Tasting: June 4 – 5, 2013
Style: Lager, Fruit
Beer #:468, 469 & 470
Craft or Crafty
Anheuser Busch (InBev) and Miller Coors account for about 80% of all the beer consumed in the United States. In 2011, Anheuser Busch led the way with 49%, followed by Miller Coors at 29%. Sales of their labels are sagging while sales in the craft beer segment are soaring. Don’t think that they haven’t noticed and want to muscle their way into this highly profitable segment. AB InBev bought out craft beer legend Goose Island last year and Miller Coors formed Tenth & Blake and slid Henry Weinhardt’s, Leinenkugel’s and Batch 19 under the umbrella. I read a story yesterday that larger craft brewers are suspicious of firms that have offered money for capital.
The mega-brewery entry in the craft beer segment has angered quite a few small brewers and the new mantra “craft or crafty” is heard throughout the craft beer community. Artisan brewers bemoan that the giants are acting more like wolves in sheep’s clothing and trying to sell unimaginative beer under what appears to be craft beer labels. Usually one of the more outspoken figures in craft beer is Greg Koch, CEO and co-founder of Stone Brewing Company and recently, Koch said, “Craft brewers are creative. We don’t follow trends — we create them. We specifically went against the mass-homogenized, corporatized business model. When that very empire, the multinational conglomerate, starts giving the impression to unsuspecting consumers that they’re a part of our world, of course that’s offensive”.
Although I can see Koch’s point and can see the risks involved. At one time, the craft beer attitude was that rising tides lifts all boats. To me, craft brewers certainly don’t have the resources to spend on promotion and if the ads promoting “crafty” beers like Henry Weinhardt’s pushes the beer zombies into trying something new – it could be a gateway to the rungs of quality above.
Here’s a sampling from the “crafty” giants.
First up is AB InBev (Anheuser Busch or Budweiser to you and I) Budweiser Black Crown. The first thing I notice on the label right at the top is that this beer is 6.0% ABV. A modest uptick from the 5.0% standard Budweiser. According to their website this beer is a result of consumer feedback. This one doesn’t stray far from their original audience, but certainly doesn’t go far enough to attract craft beer attention. Very light in flavor. Still has that signature funky mix of yeast, off bitterness and crackerish grain. I’ll put it at 67 points.
While Budweiser Black Crown does not disguise its Budweiser connection, my second sampling is a stealth AB InBev entry – Shock Top. A wheat-based Belgian-styled beer, this one adds cider, spice and honeycrisp apple flavoring. Cloudy and light with a sweet bubblegum nose. Mouthfeel is fizzy. The apple flavor is phony, overpowering and leaves a foul aftertaste – plasticky. Can’t wait to pour this down the drain – 59 points
Last of the trio is Henry Weinhardt’s Private Reserve. This brewery dates back to the 1850’s in the pacific northwest. They tried to rebrand as a quality craft beer but failed and the brand is now part of the Tenth and Blake stable operated by Miller Coors. They note the hops are from the latitude designation the 44th parallel, Hops grow in Oregon, cherries grow in Michigan and grapes grow in Burgundy all along the 44th parallel. Only 4.8% ABV and a mild IBU of just 15. Pours a straw color with flavors of funky yeast, biscuity grains, off-sweetness and funky finish. Easily distinguishable as a craft beer poser – 62 points.