What is your Favorite Beer? The Ever-Changing Answer (and some Thanksgiving Recommendations)

It probably doesn’t come as any surprise to you that most people are not beer geeks. Nor are they connoisseurs. I however, make a point of letting those around me know that I am quite the geek, when it seems appropriate. The inevitable follow up question to that information? What’s your favorite beer?

I both receive and hear this question so often that I am forced to ponder its nature. From whence does this question emanate? I believe the question comes mostly from underexposure to the variety that craft beer has to offer. The breadth of style and flavor profile available to beer drinkers these days is truly astounding. When one is aware of this embarrassment of riches, calling any beer one’s absolute “favorite” begins to seem almost absurd.

Further, I consider beer a highly contextual beverage. My “favorite” beer at any given time is the result any number of factors. Let’s examine a few of those factors here.

Time of Day

Organized tastings and festivals aside, I’m usually going to drink a different beer at noon than I am at 9pm. That beer at noon will probably be with lunch. I’ll likely have things I’d like to accomplish later that day (other than getting intoxicated). Thus, my “lunch beer” will probably be something that hovers right around 5-6% ABV. Any more than that and I’ll have trouble accomplishing whatever happened to be my aim later in the day. In other words, I don’t often have Imperial Stouts with lunch.

However, if it’s later at night, or there isn’t anything particularly important on the docket, then I’ll dive into a bigger, higher ABV brew. The point is to taste enough different beers and educate your palate well enough that you can almost always find a desirable beer of either low or high gravity as befits a given situation.

Food

This is probably the biggest factor for me. Deep down, I am not just a beer geek, but a lover of food. For me, there is no greater pleasure than a perfect pairing of beer and food. The two elements cease to be individuals and coalesce into a whole that is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. One recent experience was Black Tuesday paired with Deep-Fried Chocolate-Drizzled Bacon at The Bruery’s Reserve Society Barrel Tasting. Holy effing hell. The tannin and drying alcohol in the beer balanced out the thick fattiness of the breading and the big chocolaty flavor in the beer was amped up by the drizzle on the bacon. It was basically an umami-gasm.

That taster of Black Tuesday was my favorite beer at that moment. Had I not had the tempura-battered morsel of amazing in my mouth as well, my favorite beer would have been something else. The food I’m eating has everything to do with the beer I’m drinking. I am searching for an experience, not just a bunch of flavors.

If I’m eating something spicy, I’ll generally opt for a slightly maltier, more bready beer. I know some love IPAs and other hoppy beer with spicy food, but I find that hops just exacerbate the heat of the food. I want a beer that mellows out the spice and allows other flavors to shine through.

If I’m sitting down to a weekend breakfast and having an omelet made with goat cheese, I’ll probably opt for a Hefeweizen. The banana and clove flavors generally mesh well with breakfast and the high carbonation of the style helps scrub the palate clean. Indeed, my beer choices and food choices are inextricably connected.

Weather

As far as beer goes, I’m not generally a slave to season since I live in a very temperate region, but there are certainly times when it affects my drinking preferences. I love to cozy up to a big Belgian Quadrupel when the temperature dips a bit. By contrast, there are few things more enjoyable than quaffing a well-made Belgian Blond or Kolsch after a long bike ride in high heat. My answer to the “favorite beer” question can depend heavily on how much I’m sweating.

Lastly, I think the notion of having a favorite anything can be incredibly limiting. When one proclaims something a favorite, the proclamation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. One thinks, “Well, this [blank] is my favorite beer, I have to drink it all the time.” Don’t get locked into that mentality. Taste lots of beer. Educate your palate. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to have a favorite beer in a given style. I’ll certainly concede that I have my favorite Imperial Stout(s) or Double IPA(s), and when I want something from either of those styles I know what to reach for. However, that’s about as tightly as I’m willing to cabin things.

