The long-awaited Budweiser American Ale is finally in my glass, after some of the same delivery problems Uncle Jack had (with the weird result that I didn't get the first shipment, but then got two more instead of one; it's okay, I'm sharing).
How about it? It’s bright and clear, it’s a deep ruddy amber, the foam is creamy and light parchment-colored. I smell sweet fresh malt, some caramel, and piney hop. The flavor has all that, in fact, it delivers on the aroma in an almost one-to-one ratio, although the caramel masks the hops to a degree. The ale is not overly full in the mouth, somewhat on the light side, but that’s not really a surprise; A-B was surely intending this as a drinking beer, not a sipper. The biggest surprise for me here is the finish: it’s relatively long, and bitter.
Passing it around here at Tucquan (I wrote this while rusticating on the Susquehanna again, no trip to Conestoga this time) gets some interesting reactions. "Oh, that’s good. I could drink that!" (from Cathy, who’s pretty demanding on beer, but does like a nice pale ale) "That doesn’t taste like beer, that tastes like rye bread!" (my mother, who’s currently drinking a Reading (which, bless her, she insists on calling "Old Reading"), so I’ll take that as a positive), and "It’s not that hoppy" (Uncle Don, who’s drinking Coors Light, but has had many a craft and import with me).
Don’s right, it’s not that hoppy…but for something with "Budweiser" on the label, it’s plenty hoppy. More importantly, for a pale ale, it’s fine, easily as hoppy as SNPA. Actually, turns out it's not...quite. It's about 28 IBU, SNPA is about 32-34. I'd call that ballpark, though.
Interesting to note two things. One, the cap is a pry-off, not a twist-off. A-B has noted that the craft market doesn’t trust twist-off caps. Two, the label is damned near unreadable on that dark red-ochre background. Intentional? Or a rare screw-up?
I had a bottle of Michelob Pale Ale sent to me last week as well, so I decided to do a side-by side. It was revealing.
Not sure, but I think this is another tweak on this beer, which has been around in one form or another, in varying markets, since the mid-1990s. It’s quite a bit lighter that the Bud Ale, more a reddish gold. The nose is restrained (i.e., there ain’t much), mostly a light piney Cascades aroma. It’s fairly creamy with malt, the hop comes through with a brittle edge, and it finishes up quite clean, with a lingering bitterness.
Side-by side? Clearly two different beers. The Bud’s caramel malt gives it a much heavier mouthfeel than the Michelob’s pale malt, while the hoppy edge of the Mich makes it cleaner, crisper. And no, I cannot believe I’m writing those words: "Bud’s caramel malt…much heavier mouthfeel…hoppy edge of the Mich…"
The question for both these beers remains the same as it has for over ten years. Can a beer that is brewed in a "craft" profile, but labeled with a mainstream brand…ever sell? Who’s going to buy it? Bud drinkers? To be blunt: not effin’ likely. Craft drinkers? Maybe, but most of them will not want to buy a beer from A-B (or InBev, for that matter). Sorry, guys, but for the majority of serious craft drinkers, who makes the beer is as important (or more so) as what the beer tastes like. Crossover drinkers? Maybe. If we could ever get a solid number on just how many people who regularly drink Blue Moon know it’s a MolsonCoors product…I could give you a better answer.