Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Budweiser American Ale rolls out next month: An interview with the brewer

By William Brand
Monday, July 28th, 2008 at 7:00 pm in Uncategorized.

Budweiser American Ale: 5.2 percent, 25-28 IBUs, mild taste.

Budweiser, America’s Ale.?

Hey…here’s a sodden thought (to copy the late, lamented Herb Caen, the San Francisco Chronicle columnist)…could this ale coming from Anheuser-Busch in September truly become America’s ale, just like Bass Pale Ale or Courage Directors in the UK, a mild, amber companion to Budweiser, the American Lager?

Just got off the phone a short time ago with Eric Beck, the A-B staff brewmaster in charge of the project. Bare bones: The beer’s an amber ale, 5.2 percent ABV. IBUs (International Bitterness Units) 25 to 28. It’s made with two row pale barley and caramel malt. Bittering hops are Palisade, aroma hops spicy Saaz and Willamettes and piney, citrusy Cascades. It’s also dry hopped with Cascades. Every ingredient is American. No foreign ingredients.
It’s going to be released nationally in kegs on Sept. 15 and in bottles on Sept. 29. A national advertising campaign begins the last week of the Olympics, A-B says.

Why Budweiser, the American ale? “Marketing did a bunch of research,” Beck says. “Obviously craft beer has been doing phenomenally well. But there seems to be a gap as far as a national brand. There are a number of regionals, but no truly national ale,” he says.

Hmm. I actually think that Sierra Nevada Pale Ale may already have the title. It’s become ubiquitous in the damnedest places, like Omaha Nebraska and Chicago. However, Sierra Nevada still doesn’t sell in the millions of barrels, does it. And of course, even Sierra Nevada, the number two craft brewer after Sam Adams, doesn’t begin to have the advertising clout of A-B. And we all know that advertising sells Budweiser, so why not Budweiser American Ale.

What does the beer taste like? Don’t know. “This is not an IPA,” Beck says. “People who are die-hard craft beer drinkers may not prefer it. We’ve produced something that is more mild; it’s not loaded with hops. It’s an easy drinkable beer,” Beck says.

They brewed the beer with a variety of different ale yeasts before choosing a winner, he adds. With ales, compared to lager strains, an ale yeast is more important in the beer. A-B didn’t want a ton of esters, the component of ales that taste like ripe fruit. They also didn’t want a yeast the produce an overly sweet beer, Beck says. Budweiser American Ale’s been in development for a long time, Beck adds. In trials, the beer was brewed with seven different hops in various combinations.

Initially, it will be brewed in St. Louis and at the A-B plant in Fort Collins, Colo.

And what about the influence of InBev, which has won agreement from the A-B board to buy the company. That’s management, Beck says. He’s a brewer. Got a hunch that brewers will still be welcome at the merged company.

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  • easong

    Doubt I will live long enough to see a drinkable ale with the Bud name on it. 28 IBU is what I brush my teeth with, not what I drink. Maybe it will catch on with the younger set now that Zima is getting harder to find.

  • Chris

    This beer will be popular. Why? Because Americans love nothing more than to be told what to do. Sheep follow the herd. I like how they are brewing it in Fort Collins. Like they will be able to let off better aromas than New Belgium or ODell’s!

  • William Brand

    A-B uses Fort Collins for a lot of their experimental beers. Not sure why?

  • Mario (Brewed For Thought)

    In A-B news, their new Michelob beers will be hitting the streets in early September. A Pale Ale and a Dunkel Weisse. I’m intrigued because they let Michelob loose to brew as they please last year and thisis the first fruits of that new freedom.

  • Dick Adams

    Alas the brewer of “The Great American Swill” is attempting to appear legit. But I will be fair and if the price is right, I’ll buy a six pack or have a draught before condemning it.

    After all Coors (which is devoid of flavor) makes Killian’s which is acceptable as a session beer. So Bud may make something worthwhile.

  • Mike Robinson

    I’m pleased to see AB putting their own name on the product instead of making up another phony Brewery and pretending they didn’t make it. Let’s face it. The company has the ability to make some of the greatest beers in the world and make them consistently. I think that by taking credit it avoids the backlash associated with faking it. As far as this beer it sounds like a Redhook/Sam/Widmer to me. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Redhook and Widmer making it for them too. A good crossover beer I suppose which is what all these companies are really after. Nothing too extreme. The idea is to sell a lot of beer and make money for the shareholders. The masses don’t drink extreme beer. My 2 cents.

  • William Brand

    Good comments Mike. I’ve tried a number of A-B clones over the years. This one is decent. A nice amber, but certainly no Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. A good idea might be a blind pasting, Droptop Amber from Widmer, ESB from Redhook and a couple of good craft beer ambers. I happen to really like Marin Brewing’s Amber and of course, Red Tail Ale.

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  • B. A. Plectrist

    It’s truly sad when the term “craft beer” becomes synonymous with high hop content, as the A-B brewer seems to be suggesting. There are other dimensions to beer and a pale ale with a mid-20s IBU rating may well have a lot of flavor. I haven’t had a b-w in over 20 years but I look forward to tasting this new ale. (And no one is telling me to do it.) There’s a *lot* of mediocre “craft” beer out there, too, don’t forget, so being a small brewer doesn’t by itself imply legitimacy.

  • Matthew

    Fuck budweiser, way to rip off Red Hook ESB. I bet it doesn’t compare.

  • William Brand

    Wow Matthew. I never thought of that. Wonder how close the formulas are. Bud Ale is more of an amber beer, not so hoppy, not so strong as Red Hook ESB. Of course, in my opinion, Red Hook has been dumbed down considerably in recent years.

    A few years ago, they released a bottling of the original Red Hook ESB from back in the 2980s. It was dark, very chewy,lots of malt. I really liked it. There was no comparison to the current version, which is cleaner and probably has a longer shelf life. But blah.