My Thank You To The Big Brewers Via Budweiser, Which Is Now AmBev, Right? I’m So Confused At Times

So, what is a “big brewer” now?  I tried to figure this out.  I used the list of Top 50 Brewing Companies published by the Brewer’s Association.  There are actually two lists there – Top 50 Brewing Companies and Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies.  And thirty-six of the fifty top brewing companies are from the craft brewing company list.

And so I am confused.

Macro brewers used to be just ye olde Budweiser and Coors and Miller and the giant conglomerates that ate them up.  Maybe that’s what’s meant to be the focus of this month’s beer blogging Friday.  I’m just not sure.  The host said give thanks to the “big boys”.  Well, there’s lots of them now.  So, I am in a sarcastic and sour mood today; thus, my “thanks” shall indeed go out to the big conglomerates.

Of course, I want to try to be civil and fair.  That’s only proper.  Mayhaps there are good things that have come from the ilk of Anheuser-Buch.   Yes, there must be some positives.  There should always be positive things to say or write about other people, and in the end this is about people.  It’s not like the giant tanks and massive bottling machines magically produce beer all by their lonesome.  No, there is are people behind it all, masterminding it, diluting it, actually approving the product.

So perhaps that’s the first point.  They are employers.  Thanks for that.  According to the AB-Inbev 2010 annual report the company employs approximately 114,000 people.  I don’t know if that’s changed at all during 2011.

What else?

Thanks for banning other brewer’s at the World Cup a few years back.  That was extremely classy.

Thanks for the commercials.  Some of them are humorous though most are banal and adolescent.

Thanks for altering the taste buds of millions of people so that they do not even know how to appreciate beer.

Thanks for letting people know that beer is only good for getting loaded.

Thanks for glorifying a redneck lifestyle.  (Okay, this one is meant for Coors, my bad).

Thanks for ethical dilemmas, too.  I have personally avowed to never taste from the vine of the Budweiser.  Yet, I found myself in Wal-Mart today on an innocuous visit for sundry household items.  Apparently the collective consciousness of the Wal-Martians – no doubt driven by the saturation of their consciousness by overwhelming marketing propaganda of the Budweiserans – exerted a terrible influence upon me.  I found myself suddenly in the beer aisle, as if transported by some weird quantum wormhole, from the bathroom fixture aisle.  The AmberBock was staring at me, calling me.  I looked away, wandered to another aisle, but it called me back.  It is the one and only Bud product that I find palatable.  But it’s also a Bud product.  What of my personal boycott?  Out the window it went.  Somehow I convinced myself that it was okay to buy this particular type of spullwasser.  It has more body than the other stuff, I said to me.  It has a little more flavor, I continued.  Hey, I said to my own self, at least they didn’t try to pawn this beer off as a ‘craft’ beer.  It has always been just AmberBock.   Anyway, I bought and I’m drinking it and it’s Budweiser and I rationalized and, boom, ethical dilemma.

Thanks for Prohibition.  No, wait, it was Prohibition that gave birth to you, right?  You are like its sour progeny.  Right.

I’m getting bitter just writing these things.  Bitter, like the hops you must use in your beer but which I cannot identify.

I must move on to so-called positive things.  Without dictators and tyrants, there can be no revolution.  Thanks, big brewers, for being the despots that made so many seek the origins of beer and rise up in protest of your libation to call us back to the golden ages.

When I go to a store to seek beer I see lots of red, white, silver, yellow and blue boxes.  And the same color of cans.  It’s a diluted rainbow.  I blandly follow the rainbow until I find a shelf of real beer, bottles of gold and amber delight.  You forced me to look carefully for real beers.  Thanks.

Thanks for distribution lanes, I think.  I mean, sure, you try to dominate them but at least your insane need to distribute low quality beer nationwide engendered their creation.  Now the real brewers can somewhat make use of them to send out real beer.

Thanks for helping spread the use of refrigeration.  This is a real “thank you” since refrigeration is important to the health of beer, especially in areas that do not have naturally refrigerated areas, such as glaciers and very deep caves.