When you’ve educated your palate, your favorites will not only be based in context, but I believe they will yield greater enjoyment. You will have a “favorite beer with beef stew” or a “favorite beer with pork tacos” or maybe even a “favorite beer with existential literature” (La Fin du Monde somehow seems appropriate). With beer as with most things, greater knowledge leads to greater enjoyment. There are few things more empowering than knowing and having access to exactly what you’re in the mood for. So get to learning. In this case that means drinking a lot of different beer, what more incentive do you need?

Turkey Day Recommendations

I didn’t want to do an entire post on Thanksgiving pairings since it’s a topic that gets beaten to death every year, so I’ll give some pithy recommendations here.

With Dinner

A saison is always a winner. They pair well with nearly everything. They are easily palatable to wine drinkers and they have enough carbonation to scrub the palate clean of all those dense Thanksgiving flavors.

A true fruit lambic or other fruit-forward sour beer like La Folie (not the Acesulfame-K sweetened Lindeman’s garbage) can also be a treat. The acidity can stand up to the richness of the meal and will cut nicely through the fattier dishes while bringing out the sweetness in sides like cranberry sauce.

With Dessert

What do we usually have for dessert at Thanksgiving? Pie. Glorious Pie. With pumpkin pie, I’d favor something sturdy since the dish has so much spice and such a thick texture. A Belgian Strong Dark or Quadrupel like Chimay Grande Reserve or Rochefort 10 would do nicely.

With apple pie I’d take a different tack. Apple flavor in beer is usually a flaw but is acceptable in Tripels, which can also be nicely dry and spicy. A tripel would be the perfect compliment to the spice and sweet/sour mix of apple pie.

Lastly, my girlfriend makes an awesome blueberry pie. I’ve paired both gueuze and saison with it and had great success. Both styles have some nice underripe fruit notes that balance out the sweetness of the filling and also bring out some of that great tang from the blueberry skin.

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy!

Craft Beer: More Costly. Better Value.

When spending more makes sense.


To borrow from Sam Calagione’s business philosophy in Brewing Up a Business, it strikes me that education has to be a very large component of the expansion of the craft beer movement beyond the realm of the enthusiast. One reason that the consumer needs to be educated is because craft beer costs more, on average, than industrial commodity beer. If the consumer merely sees “Beer 1” and “Beer 2,” and Beer 2 is cheaper, then the rational decision is to buy Beer 2. Aside from price, the consumer doesn’t know the difference between the two products. Beer is just beer.

The craft beer community must continue its efforts at education in order to give the consumer a reason to buy Beer 1 where Beer 1 is the pricier craft beer and Beer 2 is the industrial commodity beer. The question then becomes what sort of education is necessary, or desirable. Now let me stop here and acknowledge the fact that there are plenty of people who will never be ardent craft beer drinkers. That’s fine. I don’t judge them negatively. If they like to drink Bud Light that’s their business. All I will do is kindly tell them that I think there is beer out there that is a better value, even if it costs more. If they choose to inquire further, then I am more than willing to explain myself.

Also, I will acknowledge that for some, beer is merely a means to a drunken end. That’s also fine. As long you don’t hurt anybody but yourself I couldn’t care less. I will however advise you that there are cheaper and more efficient means to reach your desired result (read: clear liquor).

I suppose craft beer education for me comes down to a single concept: value. Every effort at education must be geared towards letting the consumer know why craft beer is a better value even though it’s more costly, perhaps even because it’s more costly (two italicized words in one sentence, eek!).

Why do I find craft beer more valuable than industrial commodity beer? First, craft beer has personality. I don’t just mean the hop-related pun names or the label art or the fact that the beer is generally more flavorful. What I mean is that there are people behind craft beer, rather than mega-corporations whose main goal is to raise their stock price. Where craft beer is your local restaurant whose owner cares about the food coming out of the kitchen, industrial beer is McDonald’s, a faceless entity churning out low-cost, low-flavor food designed more to make money than it is to satiate. In other words, part of the value of craft beer is knowing that my dollar is going to a person who cares about what they make.

