Tag Archives: AB-InBev

Friday Linkage 7/26/2019

The heat and humidity finally broke here in eastern Iowa this week and we got to open the windows.  Okay, we opened the windows in our house but it seems like everyone else still has their air conditioning running full blast.  Naturally, this includes my neighbors who run their air conditioning even when it is sixty degrees outside.  It must be an ice box inside that house.

These are the same neighbors who complain about their high electricity bill.  So it also makes sense that these same neighbors would install a hot tub.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, says high electricity costs quite like a hot tub.

On to the links…

American Green—If there is one thing that I wish people would do it is that they stop obsessing—in terms of both time and money—about the lawns surrounding their homes.  Who cares if a stray dandelion shows up or some clover has established itself?  Who cares it some spots start to brown out when the mercury hits 90 degrees?

New York Just Passed the Most Ambitious Climate Target in the Country—There is no climate leadership at the federal level, so it falls to cities and states to move things forward.  Luckily, the states most likely to move forward also happen to be home to a lot of people and a lot of economic activity.

Refinery Explosions Raise New Warnings About Deadly Chemical—If a Tesla or other electric vehicle catches fire there is sure to be a whole raft of coverage.  If a normal ICE car bursts into flames or an oil refinery explodes there is little coverage.  Never mind the potential of a truly catastrophic incident at an oil refinery.

It’s Just Good Business: Even Red States Are Dumping Coal for Solar—I think that this needs to be the response for anyone who gets asked a question about solar power.  It’s just good business.

Waste Only: How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World—Plastic is bad.  It may be a necessary evil in some applications, but limiting the use of plastics is the ultimate goal.

Cigarette Butts are the Most Pervasive Man-Made Pollutant—My late father, a former smoker who quit in his thirties, hated cigarette butts with a passion and had a more hot burning hate for the people who threw their cigarette butts about with abandon.  His whole theory was that cigarettes with filters should be banned, all cigarettes should be called coffin nails, and the package should say “Smoke More, Die Younger.”

10 Ways the Bicycle Moved Us Forward—The bicycle is a humble solution to a lot of problems.  As we design ever more complex solutions to our problems we need to remember that easier solutions exist.

In Madrid, a Car Ban Proves Stronger Than Partisan Politics—I know it will come as a shock to most right wing reactionaries, especially the ones on Fox News who want to cover themselves in a cologne called Fossil Fuel Funk, but people actually like living in places where cars are not valued over people.  Remember, in most modern offices your car will be allotted more space in the parking lot than you will be inside the building.

How ‘Corn Sweat’ Makes Summer Days More Humid—If you live in Iowa during the summer you understand this phenomenon all too well.  The humid haze that rises from the endless fields of tall corn in July and August is like an oppressive ghost moving through the landscape.  Maybe I spend too much time cycling along these same fields in the heat.

Dunkin’ Adds Beyond Meat’s Sausage to its Menu, Starting in New York—Are we turning the corner into a world where renewable energy is the cheapest source of electricity, people actually care about the climate, and non-meat alternatives are commonplace?  I sure know that non-meat alternatives seem to be everywhere.

Can You Taste the Difference Between Plant-Based Meat and Beef? Burger King Sweden is Betting No.—This is what the people behind calling plant protein “meat” in Arkansas are worried about.  Okay, their actually being funded by a locally powerful meat industry to take this fight on but their paymasters fear this outcome.

Has Wine Gone Bad?—When reading Napa at Last Light by James Conaway I was struck by some critiques of wineries for the total lack of environmental consideration.  The gist was basically that if anyone actually knew just how much of a bad actor the wine industry was in California it would cripple the industry’s marketing efforts.

The Budweiser Beer Empire was Built on Debt. Now it’s Racing to Pay it Off—Geez, I cannot imagine how building an empire through acquisitions fueled by debt could ever go wrong?

