Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer and Buy American!

"But the President has selected Budweiser, uh, Gates has -- the Professor Gates -- has selected Red Stripe and Sergeant Crowley, Blue Moon. Is there a problem?"
"There is if you're American... beermaker. And a lot of those beermakers now are saying, Hey, we got left out in the dust. Why are we not going to drink American beer at the White House?... They should be drinking American beer at the White House."

Wow. There was so much going on in that clip that Frank Chow posted, I don't know where to start. But as I -- an American living in Ireland -- sit here in my living room (after a hard day's work of proudly contributing to another nation's economy) and take a large sip of my Leffe Blonde (made by the same Belgian company that now pwns Budweiser), I almost had to spit out my lovely Belgian abbey brew because this is the most ridiculous criticism of President Obama yet. I expect nothing less from the "Fair & Balanced" FOX News.

A bit of history on Budweiser and Bud Light: Anheuser-Busch was founded by German-Americans in the 1860's. They began marketing "Budweiser" beer in 1876, a slice of German/Czech brewing from the heartland of America. The problem? There were already TWO Budweiser beers already being exported from Budweis in what is now Czech Republic. You see, Budweis is a town in Bohemia, a mixed ethnicity/language town. There was a Budweiser made by the Czechs and a much older Budweiser made by the Germans from that town. The German Budweiser began appearing in the USA in 1875... guess where Anheuser-Busch got the idea? Anyway, regardless of the dubious origins of the name or the recipe, Bud as we now know it was made in the US from the mid-nineteenth century. This is where capitalism comes in. If you've ever had a German/Czech beer, you know that it's got a lot of flavor. There's the bitterness of the hops, the barley flavor, the sweetness of the alcohol -- it's refreshing, but tasty. Budweiser (Anheuser-Busch) is not.

There are only a few necessary ingredients for beer: water, barley, hops, and yeast. Budweiser (AB) is almost 40% rice and this has nothing to do with an interest in the brewing cultures of eastern Asia, where rice is used to make sake or golden rice beer. No, the rice in Budweiser (and most mass-marketed American beers) is used to make the LEAST OFFENSIVE flavor possible -- to dilute the bitterness of the hops and the barley. Basically, the mixture of grains (40% rice) used in Budweiser is intentionally formulated at pleasing the maximum number of people while displeasing no one (except beer snobs like me). Why would a venerable company of German-Americans want to brew such wimpy brew? Capitalism, baby. With snappy ads and clever marketing, Anheuser-Busch has captured a huge portion of the market. In 2008, Anheuser-Busch had 49% of beer sales in the US. This is probably why Anheuser-Busch was so appealing to other beer-making corporations, hence the buy-out last year.

So, although InBev (Belgian-Brazilian) bought out Anheuser-Busch last summer and Budweiser is "no longer American", despite the ten breweries they operate in the US, Budweiser really is, in a manner of speaking, the most American of beers: German in ancestry (as are 50 million Americans), brilliantly marketed, and attempting to be totally inoffensive while really ticking off those who are educated enough to know better. Therefore, President Obama probably picked the most American beer of the three. But he did make the wrong decision... probably because he doesn't know any better. No offense.

I don't think Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada really meant to make a stink over the Beer Summit. They probably just thought, "Damn, the President drinks crappy Budweiser. That piss-water is the reason we got into brewing..." If I ran Sam Adams, I'd send over a case of the Summer Ale or the Winter Lager (or the Cranberry Lambic at Christmas, for that matter) with a note that said, "Dear Mr. President, THIS is American beer. Keep rocking. Love, Sam Adams."

President Obama made a VERY American choice in his beer... too bad his American choice was a bad beer choice. Far too many Americans drink garbage beer. Advertising works!

As for Professor Gates, I don't think I've ever had Red Stripe, but it only came into existence in 1928, it's from Jamaica and according to Wikipedia it's never sold well in the US, so I'm willing to give him (and his eccentric taste) the benefit of the doubt. And as much as I think Sergeant Crowley was TOTALLY IN THE WRONG in the arrest debacle, I have to give it to him: Crowley knows good beer. Blue Moon (witbier) is delicious! A pint of witbier with a slice of orange or lemon in it is PERFECT on a warm summer's evening (the citrus slice complements the coriander and orange peel already in the brew)... probably why he picked it for his meeting with the President in the month of August.

Anyway, why are we so worried about who owns what? As a beer-lover I say, "Yes, President Obama should have a Sierra Nevada pale ale!" but as a politics junkie and economist, I say, "Who cares?" People buy what they like and if the President likes Bud then fine, I hope he enjoys that soap-water. And, considering the Republican party's obsession with the "free" market, who could fault the Prez for picking Budweiser, a brand that has become world famous not for flavor and brewery street cred, but aggressive marketing and globalisation? InBev buying Anheuser-Busch in an aggressive cross-border taking spanning several months and billions of dollars was so... American!

InBev, I salute you!

posted by Paddy K, A Moveable Feasta

Update: Paddy K wants to add more, I must preface hopefully this is the beginning of the evolution of this site. I wanted to eventually add contributors and Paddy K is the first one, as you can tell he is a great writer with a spirit for politics and history. Welcome him to Frank Chow.

Update II: from Paddy K

This just in: Professor Gates PWNS President Obama and Sergeant Crowley with his beer choice. In a case of the ol' switcheroo, Gates swapped his Jamaican juice for a big mug of THE ONLY "AMERICAN" beer in the Rose Garden: Samuel Adams Light. The beer summit's beer rankings:
4) VP Biden with his silly non-alcoholic beverage
3) President Obama with his non-American "American" Bud Light soapwater
2) Sergeant Crowley's big mug of Blue Moon witbier (hopefully with an orange slice)
1) Professor Gates with his tasty, no-rice-added, American-made and manufactured, Sam Adams Light.

Take THAT, FOX!!!!


GraceK said...

LOVE IT. Great post!

Fox News...ridiculous, as always.
Frank Chow (and guest blogger)...amazing, as always!

Keep it up!

Sara said...

I will agree that Blue Moon is delicious. It's also American; it's brewed in Colorado by Coors. So the cop wins.

Paddy K said...

Blue Moon (first brewed in Colorado in 1995) is brewed by Coors who are now owned by Molson from Ontario, Canada. I couldn't find any info on where it's actually brewed presently.

Sam Adams: founded in 1984, brewed in the US, still American.