Another portion of the value quotient is enjoyment. As I said above, if your enjoyment is derived solely from getting blitzed, there are better ways to “enjoy” (and they’re cheaper too). However, if you care about the contents of your glass and want to drink something that not only slakes your thirst, but dazzles your tastebuds, craft beer, almost regardless of cost, is a higher value proposition. Here’s how I explain it. Let’s take a six-pack of Budweiser and a six-pack of Deschutes Black Butte Porter. Each sixer contains 72 ounces of beer and roughly the same amount of alcohol (making degree of possible intoxication a nullity as far as decision-making goes). Let’s say Bud is on sale for $4.99 a six-pack and Black Butte is going for $8.99. I’m buying Black Butte every time because I derive greater value from Black Butte.

I will not enjoy a single ounce of that Bud sixer. Thus, every cent of that $4.99 is flushed down the drain as far as I’m concerned. However, I am virtually guaranteed to enjoy every ounce of my $8.99 sixer of Black Butte. Thus, it is a much better value. Beer is a luxury, not a necessity. No one needs to buy beer to live. So, if you’re going to spend money on beer, shouldn’t your dollar go farther? If thirst-quenching is the motive, buy a soda. If getting drunk is your motive, buy hard liquor. However, if your goal is to truly enjoy the beverage in your glass (and maybe catch a little buzz, which I willingly admit is quite pleasant) then your money is better spent on craft beer than industrial beer.

“But Alex,” you say, “I can get twice as much Bud as I can Black Butte.” I say, you’re missing the point. When drinking a beer with full flavor, satisfaction can come in a few ounces, rather than a few bottles. Greater enjoyment of the beer itself makes the beer a better value and also argues for more moderate consumption.

Let’s say you agree with me that craft beer tastes better, but you still can’t justify the cost. I would answer that good ingredients, and more of them, cost more money. You don’t expect to pay the price of a gourmet burger at McD’s. And why not? Because the components of the burger are of a lower quality and the labor to make the burger was cheaper and McD’s has no ambience and no personality. The same is true of your beer. Industrial beer is often made with one of the cheapest commodities there is in America: corn. The government subsidizes corn production to the point where farmers have no choice but to grow it. Since the price is artificially depressed, it makes a great substitute for barley; that is, if you don’t really care what your beer tastes like and you’re merely trying to capitalize on economies of scale.

Craft beer on the other hand, makes a point of using the best ingredients. Craft brewers must take this approach in order to ensure that their beer tastes good, because they can’t compete on price. Do some of them use corn occasionally? Sure. But they do so because it helps them achieve a certain flavor, not because they want to produce their product as cheaply as possible. They also generally use a helluvalot more hops than industrial brewers. Hops are expensive, but they contribute oodles of flavor and aroma in the hands of a talented brewer. Craft beer thus justifies its cost many times over.

So you say you can’t afford craft beer all the time and you want some booze in your life. That’s fine. Grab a handle of vodka. Take a few shots. Problem solved. Way cheaper per ounce of alcohol than buying industrial beer. However, if you aim to truly enjoy the product in your glass (and catch a little buzz), then buy craft beer (or fine spirits, which I also enjoy; pick your poison). You’ll spend more money, but you’ll get a better value.

Local Intrigue

Russian River Redemption w/ Father’s Office Forest Mushroom Salad


Okay, I’ll admit it. I drink a lot of craft beer. I drink craft beer pretty much every day. I love craft beer. Oh wait, this is starting to sound like the “I am a Craft Beer Drinker” video. My apologies (shameless plug: I’m the first person in the video). One of the few things I love more than craft beer is pairing craft beer with great food. I often find such pairings in my own kitchen, but there are plenty of times when those pairings occur in local restaurants and gastropubs. I’ve decided that I’m going to share these experiences with you in a series of “when I feel like it” posts under the title “Local Intrigue.” Hopefully you live close by and can try them for yourselves. Perhaps you don’t live close by. It is my hope that these pairings will inspire you to find your own just the same. That said, let’s get to the meat of this post.