The Death of “Middle Craft” Beer

American craft brewing legend Dogfish Head Brewery, the mad geniuses from Delaware, sold to Boston Beer, the parent company that brews Sam Adams Boston Lager among many other beers.  Neither brewery should be considered a micro-brewery, but neither is a macro-brewery.  They both exist in some kind of middle ground.  Being in that middle ground may mean death or consolidation going forward.

Apparently, the top 50 craft brewers are having trouble with many posting severe year-over-year declines.  These are the craft brewers that I would define as “middle craft.”  The challenge for these breweries is giving you the beer drinker a reason to try them over, say, a handful of hyper local breweries that may only sell products from their own taproom or a few commercial accounts.

In the past—okay, the 1990s—middle craft was the place to be as beer drinkers sought out different beers and the quality control at a lot of craft breweries was just bad.  I cannot tell you how many small breweries were making beer that would make most semi-skilled home brewers spit out their stout.  You sought out a New Belgium Fat Tire or Boulevard Wheat because those were well made beers from breweries you trusted.  You knew you were not going to waste $8 on a six pack.  Heck, you might even pick up something a little unusual from the same brewery when you were in the mood for a change.

That dynamic is long gone.  Award winning breweries are scattered across this nation.  Between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City I can patronize a half dozen breweries putting out good and sometimes great beer.  Those same breweries have won medals at prestigious beer festivals and have reputations well beyond the borders of the state.  Expanding my field of view to the entire state opens up a whole host of small, innovative, and well regarded breweries making all sorts of different beers.  If you do not believe me just spend a minute perusing the tap list at the Iowa Taproom in Des Moines.

All things being equal, why would I buy a New Belgium Citradelic over a Lion Bridge Brewing Tag?  Or, why would I buy a Dale’s Pale Ale over a Big Grover Brewery Arms Race?  I like all four of the aforementioned beers.  I choose to buy the local products almost every time.

This is the reality for the beer business in 2019.

Friday Linkage 9/18/2015

Tom Brady supports Donald Trump. Peyton Manning is starring on the field as a weaker armed version of the Hall of Fame quarterback. Jay Cutler is doing Jay Cutler things again in Chicago. You could say that I spent some time this last week watching football and just plain zoning out. Go Hawks!

On to the links…

How Much Of Your Retirement Fund Is Tied Up In Fossil Fuels? Now, You Can Find Out.—A person’s 401k will be one of the two largest investments in a portfolio, with a home being the only competitor. How much of that money is going to support fossil fuel interests?

Half Of California’s Electricity Will Come From Renewable Energy In 15 Years—California passed a major climate change related bill recently. Although it was watered down by fossil fuel interests at the last minute there is still a lot of good things in the legislation.

A Third American City Is Now Running Entirely On Renewable Energy—It is still one the most pretentious ski towns in the world—go Steamboat Springs!—but it is now 100% fueled by renewables. There is a lot of marketing involved in the effort, but it is commendable nonetheless.

Meet the New National Geographic and Weep—The same people who bring you the sheer horror that is Fox & Friends will be the same people who publish one of the most amazing magazines in world history. Rupert Murdoch ruins everything that he touches and National Geographic will be no different.

AB InBev plans takeover bid for SABMiller—You want to talk about mega-merger. This is it. Nine of the world’s twenty largest breweries would be controlled by a single entity. Now, a lot of that volume would be made up of junk macro beer that has seen flat to declining sales for the past decade. So, maybe this is a doubling down on a losing bet hoping for a nag to come through.

National Grid CEO: Large Power Stations For Baseload Power Is Outdated—The distributed model—think the internet—has supplanted the traditional centralized model of most industries save for electrical power generation.

Siemens Looks Toward Next-Generation 10–20 MW Wind Turbines—Think about a 10 to 20 MW wind turbine for a moment. At the mid-range it could be the equivalent of 10 GE 1.5 MW turbines that dot the American landscape. Wow!

The Palm Oil Plantations Powering Communities and Tackling Climate Change—Why aren’t all large scale agricultural operations taking such a holistic approach to their energy use and lifecycle? The number that got me was reducing the diesel use from 2.8 million liters per year to under 500,000 liters per year.

