By now, most of you have seen Budweiser’s Super Bowl commercial, marketing to beer drinkers who enjoy beer that is “brewed the hard way.”
The commercial, I think, is really good. I mean, who doesn’t get excited about Beechwood getting chopped, Clydesdales running free, and cold bottles of beer being served to fun, everyday people “who like to drink beer”? Throw in a stadium-rock instrumental overlaid by some in-your-faceisms and you have a commercial that is as enjoyable to watch as, well, drinking a cold beer. Yet while the commercial mastered its appeal to its hard-working, America-loving, get-your-drink-on clientele, it purposefully slighted those kind folks who don’t drink Budweiser at all: people who actually like good beer.
In the commercial, these folks are portrayed as snooty, beer-sipping, out-of-touch hipsters who would rather dissect and fuss over beer than just guzzle it down. And the portrayal is not unfair. We craft beer drinkers have become an odd sort, a very different kind of beer drinker than the one who has committed to macro brews and their brands. The differences between how these two camps consume beer are so stark that it is comical. But after watching the commercial and recognizing the fact that less than 10% of beer sales in America are craft beer, I get the feeling it is really the craft beer drinker who is being laughed at. And like at a middle school dance when the big bully has just made fun of you and everyone is laughing, you either take it and go sip on some Coke alone or you reply with an equally witty retort and go dance with the pretty girls. Well I’m no Coke sipper. I’m a beer drinker.
First and foremost, I enjoy the flavor of beer. Just like I enjoy the flavor of a good steak, or pizza, or ribs. I don’t say things like, “these ribs are excellently warm” or “the steak is pretty good right at the moment I’m not chewing it anymore.” A cool, crisp finish is great but I can get that with damn Fresca. And once you’ve had a damn Fresca, life gets a little bit better when you have Dom Perignon. When presented with the two you sure as crap don’t want to go back to Fresca again. So, when you have a really excellent beer that tastes like all the other things you love like chocolate and melon and fresh bread, being offered “golden suds” suddenly sounds like “urine-filled bubble bath water.”
Budweiser brews beer “the hard way” and “not to be fussed over.” I don’t fuss over beer, but is it so wrong to talk about while drinking it? What if granny makes a delicious chili con carne? We’d probably say things like, “Yum Granny, how did you make this here con carne? What ingredients did you use?” Or do we blow through her chili like it’s an afterthought and say things like, “Granny, did you make this the hard way? I hope you’ve been chopping wood all day and cooked this slowly over a log fire. If you can tell me you really sweat for this chili, I’d be inclined to go for seconds.” Of course we don’t say that, because it’s ignorant and rude. We like things that taste good and want to know why they taste good. If a lumberjack and a welder were involved in the brewing of my beer that’s fine, but I doubt they made significant contributions to its flavor.
We have to also address the implication made that sniffing beer is pretentious. Generally, if you want to taste something, you have to use your nose. Aromas received by the nose account for 50 percent of taste. It’s science. So when I sniff my beer, I’m not trying to look clever. I’m just trying to fully appreciate the wonder of this amazing libation. I mean, do you get how incredible beer is? It’s water cooked with barley and hops that is placed in bacteria for a period a time only to magically become a delectable elixir that makes our bodies happy. Four ingredients, from flavorless to dull to harsh to disgusting, are combined to create a carbonated, flavorful drink that—but by the grace of God—really should not happen.
Perhaps I’ve made my case for the craft brew contingent among us, but today I stand for all beer drinkers. If you like craft brew, we will sniff and swish it together and discuss things like ideal head retention and alpha acid dry hopping. If you prefer the macros, we will pop the top, have a nice swig, and simultaneously say “ahhhhh.” Because when it comes to beer, it shouldn’t divide us.
It should bring us together.