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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Random Ramblings

We had no official BOTB meeting this month due to missing members and "unsyncable" schedules. But we did get together for an unofficial meeting at Mike and Diane's where the the theme was "Just Drink It!" We had the opportunity to sample Mike's latest home brew - a truly tasty concoction. Hoppy? You bet! We all also brought random beers we figured would go nicely with pizza and wings (a concept that left the proverbial door rather wide open). As a result we enjoyed a myriad of excellent beers, many of which we have rated in past meetings.

There have been a few random beer-related thoughts rattling around in my head for a while, and we've got a report from Herb on the road, so for a little change of pace, I thought I'd use this month's edition to rant, inform and maybe entertain a bit. So, pour yourself a tasty craft beer, slide your easy chair up next to the fire and read on.


By now I'm sure you've heard the brouhaha over a lawsuit claiming that Bud has been watering down their beer. If you haven't, check it out HERE. A-B has fought back, vehemently claiming that it is untrue, even creating ads that poke fun at the lawsuit.

The bottom line is they apparently didn't and so I'm going to jump in and come to the aid of Budweiser. You heard me. What follows is my defense of the company that, lo these many long years ago, led the charge down that rabbit hole of tasteless beers brewed with corn and rice in place of barley and used only a hint of hops - then dragged the majority of American beers down with it.

Yeah, those guys. You know, the company with the flag-draped-uber-patriotic-all-American ads that is owned by InBev, an uber-Belgian company.

According to at least one independent source, tests done on Bud, Bud Light Lime etc. found that the ABV listed was consistent with their test results. So why did three different lawsuits in three different cities suddenly crop up? What would lead a bunch of longtime Bud drinkers to feel that they were getting a watered-down version of the King of Beers? I do believe I have the answer - and it is a two-fold answer. A-B will be thrilled to know that a craft beer blogger has come to their defense.

Fold Number 1 - InBev. The all-consuming multi-national beverage giant which acquired Anheuser-Busch a few years ago has been cutting whatever corners they can to mass-produce beer as cheaply as possible. InBev's approach has been to cut down on quality (check out January's "Duff Beer" parody) and employee benefits and put the money saved into advertising (in fact, as I mentioned, A-B's response to the lawsuits was to create a clever ad - advertising being the one area where quality is paramount). The thinking is that no one would notice the difference. But were they wrong on that count? While the genesis of at least one of the lawsuits seems to be former employees who claim that watering down the beer has been company policy since InBev took over, perhaps Bud drinkers, upon hearing this, had a kind of "aha!" moment because they had noticed something different about the beer lately. Maybe the difference wasn't the added water, but the cheaper ingredients. And, hey, there's no law against using cheap adjuncts in your beer.

Fold Number 2 - The growth of craft beer. On the other hand, maybe there is no difference in taste between the InBev Bud and the pre-InBev Bud, despite the use of lesser quality ingredients. Maybe the difference is in the drinkers. Consider the fact that craft beer has been steadily growing in popularity since the 1980's. More and more you are seeing good Pale Ales and IPAs and Porters and Stouts on tap in places that never used to carry anything but mega-brews. With the increasing availability of good craft beers, it is perhaps inevitable that even the most ardent of Bud drinkers might have the opportunity to sample these beers. Once having tasted a hoppy Pale or a rich, malty Porter, might their next Bud, well, pale in comparison? Pretty soon you have Bud drinkers scratching their heads wondering why their favorite beer doesn't seem to have the flavor it once did. Why, it tastes kind of watery. Why do I get the image of sex in a canoe? Maybe they are watering down the beer. 
But the truth is the beer didn't change, taste buds did. 
Once you go Craft, you never go back.   

You're welcome, A-B.

Herb has been on the road these last couple of months, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been on the job. Our work here at BOTB is never done. We are ever diligent to seek out good beer no matter where we travel and bring that information to you. Herb's been giving us a virtual tour via email of the breweries and pubs he's visited along the way. Forthwith is the latest:

     "Hi. I hope everyone is well. After making our second annual trip to the Disney World area, and dining for the second year in a B.J.'s Restaurant & Brewhouse (a large chain - 11 in FL and 62 in California), I was pleasantly surprised at the improvement in their beer list. From last year's best - a drinkable pale ale - to 2013, with two good IPAs and a seasonal 9% Red Ale. I assume a company with pubs in CA knows how to brew good beer, and now the customers in FL are asking for better beer.