10 Ways to Get Rid of That Awful Smell in Your Kitchen Sink—If you cook a lot in your home you are quite familiar with the strange odors that can come from the disposal drain in the kitchen sink. I use a combination of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid soap and hot water. It takes care of any funk lickety split.

8 Things to Never Bring into Your Home—We are always looking for those quick hit things to make our homes a little bit greener. Here are eight easy things to avoid.

25 Things you Should Start Adding to your Compost Pile—How many of these things do you throw away that could be put into the compost?

This Southern State Made A Big Commitment To Start Teaching About Climate Change—Welcome to the modern age Alabama. Roll tide!

These Two Genius Tricks to Improve School Food Have Nothing to Do With What’s for Lunch—Simple and cost effective. These are the changes that we can make on the local level that will really impact our children’s lives.

Bush Signature Copper Lager

During my childhood there were two consistent beer memes. One was the whole “Great taste, less filling” battle of Miller Lite. The second was the tag line “Head for the mountains of Busch…beer.” If you were a child of the 1980s you know what I am talking about.

Busch moved from being a fond childhood memory to the beer du jour of my college days. We did not drink Natural Light or Keystone Light. Nope, my house was a Busch Light house. Keg after keg of Busch Light came in through the back door and served up ice cold to all comers. The almost non-existent flavor of that beer is still in the back of my throat.

Since then I have grown up and abandoned the drinking habits of an 18 to 22 year old college male. Imagine my surprise when I saw that AB InBev was releasing the first new beer in a long time under the Busch brand name, Busch Signature Copper Lager:

Copper Lager

You may not have seen this beer yet because it was initially rolled out in 12 Midwestern states that probably correlate quite nicely to the markets that quaff high quantities of the mainline Busch products.

Regular Busch and Busch Light clock in at 4.3% and 4.1% ABV respectively, while Signature Copper Lager comes in at 5.7%. This is a decent jump from Busch Light and will probably end up kicking some fool in the rear who is used to drinking can after can of the nearly water beer.

The primary difference, save for the alcohol increase, is the addition of copper malts to the brewing process, hence the name. The extra malt in the body of the beer does enough to support the extra alcohol and the beer drinks really easily. Actually, it drinks really easy and would be a great beer for a tailgate when you need beer that is in cans and you are not really going to be spending the morning discussing the finer merits of dry hopping. There is a time and place for cheap American lager.

With all that being said, I was pleasantly surprised by Busch Signature Copper Lager.

Two Mug Purchase

The beer’s advertising is probably the most honest I have seen in ages. It’s billed as the beer for “Slightly More Special Occasions.” That just slays me.

I don’t know what this means, but the website for Busch and Busch Light do not mention Signature Copper Lager at all.

Pre-Summer Beer Thoughts

It feels like summer might never actually get here.  Iowa received a record 17.66 inches of rain during the spring, triggering flooding, and leading to a general soggy feeling.  It’s a good thing that I have not bottled any “lawnmower beers” because I might be craving stouts if the cool temperatures and overcast skies continue much longer.

Chinook IPA

Single hop beers are taking off as brewers, both of the home variety and commercial craft type, are seeking to make beers that stand out.  A plethora of hop options also makes this possible, as do techniques like dry hopping or using freshly harvested hops.

I jumped on the bandwagon by brewing up the Chinook IPA recipe from Northern Brewer:

Chinook IPA

According to the calculations in iBrewmaster the Chinook IPA was going to clock in at ~52 IBU and ~4.9% ABV.   The bitterness was lower than the recipe called for because I reduced the boil time of the initial 1 ounce of hops to get to around the ~52 IBU, which I am beginning to think is the optimal point of bitterness.

Single hopped beers are supposed to accentuate the particular hop profile of the chosen hop.  I am not familiar enough with the Chinook variety to tell if anyone particular flavor or note was accentuated compared with a beer that has a blend of hops.  The beer did lack some of the earthy or “piney” notes of IPAs that use Cascade or Willamette hops.

