Water or Bud?
                                   by  Casey  Rheid

The recent uproar about possible class action suits against Anheuser-
Busch  for watering down some of their products got me to thinking.  
Would anyone notice if their Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, etc, was
actually watered down? Would it really affect the taste of the beer?  
Are they serious?  

That in turn got me to consider what really makes you choose a beer
to drink?  Whether it's  from your local beer store, refrigerator or
restaurant, what causes you to pick one beer over another? The
simple answer for me - it’s all about the taste. But it also goes much
deeper than that.

When it comes to taste, I want my beer to taste like something.
Something tangible. Something familiar. I want enough flavor so that
I'd actually have something to describe the taste to others.  Just
check out the
Bottles to Growlers section of BeerNexus and read a few
of the reviews.  I always get a kick out of some of the terms used to
describe the beer but at least it is descriptive.  

Ask any drinker of macro lagers to describe the taste of their beers and
the most common response will invariably be “it tastes like beer." Not a
great answer.  It does however beg the question, so what does beer
actually taste like? There’s not a simple answer to that question, but a
starting point would be looking at the four main ingredients required to
make beer: water, malt, yeast and hops.

Many large-scale breweries also add up to 30% rice or corn syrup to
the brewing process. These are known as adjuncts and something
that is generally frowned upon in the craft beer world. They're viewed
as cost-saving ingredients, rather than something to impart more
flavor into the beer. Having said that, water and rice are the two main
flavors I detect when drinking something like a Budweiser or Michelob
Ultra - two ingredients that hardly contain any flavor at all.

If one of these beers was to be watered down I seriously don’t believe
anyone would notice a difference. I have a sneaking suspicion that
more than a few Bud and Coors Light drinkers pick those beers,
because of their lack of flavor.   Those are the same folks that then
make sure they're having the beer ice cold in a frosted glass.  Even if
the beer had some flavor that would just about neutralize it all.  Could
it be that the big lure for those drinkers is the beer's alcohol?  

I remember in the early 1990s that  Moosehead Light had a great radio
commercial.  It straight forwardly asked:  "How does a drinker of other
light beers know it's time for their next beer? They think, 'Hmm, that
sip wasn't as wet as the last one.'"

Does Bud think their beer is tasteless?  My bet is yes considering they
used this tag line in the introduction of a new beer:  "Taste is making
an entrance on 02.03.13,” with our new Budweiser Black Crown label"
Pretty funny stuff even if it was likely unintentional.

Budweiser/Miller/Coors has always been far more about marketing than
beer. Creative commercials and slick ads can sell just about anything
to just about anyone.  When Bud dumped mega-millions into the
emerging steamroller of television, it was the death knell for countless
regional breweries.  By 2005 the number of  ”traditional American
breweries” was 21. Today in 2013 over 80% of all tavern sales come
from the macro swill often posing as true Pilsners.   The power of the
big guys made it almost  impossible for any American brewery to
compete, on anything like a level playing field except for one thing -
the craft brewers embrace of  wildly creative interpretations of virtually
every other style of lager or ale produced anywhere else on the planet.
They ceded the market for "American" Pilsner and concentrated on
everything else.  And consumers, at least a small but ever growing
number, responded.  And if you're reading BeerNexus that means you!

By the way, I do not believe Budweiser waters down their beers.  As I
understand it each of the many A-B breweries makes Bud to a higher
gravity so they can then add water to bring it down to ia universal ABV
spec.  That is the reason a Bud tastes the same regardless of where it's
made.  That is no small feat.

Lastly let me say that the brewers at the macro guys are generally
recognized in the beer industry as some of the best around.  These are
not seat of the pants home brewers but highly trained and educated
experts on the science of beer.  They are well paid and perform their
task perfectly.  My only argument is with their task - making tasteless,
yellow, fizzy liquid pretending to be serious beer.   

Thanks to Bob and all his readers for giving me the opportunity to
write this month's column.  The hardest part was the research - I had
to drink a can of Bud.

Thanks to Casey for writing our May column.  It is but interesting and
fun - a most difficult but rewarding combination.

Please remember I encourage all my readers to send me their articles
and just maybe you'll see yours in print just like Casey!


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