Thanks for consistency.  I appreciate this note from the Anheuser Busch website:

Pasteurization- Adolphus Busch responded quickly to advances in science and technology. Previously, beer had been highly susceptible to the influence of heat, light, storage conditions and spoilage. With the introduction of Pasteurization, heat could be used to destroy harmful micro-organisms, allowing beer to be maintained for longer periods without spoiling. Adolphus embraced this idea and became the first U.S. brewer to pasteurize beer in the 1870s. This new technology allowed beer to be shipped long distances without spoiling and made it practical to bottle beer.

You have blanketed the country, maybe the world, with bland, banal brews.  When a loser opens a Bud Light on the east coast it’s going to taste exactly like the Bud Light that another loser on the west coast is drinking.  You learned how to make the same beer, every time, without variation.  You’ve made a consistent product, but one without heart, without character.

Small brewers have made beers with some true character to them.  At first, the small brewers were only interested in the beers being the same from pint to pint at the brewery itself; then it was at local eateries, then maybe the next state.  They are using the power of the bad guys against them.  At least, that’s my viewpoint.

Homebrewer’s aren’t so interested in consistency (all right, fine, I’m not terribly focused on it) because “house flavors” and “accidents” can produce some unique beers.  But once brewers move into the professional realm consistency becomes more crucial.  When I go to Mudshark’s in Lake Havasu City, AZ and ask for Full Moon (the finest wit in the southwest, by the way) I know exactly what I’m getting.  And if there is a variation, oh!  That is anathema!  That is reason for blackballing!  That is why I no longer patronize the Boiler Room (another local brewery, but I shall not now speak of it).  So, consistency is vital.

Some other interesting “innovations” from the Big Bud:

Toward this end, Busch patented the first diesel engine, which was installed in the brewery to increase production. With the onset of World War I, Busch founded a subsidiary to produce the engines for Navy submarines. In addition, the Anheuser-Busch family purchased sufficient war bonds to finance two bombers–each named ‘Miss Budweiser.’ —

With his beer-derived wealth, Busch bought the American rights to Rudolf Diesel‘s invention, and established the Busch-Zulzer Brothers Diesel Engine Company to manufacture America’s first diesel engines. —

So, should we thank them for furthering the use of fossil fuels to produce a beverage which should be untainted?  Should we say, ‘hey, rock on, for not having a conscience and just supporting wholesale slaughter in war’?

Beer is pushed, by Bud and virtually every other brewer, as a social product.  It is supposed to bring people together.  Financing bombers?  The ethical dilemma arises again. 



Down the Double Barrel


Throughout the years that craft brewing has been on the rise, I’ve heard the name Firestone Walker bandied about.  Not with reverence, like Lost Abbey or Dogfish Head, but certainly with respect.  I recall them winning some award a few years back at the Great American Beer Festival.  I may have tried some of their beers then, I don’t really remember.  But I know I haven’t had any since.  Part of the reason has been the inability to get them in the town in which I live.  It finally arrived, though.

I’ll just say it now, I wasn’t filled with wonderment.

I had their Double Barrel Ale.  It’s their version of a British pale.  It’s an adequate beer.   The crystal and chocolate malts come through during the initial aromatic escape upon pouring, as do the noble hops.  It’s a good mix, really, not dominated by any one smell.  The head is the right color and consistency of a good pub pale.  The collar stays throughout the life of the beer nicely floating on the body.  It’s amber in color, orangey-brown.  It reminds me a lot of a Sam Adams Boston Lager although this is not, of course, a lager.



The body is, well – I hate to use this word from the chumps over at Craft Beer Radio but it does come to mind – aqueous, or watery.  They state that there are vanilla tones in the body along with toasted oak flavors.  But I just couldn’t find them.  It’s a standard pale.  Maybe I expected too much.  Maybe there’s so much good beer out there these days that standard isn’t really a demeaning description.  I can deal with that.



Friends and Local Breweries


This Friday presents me with a beer from Lumberyard Brewing in Flagstaff, Arizona.  It is their Red Ale.   Lumberyard is owned by Beaver Street Brewing, also in Flagstaff.  I recall eating there several years ago.  I liked the restaurant, I recall the food being pretty good.  However, I recall little of the beers.