I live very close to Father’s Office (“FO”) in Santa Monica. It’s a little over a mile away. I can either bike or walk there very comfortably. It is little wonder then that I often find myself sampling their wares. Most folks go there for the burger. I will concede that it is a tasty morsel. However, it has a lot of huge flavors and can overwhelm any beverage that hangs on the subtler end of the flavor spectrum. The burger demands a big beer, something for which I am not always in the mood.

Enter the rest of the menu. It is my opinion (and that of several of my cohorts) that the rest of the food at FO outshines the burger. I found myself there on a Saturday afternoon, before heading into Library Alehouse for my shift, grabbing a beer or two. I always look for the seasonal dishes at FO, having already worked my way through the regular menu. This time, I found the Forest Mushroom Salad. It has greens, sautéed/caramelized mushrooms and onions, Niman Ranch bacon, Spanish chevre and basil vinaigrette. Once I saw “bacon” and “chevre” I knew I had to have it.

But what to pair it with? I found my muse in Russian River Redemption, a Belgian Blonde par excellence. It is dry, crackery and spicy. I thought it a perfect counterpoint.

RedemptionCropped

Boy was I right! When faced with the fairly rich likes of bacon, chevre and sautéed mushrooms and onions, I favor contrasting pairings. I like to cleanse the palate and ease the “weight” of the dish. I also thought the basil vinaigrette would be nice with the herbal/spicy character of the beer. The dry, crackery character of the beer cut through the fat of the dressing and bacon perfectly, pairing nicely with the tang from the cheese and easing the sweetness of the onion. The finish was pure harmony, the herbal character of the dressing and the greens augmenting the spicy hop character of the beer. It was twenty minutes of dining bliss. I highly recommend you get down there while both the dish and the beer are still available. If the beer isn’t, they also have locally-produced (they brew in Irvine, CA) Brouwerij West Belgian-Style Blond – 5, which is the only other Blond I’ve had that belongs in Redemption’s league. We’ve already carried Brouwerij West’s Blond at Library Alehouse. I can’t wait until we have it again. It pairs beautifully with the Ahi Burger, but more on that next time. What are some of the pairings you’ve found at your local beer haunts?

Desire for Variety vs. Brand Loyalty

What’s a bar to do?

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll concede that I decided not to write a second GABF post (hence the change in title of the first post). I had some interesting things to talk about, but I have limited time right now and this little op-ed post tickled my creative fancy.

Given my quasi-unique position as both a purveyor and drinker of craft beer, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon lately. There appears to be a tug-of-war between the “beer geek constantly on the prowl for a new taste experience” and the “person who just wants to drink good beer and sticks to what they already know they like” (wow, that was a mouthful).

As I see it, both groups of people are absolutely essential to the growth of craft beer. The beer geeks, though smaller in number, push brewers to try new things and extend the boundaries of what beer can be. The “people who want to drink good beer” ensure the sustained viability of the industry through their support of the core brands of successful breweries. The difficulty arises when the interests of one group necessarily infringe (for lack of a better term) on the interests of the other.

Here’s a for-instance:

Beer Bar A has a pretty consistent tap list. They might throw in a seasonal here or there, and have a couple rotating handles, but they carry the same beers most of the time. The regular beers are all good to excellent, but they don’t often change. Regular at Beer Bar A has one or two beers that he always orders there. He tried them the first time he came in a few years ago and has stuck to them since. It took a small leap of faith to even try those two and he doesn’t feel like confronting anew the fear of the unknown. Regular is typical of about half of Beer Bar A’s clientele (most of the rest being casual craft beer drinkers who will drink whatever is on so long as it’s good).