The first bottle came out a little flat.  I do not know if it is the “magic” or “voodoo” of bottle conditioning, but some bottles come out less carbonated than others.  Maybe that’s another reason to make the transition to kegs and forced carbonation.  Never mind the two to three weeks cut in production time.

Next up into bottles is a recipe called Synchronicity, which should prove interesting given the use of sweet orange peel and lemongrass.

Innovation?  Really?

AB-InBev, the corporate monster behind Bud Light and about half of the world’s beer it seems, is truly showing its corporate colors lately.  Unable to innovate in terms of products, because as one commentator put it there is not much you can do to Bud Light besides add a little lime flavoring, the behemoth is turning to packaging.  Two things caught my eye recently, the so-called “bow tie” can and the new punch top.

Punch tops, vented cans, wide mouth openings…whatever is next make me laugh.  The brewer is saying to the customer, “Please pour this swill down your throat as fast as possible so that you cannot actually taste anything and you come back to the liquor store to buy more.”  In the case of Coors Light the can actually signals when it is so cold that the beer cannot taste like much more than grain steeped water.  That is the idea I guess.

AB-InBev now has aped SABMiller’s “punch top” can with a pop top that also punches a whole in the can for faster guzzling.  You see, SABMiller’s version required you use an accessory.  Granted, that accessory could be a spark plug, drumstick of the musical variety, car key, or properly branded use-specific tool.  AB-InBev has done them one better by doing away with the accessory and including the power to vent the can right there on top of the can itself.  Damn, that is innovation.

Well, if you thought that a punch top copy was ridiculous wait until you get a load of the “bow-tie” can.  Yep, AB-InBev is packaging Budweiser in a can that is said to evoke the classic inconagprahy of the Budweiser bow tie.  Huh?  Was anyone actually asking for a specially shaped can?  Does anyone actually care?  Never mind that the can actually holds 11.3 ounces of beer versus a traditional can’s 12 ounces.  Oh, and it comes in a new packaging quantity…wait for it…the 8-pack.  I cannot wait to check out the variety of packaging available for summer with the introduction of the 8-pack.

What’s next?

Samuel Adams Got Me Again

I have been seduced by the sampler pack yet again.  And, again, it was a sampler from Samuel Adams.  The devious grin of the Founding Father drew me in and the chance to try six different beers from one twelve pack was too good to pass up while I wait for my latest homebrew—an Irish red ale—to finish bottle conditioning.

This particular sampler was full of “summer” beers that included Boston Lager, Belgian Session, Little White Rye, Summer Ale, Porch Rocker, and Blueberry Hill Lager.  I won’t get into the merits of Boston Lager at length here because I have covered it in the past and this beer is so well known.  If you have any inclination toward craft beer, you have probably had a Sam Adams Boston Lager by now.

I am going to talk about the beers in the order that I enjoyed them starting with Belgian Session:

Belgian Session

I am fool for session beers.  These beers are low in alcohol and bitterness, but make up for that in the spicy, citrus, or floral notes from the malts, hops, and spices used in brewing.  It’s like the heavier notes in most beers get tamped down and the little flavor notes get amped up.

Belgian Session comes through with those flavors very well.  Session beers, a style that is hard to define but generally denotes lower alcohol and clean finish, are the perfect accompaniments for summer.  The temperatures go up and when you find some shade this type of beer is desirable.

Little White Rye was the surprise of the bunch:

Little White Rye

Similar in its base profile to some of the other beers in the sampler, the two distinct differences are the inclusion of rye malt—a personal favorite of mine for just about any beer—and white sage.

I knew what to expect when it came to rye, but I was slightly disappointed because I did not really note any of the peppery bite I have come to associate with rye beers.  Maybe my palate is not sensitive enough to register subtle notes of malted grains.  Oh well.