I know I ended up with this beer – as opposed to La Fin Du Monde or a Chimay or a Samuel Smith.  It’s because a friend mentioned it last weekend.  It seemed only fitting to have music playing as I drank this beer (since we used to play in a band together).  Tesla ended up being the soundtrack for this beer.



It’s also called a Special Bitter Ale.  I hope that is a British pub reference and not an allusion to tons of hops.  I expect a brilliant red color, a medium bodied and easy to drink ale, mid-range on the hops and a malty character, though nothing bready and caramelized.  It’s 5.6% in alcohol, a little towards the higher end of average.

Now it is time to pour.



I find it more orange than red.  I now fear the hops for I can smell them in the pour, the strong northwest type.  Now I see a picture of hops on the bottle.  What does that portend?  I heard good things from my friend about this brewery; now the time has come to put the beer to the test.


I wait for the head to descend.  It is a nice creamy head, like frosting.  Another whiff of hops wafts up from the head.  It smells like I’m brewing my own batch, these hops are so pronounced.  It smells like a Sierra Nevada beer.  It tastes like a pale ale with a little more body.  The hops present in the nose are in this medium sized body but not like a terrible conqueror, just a simple visitor.  But the warmer it gets the more puckery the hops aftertaste becomes.

A couple of times it nearly comes across like a heavy brown ale.  The crystal malts made a swift, sweet appearance then ran away.  Almost a touch of cinnamon in there.  Naw, couldn’t be.



So, does this red (orange) pale ale make me want to run out and visit the Lumberyard?  Yes, duh!  I’m a brewer and a beer fan.  This is a ‘Zona brewery and I’m all for supporting local breweries (Flagstaff is as local as poor Kingman gets) unlike Mohave County or Mohave State Bank.   Anyway, let’s don’t go there.

Yes, the Red Ale is well made if not what I expected.  It’s simply an orange colored pale ale.  The Lumberyard also has a Belgian Style beer I’d love to try and I hope its closer to expectations than this one.


As noted above, I was listening to Tesla whilst imbibing.  It was Times Makin’ Changes.  I believe that the guys did a brilliant job on their cover of “Signs”.  Additionally, it seems that the gist of that song can apply to beer, too, no?  Do we really need to label beers by style?  Or does that just ‘block out the scenery’?

Smokin’ Malt




More Sam Adams this weekend.  My wife and I caugt up with some old friends and he’d just bought a Harvestpack and enjoyed a couple of beers from it.

My fave was this Rauchbier.  The smoked malt was well balanced; it was pronounced, tasting like charcoal or the burnt edges of a good ribeye, but complementary.  The hop bitterness and acridness of the smoke provided a fascinating blend of flavor.

Samuel Adams Octoberfest – One of Those Beers, the Kind that Turned Me Into a Beer Enthusiast

Yes, back in the day – almost fifteen years ago now – the great beer, Octoberfest, was introduced to me and I to it.  An old friend and I were in the mood for a marzen and we found the Sam Adams version and there was great rejoicing.  It’s a beautiful beer.  We used to have a big party two or three times a year wherein his family and ours and a couple of other would hang out, eat good food and drink beer.  Octoberfest was almost always on the menu if the party hit late in the year.

I think what I love about Octoberfest, and marzen’s in general, is how easy they are to drink.  They are like the ultimate beer style.  For example, Octoberfest does have hops – you can smell that noble green product hovering in the creamy head – but they don’t overpower or dominate the brew.  And Boston Beer has a penchant for hops.  The hops have found their place, they are the gorgeous backup singers in this band.

The roasted malts are sublimely balanced, they taste sweet, just slightly caramelized, a hint of their roasted nature.  The malts provide a medium body, not too thick, not too diluted.  The malts are the band here, a tight band, one that’s played together for years and understands the direction each are taking and they all contribute to the finished product.  The caramel malts help give it the brilliant red-amber glow.  Those Munich malts probably donated the bready aroma.   And they all pitched in for the yeast to provide an alcohol content of5.%.










Talk about a session beer, I think marzen’s are the best.  They don’t require strenuous thinking to dissect their discrete parts.  The beer doesn’t fill you up, it doesn’t assault you with alcohol.  It is everything a beer should be, refreshing, tasty, eminently sharable.  It’s my favorite Sam Adams beer.