Given the beer geek desire for ever-rotating tap handles, Beer Bar A is missing out on a small, but potentially loyal and lucrative part of its possible consumer base. In an effort to pull in some beer geek business, Beer Bar A pulls off some its old standbys and throws on some new and exciting beers. Regular comes in and doesn’t see his one or two beers on tap anymore. He is afraid. He doesn’t know what to order. He considers leaving. What to do? Beer Bar A doesn’t want to lose the reliable business of Regular, but also doesn’t want to fall woefully behind the craft beer times.

A decade or so ago, this was a legitimate problem. The first craft beer bubble had burst (or was in the process of doing so) and the quality of much of the beer on the market was suspect at best. People had gotten into the brewing business purely for money, and the lack of passion was reflected in the product. The average consumer couldn’t be sure of what they would encounter when a new tap handle was thrown on the wall at the local watering hole.

These days however, especially in larger markets, quality is not a problem. The only problem is that there’s a whole lot of great beer out there and I can’t possibly drink all of it! I understand brand loyalty when it comes to one’s philosophical agreement with a brewery’s approach to production or marketing. However, staying loyal to a particular beer merely for fear of possibly drinking inferior beer can hardly be justified anymore. In fact, it can easily be argued that a fiercely loyal consumer is doing him or herself a serious disservice. If one is doggedly attached to a particular beer or brewery, one may be, and likely is, missing out on something they’ll like even more than their “favorite” beer.

Not only is better beer largely the rule rather than the exception these days, so too are bars who clearly care about the beer they serve. Such places are an equally important cog in the craft beer machine. The brewer can make an exquisite beer, but if it isn’t delivered fresh, at the right temperature, through clean lines and in a clean glass, then the consumer isn’t getting what they ordered. Luckily, with the availability of information these days, it is relatively easy to find out which bars care about their beer, if only you care to look or ask.

In other words, fear not the unknown. For if you find yourself at a better beer-dispensing establishment, and you decide to wade into unfamiliar waters you will likely find the temperature is just fine. If you trust the beer bar you’re patronizing, then that means you trust them to serve excellent beer. It also means that you trust them to train their staff to make recommendations based on your stated desires. It also means that you trust the bar to serve your beer properly. So, find a bar that cares and order a beer you’ve never had before. And don’t worry if your “regular” beer isn’t on tap. The well-trained server will be able to find you something you’ll like and maybe you’ll have a new “regular” beer.

Now, I consider myself a beer geek and spend a lot of time with others whom I also consider beer geeks. I like to think most of us have managed to strike a balance between a constant pursuit of new experience and loyalty to specific beers. It seems to me that the purpose of trying new beers is to find new “favorites.” When I try a new beer, and it’s truly excellent, it gets put into my mental catalogue of favorites. These are beers that I will drink whenever I see them at better beer-serving establishments (unless there’s something new on that I’m dying to try). I find comfort knowing that I can select exactly what I’m in the mood for, all but ensuring full satisfaction. I know enough different beers that cover enough different styles and flavors that I can find something I truly want to drink the majority of the time. If I can’t (I can’t always be at a beer bar), then there’s always bourbon. In other words, even beer geeks have favorites, but we have enough favorites that we don’t panic if one of them isn’t on tap.

I’m not suggesting that every consumer need be hell-bent as I on extreme palate education in order to enjoy themselves. What I am suggesting, is that there are enough passionate people brewing and serving beer that no consumer need worry about their “regular” beer being pulled off the tap wall. Most of the time, it’ll be replaced with something at least as good, if not better. Drink up!

Craft Beer is Awesome. Craft Beer People are Better: My Time at GABF 2010

If you’re reading this blog, it’s a fair bet that you’re familiar with craft beer’s burgeoning popularity. You know that, unlike in the late 1990s, the majority of new breweries, brewpubs and bars that are opening are doing so for the right reasons. Rather than trying to ride the hype train to the fast money station, they are truly passionate about their product.