The white sage, however, came through is a totally unexpected way.  I expected the inclusion of a pretty potent taste and aroma like sage to either be gimmicky or overpowering.  Somehow neither of these things happened and it leads to a really unique beer.  Unlike Blueberry Hill Lager, which is discussed later and shares a similar basic profile, Little White Rye did not taste like I was consuming the experiment gone wrong of a mad brewer.

Samuel Adams is well-known for tying its beers to the seasons—Winter Lager, Alpine Spring, White Christmas, etc.—and for summer there is a seasonal variant:

Summer Ale

Summer ale is like summer songs on the radio.  You can drink this without remembering very much about it the next day and you won’t really care.  Generally referred to as “lawnmower” beers, Porch Rocker and its ilk drink a little too light for me because there is little attempt to balance the alcohol or malt with any bitterness.  In Porch Rocker’s case, coming in a just 7 IBU, this is one of the least bitter beers you can probably find without drinking gruit ale.  I may not be a dyed in the wool hophead, but I want a little bit more from my beer in terms of aroma and bitterness.

There is something evocative about sitting on a porch during a hot summer day that has been seared in the brains of beer marketers because I keep seeing the imagery being used to sell me beer:

Porch Rocker

Porch Rocker is supposed to be a take on a Bavarian Radler, which is a beer mixed drink consisting of beer and either soda or lemonade.  Sound like a shandy?  Yep, it’s pretty much a shandy.  Therefore, sweetness is on tap.

With Porch Rocker you get sweet and you get lemon, but not much else.  It’s like a guilty pleasure of beer that does not drink like beer at all.  How it ended up in a beer sampler pack is beyond me.  It should have been sitting next to Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

Most children have had their mother say to them at one point or another, “If you do not have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I have never understood that logic and it definitely does not apply to Blueberry Hill Lager:

Blueberry Hill

First off, this is a better beer than Wild Blue from AB-InBev.  Rarely have I only had one drink of a beer and poured the remaining bottles’ contents down the drain but in the case of Wild Blue I was so inclined.  Already, Blueberry Hill Lager had a steep road to climb because of my preconceived notions of how vile a blueberry beer could be.

Sweet is the first word that comes to mind.  Not sweet in a “kiss of sugar” kind of way.  This beer was sweet in a grape soda kind of way.  Sickly sweet.  For some beer drinkers this might be a good thing—like the people who can actually drink Redd’s Apple Ale—but count this kid out.

The dominant not is sweet.  At 5.5% ABV and 18 IBU there is not nearly enough alcohol and/or bitterness to counteract the sweetness.  To complicate matters, the sole hop used—Tettnang Tettnanger—is not noted for its bold profile so any hop aroma or bitterness, whatever may have been present, is overwhelmed by sweet blueberry.  It is a one note beer in a bad way.

In summation, I would say that two of the summer beers were suprises to the good side—Belgian Session and Little White Rye—while three disappointed—Summer Ale, Porch Rocker, and Blueberry Hill Lager.

I have to give more credit to the Boston Beer Company than I have in the past.  Not only are they out there brewing all kinds of different beers and distributing them all over the United States, which is a great thing, but they have taken on the giant, Anheuser Busch prior to the merger with InBev.

It was a story that I was ignorant of until reading Barry C. Lynn’s Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction where he talks about AB deciding it wanted to destroy Samuel Adams.  Starting with ads criticizing the location of the brewery, at the time done under contract at various locations, AB was later accused of manipulating markets for various ingredients to pressure craft brewers that it viewed as a threat to its business.  This is truly the elephant being bothered by the gnat because at the time AB probably spilled more beer than Boston Beer brewed.

Boston Beer not only survived its brush with the giant, but it set the stage for a lot of people to follow and gain access to distribution channels that might have been closed off had AB succeeded in slaying Boston Beer.  The craft beer movement may have been stalled by the efforts of AB, but it was in no way stopped.

Given where craft beer is at today vis a vis the market, in that people demand these beers, it’s hard to imagine the entire movement being strangled in its infancy.  However, if Boston Beer had been beaten that very well may have been the outcome.  For that I raise a glass and say, “Thank you Boston Beer.”