     "While the kids were paying tribute to Uncle Walt, we wandered to Mt. Dora, a pretty little town in Lake County.
Besides a hundred plus antique dealers, cute shops and a town museum in the former jail house, there is the Mt. Dora Brewing Co. / Rocking Rabbit Brewery. As you might expect with a place having two names, they also have two beer lists. The web site listed a couple of 5.5% beers (okay for a day in the mid eighties). The list we ordered from started with a 7% and worked up to 9.9%. The only real surprise is that we ever left this place. Things are definitely looking better in Central FL!


Byrne Dairy had this terrific beer out of San Diego, CA on tap recently. My brother-in-law kindly stopped by with a growler of it as we watched the SU/L'Ville game the other day. The game was disappointing, but the beer wasn't. I had this brew once before while in California last fall. It is an incredible IPA. Beeradvocate rated it "World Class" and you'll get no argument from me on that account. The grapefruit/piney hops aroma wafts wonderfully from the glass. It's a hop-dominant beer but nicely balanced with a caramel malt underbelly. Great beer.


(OR: IP...WHAT?)

As much as we celebrate the rise in popularity of craft beers, and revel in the ever increasing availability of good beers, there are still craft beer black holes out there. I know, I live in one. Not my house, mind you. The village I live in - Mexico, New York. I once went to every place in town to see if I could find a single IPA. Just one. Our grocery store - a Big M at the time - had a big walk-in beer cooler. It was about 95% mega-brew. You could get Sam Adams - but only the lager. They sometimes carried Saranac - but usually the summer ale. Sometimes their Pale Ale. Occasionally they would have a mixed 12. But that usually meant getting a blueberry wheat or something that would take up valuable beer space in my fridge. Anyhow, I found not one single IPA. Five places in town sell beer. Not a single IPA. 

Recently Tops Markets bought the Big M. I thought maybe they'd upgrade the beer selection. Alas, it has become worse. Went from 95% mega to about 99%! You look in the cooler and see a sea of blue (as in Bud Light in a dozen different shapes and sizes, Blue and Blue Light). It is discouraging. We are surrounded by good craft breweries: Saranac to the West, Lake Placid to the North, CB's Brewing and Great lakes to the East, Middle Ages, Southern Tier, and Ithaca to the South. Whatever happened to buying local? The only "local" beer they sell is Bud (there's an A-B brewery in nearby Baldwinsville).

As a result I must be diligent. Any trip to Wegman's or C's means I must load up. Heaven help me if I am caught without good beer and friends drop by. There's no place near to get any.

I live in a craft beer black hole.


The Capital One commercials ask you: "What's in your wallet?" I ask: "What's in your fridge?" A much more interesting question, in my opinion. Let us know - either sign in and comment, or throw it out there on our Facebook page. I'll show you mine if you show me yours. Right now, I have a nice diversity of beers. I have the following: 

Ithaca Flower Power - A terrific IPA

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye - One of our top rated Rye PAs

Nectar Ales Nectar IPA - Brewed by Firestone Walker - 'nuff said!

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA - Beats their 60 Minute by a whole half hour!

Sam Adams Imperial Stout - For when I'm in a good sippin' mood. 10.3% ABV - nothing watered down here!

Sam Adams Iperial White - Just got this and haven't had a chance to sample it yet. 9.2% ABV - nothing to sneeze at. I'll wait until I'm nicely settled in for the evening.

Victory Brewing's Hop Wallop - Victory's a great Pennsylvania brewery and their Hop Wallop is one of my favorites.

Wagner Valley IPA - A British style IPA. The more I drink of it the more I like it. Doesn't have the grapefruit/piney hops aroma or taste associated with American hops. But it's a nice beer.

Guinness Stout - Closest I get to a mega-brew. It's a classic and I like to have it on hand.

Just finished Saranac's Red IPA which I liked a lot. I'll have to replenish before it's gone from the shelves. Also just finished Stone's IPA and Levitation Ale. Good stuff.

So, Tops in Mexico, if you're reading this: any of those would be excellent additions to your anemic beer cooler! Please! Throw me a bone here!

Or better yet, throw me an IPA.

Next month: Best Beer For Your Buck! Who's got the best tasting beer for under $9.00 a six pack? This should be interesting.

The BOTB Guys