebration of Saturday Night Live on NBC, you probably saw a really obnoxious Budweiser beer ad aimed squarely at craft-beer consumers. It's not enough that Anheuser-Busch—brewers of Budweiser, Beck's, Michelob, Stella Artois, Rolling Rock, Busch and many more—along with mega-brewers like Coors and Miller's, already own more than 92 percent of America's beer market: They want more. They want the other 7.8 percent (according to data compiled by The Brewers Association): the folks who drink microbrews and craft beers.

Given the nature of modern capitalism, it's not surprising that total domination of the beer market is the goal of mega-brands like Budweiser. What is surprising is the offensive nature of the campaign to win over the 7.8 percent of the American beer market that is the craft-beer share. As evidence, I submit the "Brewed the Hard Way" TV ad that Anheuser-Busch spent $9 million to air during Super Bowl XLIX.

The ad begins by making it clear that Budweiser is proud of being a "macro" beer, not something to be "fussed over." Cut to a bearded (of course) hipster-looking dude in dorky glasses sniffing the "nose" of a dark (clearly not Budweiser) brew. The spot then goes on to say that Budweiser is brewed for a "crisp" and "smooth" finish, not to mention being the "only beer beechwood aged." Hey, did you know that beechwood aging imparts zero flavor to beer? Budweiser forgets to mention that.

The commercial continues: "The people who drink our beer are the people who like to drink beer." I'll concede that point. There's no real reason to drink Budweiser except that it's, you know, an intoxicant. I can't really imagine that anyone truly drinks Bud for the flavor. Which signals an important difference between Budweiser drinkers and those who drink craft beers: Bud drinkers "like to drink beer." True, but craft and microbrew drinkers like to taste beer. "It's brewed for drinking, not dissecting," the Budweiser ad goes on. Well, that's for sure. After all, what's to dissect? Jell-O isn't made for dissecting, either.

The ad concludes, "Let them sip their pumpkin-peach ale. We'll be brewing us some golden suds." This in-your-face commercial suggests that only hipsters and losers—in other words, not "real men"—drink craft brews such as pumpkin-peach ale. But wait! Didn't Anheuser-Busch just purchase Seattle's Elysian Brewing last month? And, doesn't Elysian make a beer called Gourdgia on My Mind, a pecan-peach-pumpkin amber ale? Oops.

It reminds me of Keystone Light's (Coors Brewing) old "bitter beer face" ads from the mid-1990s. They featured unsuspecting dorks taking sips of non-Keystone beer and winding up with—god forbid—bitter beer face! I remember seeing those commercials and thinking, "No, you idiots! Bitter beer is good beer!" I love a well-hopped, bitter beer. But, to find one, I must turn to craft brewers, because it's not economical for the mega-breweries to make beers utilizing expensive ingredients such as Cascade, Hallertau or Fuggle hops anymore.

Still, biggest is best, right? That's what Budweiser would like you to think. You know, just like Taco Bell tacos are the best. Well, as I eat my kale salad with a side of porkbelly, the one beer I won't be drinking is Budweiser. There was a time when I didn't mind sipping a cold Bud. But, now that this shot has been fired across the craft-brew bow, I'll be sipping something along the lines of Epic Brewing's Brainless on Peaches or Uinta's Punk'n Harvest Pumpkin Ale.

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