Such passion means that while the quantity of craft beer has exploded in recent years, the quality has gone up as well. There is so much well made beer available to most consumers that it boggles the mind. I can go to my local Whole Foods and find any number of world-class beers. However, as great as craft beer is and continues to become, the people around craft beer are even better. They are what truly moves the needle for me.

First, I must give a huge thank you to my hosts in Denver: PJ (HERE and HERE) and Kell (HERE and HERE). I had the good fortune of visiting Denver and staying with these fine gentlemen once before GABF and their hospitality never ceases to amaze me. The best part is, they accept payment for lodging in epic beer. To all those planning a trip for the festival, I highly recommend visiting the city on an “off” week first. I also highly recommend finding a local who knows where to go.

Without my hosts I would likely have gone without visiting such local treasures as Biker Jim’s Gourmet Hot Dog Stand (the reindeer was outstanding), Rackhouse Pub (get some Stranahan’s and an order of mac ‘n’ cheese and you’ll be a happy camper) and the dangerously awesome Whiskey Bar ($9 for a healthy pour of 15-year Pappy, are you kidding me!?). In other words, if you happen to visit Denver outside of GABF, find my friends on twitter and let them enlighten you.

I’ll spare you any details about the festival itself as those have been covered (read: beaten to death) everywhere else on the web. I will however, point to you to PJ’s article about Thursday at GABF since our days were remarkably similar. I will also concur with PJ on the excellence that was the Farm to Table Pavilion. I was lucky enough to find a ticket to the pavilion on Friday night and it was easily the highlight of the festival for me. Combine the lack of drunk of people with beer illuminati and smoked mashed potatoes and I’ll leave the math to you.

Rather, my weekend really ramped up when I went to visit New Belgium on Friday morning with the folks from Harbor Distributing and several other members of the Los Angeles beer industry.

Upon arrival at New Belgium, we were led inside the brewery and given “Beer Geek” buttons, which we were told would be our tour passes. You can see the sweet button on the strap of my messenger bag below.

It is this type of touch that typifies craft beer people. We recognize in each other a childlike enthusiasm for the product. We aim to enjoy ourselves and encourage those around us to do the same. We are cheeky, fun-loving, and wonderfully geeky folk. I still have the button on my bag and I sincerely hope that people continue to ask me about it.

We were then led into the taproom, where we were invited to a full glass of the beer of our choice. Those who know me know that I get excited about sour beers. Sour beers that can’t be found in a bottle are all the more exciting. It was thus a natural that I have a glass (or three) of Tart Lychee. It’s basically New Belgium’s blonde sour beer, Felix (the dark sour is called Oscar, gotta love an “Odd Couple” reference) blended with lychee.

It was then that I received the most awesome safety glasses ever (picture below). Not only do they make you look like a different person, but sometimes that person is Harry Caray (ask Kell about that one, as his impression was a source of great mirth).

Then Eric Salazar came out to give us a tour of the place. You know, the same Eric whose name is on Eric’s Ale. We were enlightened about how ridiculously efficient and environmentally friendly the brewery is (read more here).

After we left the brewhouse, we got to the true geekery, the foeders. If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘foeder’, it’s basically a gigantic oaken vat in which one ages beer. In New Belgium’s case, the beers in the foeders are Oscar and Felix at various ages and flavor profiles. Of course, I (and several other members of my party) took the obligatory “I’m leaning on the foeder” photo:

We then received a tour of the bottling facility, which is very loud and just plain neat (see video below).

Then we were treated to more free beer (read: more Tart Lychee) and free gourmet snacks from the restaurant-quality kitchen at New Belgium. I’m talking fine cheeses, exotic desserts, charcuterie, etc. The whole place was basically beer geek Disneyland. If you’re every anywhere near Fort Collins, try to arrange a visit. It may not be as in-depth as the one I was fortunate enough to make, but I’m positive it will knock your socks off nonetheless.

