Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Truth Telling Time for Bud

By William Brand
Monday, June 19th, 2006 at 9:32 pm in Uncategorized.

I finally tracked down a delightful (from my point of view) article that appeared on Page One of the Wall Street Journal. on back on April 26, 2006. The headline and decks say it all:

“After Making Beer Ever Lighter,
Anheuser Faces a New Palate

“Seeking Mass Appeal,
Brewer For Years
Cut Bitterness;
Now Drinkers Want More”

In summary, the lengthy article, written by Sarah Ellison, starts out in the corporate tasting room of Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, with a quote from A-B chairman August Busch III, explaining that the company routinely freezes samples of Budweiser at temperatures approaching absolute zero. Occasionally old Bud’s thawed out and compared with today’s Bud.

“We want to be damn sure we would have the same beer 20 years down the road,” the Journal quotes Busch as saying.

August Busch III

But, the Journal reports, the difference between the Bud from 1982 and the Bud from today is distinct.

“The bones are the same. It is the same structure,” the Journal says quoting A-B head brewer Doug Muhleman. Overall, however, “the beers have gotten a little less bitter.” the Journal said, quoting Muhleman. However, with sales skidding and profits dropping, A-B is apparently reversing course, the Journal says. The article reports A-B in 2003 told hop growers it was going to increase the amount of hops in its beers.

Anheuser-Buscher head brewer
Doug Muhleman

If you’re into the big business side of beer, Miller apparently has been making whoopee with the Journal article, mailing it to media around the country, telling them Miller has more bitterness. Ho hum.

Personally, here’s the nut graph in the Journal article:

After World War II “as regional varieties gave way to national brands, companies embraced soft-edged, broadly appealing formulas, which gradually lightened products from cigarettes to bread. It was a winning strategy that created success stories such a ranch dressing, Maxwell House coffee and Kraft Cheese…” Add beer to that. All the big brewers did the same thing, and the forumla worked well for decades.”

But, as you and I know, tastes change, or more accurately, as America has matured, we Americans have discovered taste: We’re embracing real bread, real cheese and beer with real taste.

Here’s my prediction: Budweiser is going to become more full flavored, a lot more hops, a lot more malt. This is going to happen slowly, over time, but it will happen. It has to and in the end we’re all going to be winners. Nuf said.

Comments? E-mail me at and I’ll print them. b.

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