Friday, 24 April 2009

Last night I drank a Budweiser American Ale

I went to Applebee's for dinner last night. I was knackered and it was just down the road from the hotel. That was good enough for me.

This being Wisconsin, they had Spotted Cow on draught. But I spotted a tap with American Ale written on it. Usually, I'd rather be dragged naked over broken glass than drink Budweiser. I've read about American Ale and was intrigued. Curiosity got the better of me. I ordered one.

The colour was quite pleasing. A nice reddish amber. It looked rather appetising, in fact. What would it taste like? Only one way to find out. I took a sip. Mmmm, I've had much worse. Like a better keg Bitter, is how I would describe it. Keg Bass. That's the closest I can think of. Not that I ever drank much keg Bass.

It slipped down quite nicely. Not that I ordered a second. I switched to Spotted Cow. American Ale reminded me of something I've noticed before. Big industrial breweries can brew decent beer. When they choose to. Problem is, most of the time they choose to brew something else. Probably for some accounting reason.

You know something. American Ale would probably work well cask-conditioned. I 2wonder if they've considered brewing a cask version? Stranger things have happened.


Matt said...

I'm assuming like other American 'craft beers' it's unpasteurised which is going to mean more taste than English nitrokeg bitter. The only other factors I can think of are amount of artificial carbonation and temperature.

I was at a Salford Rugby League game recently (our American cousins will have to look on Wikipedia for Rugby League -:) ) where the bar has a banner proudly announcing that they now serve 'Tetleys Smoothflow, Extra Chilled'. I was tempted to climb up and add 'guaranteed no taste'.

Alan said...

I liked it OK when I had one. The real surprise for a Canadian is that beers like this or, say, Michelob porter are $4.99 a six pack and not $12.99. Happily, I just have to drive 45 minutes to get to a grocery store in northern New York to experience that other reality.

Pivní Filosof said...

"Problem is, most of the time they choose to brew something else."

Well, wouldn't you? (I know you wouldn't! It's a retorical question). After all, they can make a product quite cheaply without caring too much about things such as taste, etc. and people still buy it by the shitloads. And not only that, but many of them believe the product is VERY good.

Chuck Riesen said...

I believe a group of rogue upstarts called APRK are running with the idea of quality ales force carbonated with co2. They just might be on to something.

Tim said...

I've drank American Ale a couple times now and came to same conclusion as you. It illustrates one of my favorite beer quotes perfectly:

“It’s not because a beer is industrial that makes it bad. I’m not against industrial production. I would rather have a well-made industrial beer than an artisanal beer that tastes bad.”

The brewer at Cantillon said that and in my opinion is the sign of an enlightened outlook on beer.

The Professor said...

Your take on the Bud American Ale was interesting, and spot on with my own impression of it. Not world class perhaps but indeed very drinkable and a bit surprising in the end that it is a "Bud" product. I actually liked it a LOT more than I thought I would.

The new breed of American beer snob (and I do admit to being one myself years ago) had a predictable reaction to this was dismissed out of hand either because it is a "Bud" labeled product, or because it is not a "hop bomb" (though one somewhat biased writer humorously opined that it IS exactly that, a bomb, due to it's _lack_ of hops compared to the puckering Dogfish Head 120).

Funny how beer people for many years derided the big brewers for making lousy beer, and are now deriding big brewers for having the audacity to make _decent_ beers that in some cases compare favorably to beers from the "craft" brewers.

As you mention, the big companies can make some very good beer (they certainly have in the past); they seem to be re-awakening a bit, albeit slowly, and it should be interesting to see what comes down the pike from the bigs in the next few years. I'll keep an open matters not to me who makes the products, as long as they're good.

Lew Bryson said...

Most, but not all, American keg beers are unpasteurized and must be kept refrigerated. The few that are pasteurized are actually craft beers.

Matt said...

I'm assuming your talking about bottled American craft beers Lew. I'm sure the draught beers I've drunk in brewpubs in New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia were unpasteurised.

Gary Gillman said...

I fully agree American Ale is a well-made product, similar to many craft APAs I have had.

Sure large breweries can make great beer! Pilsener Urquel is a great beer, especially in the can six weeks after packaging. So is Czechvar (Budweiser Budvar in Europe) on draft. And you get all the side benefits like good stability and (like Alan said) often very fair prices. When they want to, brewers can make a quality product.

Excellent notion, Ron, that A/B-InBev should make a cask version of American Ale. How ironic would it be if hand-pumps and cellarology became the hot new thing in the mass beer market (at least in the big cities)! As you say, you never know.

Carbonated, filtered draft beer has been a mainstay of the craft beer movement here. I know there has been the odd brewpub in England that has served this style for ales. E.g., Mash in Manchester, and I think Zero Degrees does in London. Best analogy is a craft brewery's bottled beer if not bottle-conditioned.


Lew Bryson said...

Sorry, Matt, could have been clearer: the very few pasteurized draft beers in America are craft beers. Those very few are all 'production brewery' beers; I can't think of any reason why a brewpub would pasteurize, can you?

Aaron J. Grier said...

the thing that upsets me most about bud american ale, michelob, and leffe isn't that they're bad beers -- it's that they're minimally good beers that remind me of the fantastic ones. they have the correct elements, but lack intensity and dimension. just makes you jones for the real thing.

Stan Hieronymus said...

Aaron - You mention intensity. I love intense beers (strong, focused, sour, hoppy, whatever) but I also think intensity has its place.

But you can never get enough "dimension." It drives me crazy to talk to brewers from mainstream operations and have them focus so much on great foam (apperance) without mentioning mouthfeel. Which I think goes back to considering American Ale on cask.

Ron Pattinson said...

Aaron, I liked American Ale a good deal more than Leffe. That really is (the Blond, at least) a really nasty beer.

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying your dispatches from the home country (I spent most of my childhood summers in Wisconsin). It sounds like the beer is a lot better than when I was there 8 years ago!