Tuesday, May 16, 2006


I visited the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Merrimack, NH on Saturday afternoon. Now I know what you're thinking, and yes, I despise the Budweiser family and everything they stand for, namely using marketing to dominate the market and distract the public from the overwhelming mediocrity of their products. But since I'm a beer fan, I thought I'd go see how the "other half lives" (which is a true statement, since half of all beer sold in the US is made by A-B). Plus, it was raining like a bitch, and at the end of the free tour you can sample two 12 ounce beers of your choosing in the "lounge". Why not?

While on the tour, I learned a few interesting things about the evil A-B empire:

• They account for 50% of all beer sales in the USA
• Bud Light is the #1 beer in the world, Budweiser #2
• They have bottling machines capable of filling 1200 bottles a minute (holy crap!)
• Of the 12 American bottling plants, this was the smallest in size; regardless, the bottling floor itself covers 7 acres
• The strips of beechwood that they use during manufacturing does nothing to the flavor or color of the beer, it merely absorbs the yeast (making "beechwood aged" another useless advertising claim)
• Beer pasteurization began long before the process was used on milk
• Clydesdale horses are freaking huge, a fitting mascot for a huge company determined to trample its competitors

Perusing their vast product line, you realize that that the "King Of Beers" is the only original thing they've ever created--and that was nearly 150 years ago. Besides the usual suspects, which are essentially the same beer with varying amounts of water added, everything else that they produce is merely a knockoff of another major brand: the green-bottled Anheuser World Lager is trying to copy Heineken, Michelob Amber Bock wishes it was a Sam Adams brew, Tequiza is a clear bottled Corona copycat, and they even have something called 180°, which is a Red Bull rip-off in the exact same size can, no less. It's pretty insidious when you think about it, as if they're hoping people will accidentally pick their product because it sort of looks and tastes the same, and since it's always cheaper they may stick with it. In a way, they're like an aging drug company that's made a load of money mass-producing aspirin since the beginning of time, but has also decided that they want a piece of the generic market, and randomly starts copying popular drugs and undercutting the competition.

Barely Noticable StoutBut most shockingly, they've even attempted to replicate Guinness. Good God, what is this world coming to? Bare Knuckle Stout is their version of the famous Irish brew, and while they've got the color right, and it does cascade down the glass to produce a frothy cream colored head, it's got no taste whatsoever. It's bland and watery, with none of the roasted chocolate malt flavors of the originator--in other words, exactly what I expected from A-B. You could call it "Barely Noticable Stout". But hey, at least the marketing materials are top-notch, consisting of a cool looking tap and a boxing ring bell both with a bare knuckle fighter logo on it (again, suggesting ever-so-subtly that they're trying to knockout their challengers). They've even "repurposed" the black and tan calling it an "Irish American", which consists of Bare Knuckle Stout and Budweiser. Ugh. (Interestingly, the website claims that Rainbow Grill in Pomona sells this stuff. Yeah, that's fitting in a way.)

In other words, the monolithic Anheuser-Busch monarchy is not happy just producing millions of bottles an hour and being the biggest beer producer on the planet (even becoming an official sponsor of the 2006 World Cup and selling their swill in *GASP* Germany); they also want to eliminate the competition by giving you a cheaper, blander alternative to EVERYTHING. I've got an idea for the Anheuser and Busch families: just stick to what you know, mainly churning out unoffensive, uninspiring, watered-down, crap beer for the masses, and let the microbrews take care of themselves. You already make more than enough money ($5.5 billion in gross profits in 2005).

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