July 14, 2008
This Crud’s for You

So the Belgians are buying Anheuser-Bush for $52 billion, and good for them. Don’t know much about ’rithmetic, but I know plenty about beer, having sluiced the stuff down on a pretty regular basis ever since I was old enough to fool bartenders with my fake I.D.

As the years rolled by and I approached my twenties, I began to realize that the stuff I was drinking was by and large watery swill. And this was even before it had occurred to American brewers that they could remove all flavor completely and sell the remainder as “Lite” on the false premise that it wouldn’t make you “Hevy.”

Back in those days one of the two worst beers in the country was Genessee, which at least had the virtue of being down in the dollar-a-sixpack range. The other was Budweiser, which charged full mass-market prices.

The only decent beer generally available in America (and only, as I recall, on the East Coast) was Ballantine’s Ale. Most barflies found its beer-like flavor, derived from things like hops and barley, to be bitter and repellent.

Of course there were foreign beers on the market too — Heineken’s, Corona, Beck’s, St. Pauli Girl and a few others. But they were expensive and barely better than the American stuff.

I learned why in 1959 when we joined a group of American noncommissioned officers on a tour of the Löwenbräu brewery in Munich. It ended in the tasting room where the brewmaster invited us all to get shitfaced, compliments of the house.

Once the process was well along he challenged the sergeants with various feats of strengths. None of them could match him, and so I stepped forward like a damned fool, as my wife playfully remarked while failing to pull me back to my seat.

But the chance to stick it to a roomful of career sergeants was not to be passed up, not by a recently-discharged private who was confident he could do the brewmaster’s tricks. And promptly did so. Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d… Oh, well.

Back, however, to our overview of beer through the ages. During the tour the brewmaster had shown us a room full of pipes and catch basins and filters which removed impurities that could cause the beer to spoil during transport.

What was being filtered out, I asked. The flavor? “You might call it that,” he said. “Yes.”

My suspicion is that Budweiser has similar rooms, where product quality is scientifically lowered to the level that the American lush has come to expect from a premium brew.

Whatever direction Budweiser’s Belgian owners decide to take with their new company, it can only be up.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at July 14, 2008 12:41 PM
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Ah, but the stuff is a godsend to people with gluten problems. (It's not perfect but comparatively OK for folks who aren't outright celiac.) Even better is an Anheuser-Busch product made of sorghum called Redbridge. Don't knock it too hard, OK?

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on July 14, 2008 11:34 PM

Coors+sugar = Michelob

Posted by: myth on July 15, 2008 2:28 AM

I was saddened to learn from Martha that people exist who cannot tolerate beer, which I've always considered the almost perfect food for humans. Second only to Stonyfield's Whole Milk Vanilla Yogurt.

However I learn from The Celiac's Guide to Gluten Free Beer that Bud isn't quite gluten-free but lots of other stuff is, all of it almost certainly better-tasting than the slop Budweiser brews. Personally, I liked the sound of Mongozo Banana.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on July 15, 2008 10:02 AM

For years, I used to get off the trolley every morning a block down from the Schmidt's brewery. And for years, I thought I knew that what I smelled as I climbed the El steps was tomato soup being canned at Campbell's across the river in Camden.

It was a pleasant odor.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on July 15, 2008 5:31 PM

You think it saddens you? It saddens the bejeezus out of me. Am however happy to say, “Down with Reinheitsgebot!” Never did much care for that word.

Thx for finding the beer guide site.

Whatever you do, don't try a British brew called "Toleration." It's like diluted molasses. Urrrgh.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on July 15, 2008 11:18 PM

Good post. Don't drink much these days and I am a lager boy. There are times during the summer when nothing else will do it except a very cold beer. I'm surprised at this but what I want is a Bud Lite because it tastes like beer when I was pretty young and that's been awhile. Like I say I'm surprised.

Posted by: One Fly on July 16, 2008 1:20 PM
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