I like Boston Beer Company more and more, too.  Now that the malignant Budweiser is no longer and American brewery, Boston Beer has taken over as the largest domestic brewery here.  At least, I believe that’s the case.  (If I am wrong, please, someone notify me).  It has waged war with the bigger breweries, never surrendering, always pressing forward, brewing with honor.  I’m gonna go drink another pint and read another book.

The Legend of Frankenmild

It was supposed to be a mild, my favorite homebrew recipe.  I’ve made it several times before and it’s always been spectacular.  But, thanks to Heisenberg, there is always the possibility of disaster lurking in every brew kettle.  It’s like this:  back in May of this year I had a long weekend and some time to make a couple of batches.   They were both all grain and I decided to do them both on the same day.

Witless was started first.  Once I started the boil on it and began mashing the mild.  It was then that I realized I didn’t have the ingredients I thought I had.  I had ordered some 2 row for base malt and I thought I had some leftover chocolate malt here.  But it turned out that I had a little chocolate, about eight ounces, and roasted barley (approximately twelve ounces).  Well, I was already committed so I just tossed everything I had left in the mash.  As the wit cooled I boiled the mild.  I hadn’t bothered to buy any Goldings for the mild as I had in the past.  I just used what was left from the wit, about an ounce of Saaz.  I’m not a big hops fan anyway.  But, the Goldings do a lend the proper character to a mild.  As the mild cooled I pitched and airlocked the wit and put it away.  Then I just waited on the mild to cool off enough and pitched the second half of the Trappist yeast.  I’d used it for the wit and instead of getting an English ale yeast I just used what I had on hand.

This was in May and during the next few weeks of fermenting and racking, the temperature was a little high.  Really, summer is not a good choice of seasons for brewing in Arizona.  Bottling the mild didn’t go very well either.  Sediment kept clogging the filler.  I didn’t even get to bottle the entire volume of beer.  And it was hot that day, too.  I held out hopes that all would turn out well.  The first couple of beers were okay.  But it denigrated from there.

At this point, everything was great.  Cool glass, nice bottle of homebrew, some easy reading waiting.    Alas, the first bottle was quite the gusher and I had to rush to the kitchen sink so I didn’t make a mess on the carpet.  This is the second bottle.  It started out decently …

It’s a pretty, dark brown with a creamy and yellow-ish head that starts thick but dissipates to a thin covering.  The beer is more murky than brilliant.  While there is no hops evident in the aroma there is a smoky, ashy, husky grain smell.  I’m guessing some of that comes from the roasted barley.  There’s also a plastic like smell, it reminded me of old Star Wars figures that had been left in the sun a little too long.  So, plastic and the charcoal husk of roasted barley and chocolate malt.  Nice.  Oh, yeah, it tastes off.  It’s phenolic and too carbonated.  And is that burnt marshmallow that I taste?  Possibly.

Well, it seems that my fermentation temperature was a tad high for this beer.  My sparge wasn’t the best (I really should not do two batches in one day) and I fear that some of the bottles weren’t as clean as they should have been.  Ah, well.

Like the good doctor in Mary Shelly‘s classic novel, I think I had a good idea, threw into the beer what should have been useful bits and then got to watch my monster go off.

The Better Chlaus

I had heard much about this legendary beer, Samichlaus.  It is brewed once a year by Castle Brewery Eggenberg in Austria.  I’d never had one until a few months ago when I happened to find a four pack at Bevmo in Phoenix.

And it is a wonderful beer.  Once more it is a brown, tea colored liquid.  It is thinner in body than the Angel’s Share that was recently written about here.  It has the body of, say, an amber.  To my delight, hops are not that evident.  There’s no aroma and they only slightly make their bitterness apparent in the taste, and that would be only if you seek them out.  

This would be a good aperitif, as it is extremely sweet.  Brandy and caramel dance in the mouth after a swallow.  The alcohol content is 14% so it would be good to have a belly full of good food before consuming this brilliant piece of brewing.  It’s creamy and sweet and delicious.