Such places are, in my mind, truly indicative of the collective attitude of the craft beer community. It is just that, a community. There are no “employees” at New Belgium. Everybody who works there owns stock, so they are referred to as “Coworkers.” Every part of the brewery seems to have been infected with the collective enthusiasm of the staff and the beer geeks who visit the place. New Belgium clearly wants everyone to enjoy themselves and they want to share their joy (and beer) with everyone else because it brings happiness to those who experience it. Damn, I’ve gone and gotten sappy. So it goes. I’m talking about beer people, the most awesomest people in the world.

More Information. Smarter Consumers. Better Beer.

In this article, Budweiser is quoted as attempting to re-attract the under-30 crowd through the offer of free beer. They even have a catchy slogan: “Grab some Buds.” Perhaps this is meant to evoke a feeling of camaraderie in the consumer. It seems Bud wishes to create some sort of Pavlovian response which tells the drinker that it must be a good time with friends if one is drinking a Bud.

Foolish attempts at image marketing are something I’ve recently discussed at great length with close friends. Granted, these friends share a great number of my opinions, but they’re also very smart and are also members of the under-30 set (for the most part). We’ve come to an interesting consensus.

Those of us in the target age range have basically had the internet at our fingertips for our entire adult lives. Over that time, we have learned to use the internet as an informational resource. Further, we have learned to avoid the pitfalls of sourcing one’s information from the web. As a result of the availability of at least quasi-accurate information, our bullshit meters have gotten a lot more sensitive.

We look for products that appeal to us due to their quality and value, not due to the image their marketing projects. It is this writer’s opinion that this phenomenon stems largely from the fact that looking for such products is far easier than it used to be. I loathe the term “crowd-sourcing”, but it has allowed younger and older folk alike to find the opinions of like-minded people and base their purchasing decisions on those same opinions.

The availability of information also democratizes the marketplace to a higher degree. People need no longer be satisfied with the products thrust in front of them by ad men who work for the highest bidder. Easy information means it’s easy to find alternatives to mass-produced, mass-marketed, low-quality goods.

And so it is with beer. There are few industries that have used the internet more effectively to raise awareness than the craft beer industry. Just look at the Monster Energy fight with Rock Art Brewery a little while back. The beer geeks of the world rose up against a large corporation and beat them back with an e-stick. People are increasingly aware that there is something better than [insert industrial macro-lager here] because it is easier to tell them so and it is easier for them to find out.

Since more people know that there are vastly more flavorful and higher-value alternatives to products like Bud, Bud’s advertising has become increasingly more offensive to the intelligence of the under-30 consumer-with-disposable-income that they’re going after. When people are buying for taste and value, image matters less and less. While the ads are very clever and even enjoyable at times, they have become less effective at driving sales. Yet Budweiser continues to sell an image, rather than a product. And Budweiser market share continues to ebb, because people want to buy something from a producer that cares about what they make.

Nowhere is the difference more palpable than in beer. When one sips an artfully crafted beer such as Victory’s Prima Pils next to something like MGD, there is no contest. The former is clean, spicy, crackery and delightfully bitter. The latter tastes like carbonated urine (or at least what I imagine that would taste like). This comparison is precisely why I think Bud’s free beer “strategy” will ultimately fail.

Offering a free taste of something fundamentally untasty seems like a poor business decision to me. Just because you hand me stale bread for free doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly become hooked on it. I assume that is why Bud needed a snappy title such as “Grab some Buds” in order to sell the “event.” More and more people are finding out that, in terms of advertising and product quality, Bud and its ilk are the McDonald’s of beer. You drink it when you don’t care about flavor or quality. So here’s to Bud’s ad strategy continuing to fall flat on its face. Further, here’s to the internet providing easy self-education and thereby spreading greater consumer intelligence, higher-value products and allowing people to avoid a massive…