This week, The Wall Street Journal published a Q&A with Rob Naylor, “the brewer who could create the next Bud Light.” The article wondered, “Could Bud Sour Ale be next?” I sure hope not. In fact, we can’t let it happen.
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Bud Sour Ale is not a real beer. It’s an idea that Naylor, the brewmaster for Anheuser Busch’s Research Pilot Brewery, discussed with a journalist. (I made the above rendering of a Bud Sour Ale can in Photoshop just for fun.) That said, my own disdain for the idea of a Bud Sour Ale extends way beyond my disdain for sour beer in general. (I think it tastes like bile.) Rather, the idea that Budweiser wants to explore the weirdest and most obscure fringes of the craft beer world worries me. Big beer companies are powerful enough. We can’t let them buy our weirdos too.
Don’t get me wrong. I like trying new beers, interesting beers, and occasionally, weird beers. My favorite beer is a wacky East Coast-style IPA that tastes ever so slightly like a hoppy mango. But Naylor and his cronies are creating shit like the Mang-O-Rita. It’s mango-flavored malt liquor. Naylor himself is also the co-creator of Shock Top Spiced Banana Wheat and Shock Top Strawbanero Wheat. In discussing the future of the world’s largest brewer, Naylor mentioned beer-making experiments that involved such exotic ingredients as honey, tea, and oatmeal cookies.
This is getting out of hand. Anheuser Busch and its parent company AB InBev SABMiller must be stopped. It’s easy to see why this big beer company is tapping into the weird beer market, though. A Bay Area craft beer bar called Rosamunde opened a Brooklyn outpost a couple years ago. On my latest visit, I stared at a menu that included several sour beers, a pair of nitro beers, and something called a “wild ale” from Portland. A large bottle costs $32.
Craft beers—especially the weird ones—are expensive, but people buy them. As the number of small breweries continues to grow in the United States, more and more people are feeling adventurous about trying something new or different. If companies like Anheuser Busch can latch on to the trend and mass produce new brands, they tend to tease people away from hunting down obscure microbrews and towards the convenience of a chain grocery store. After all, big beer companies basically own the aisles there.
I get it. That’s how the beer industry giants maintain their stranglehold on the market, despite the success of craft breweries. The astoundingly huge AB InBev SABMiller now owns over eight out of the 10 most popular American beer brands. That gives the massive corporation a hell of an advantage over smaller breweries when it decides to branch out and, say, make something that resembles a craft beer. That, or the corporation just buys up the most popular craft breweries.
AB InBev SABMiller—a terrible name, by the way—is taking over the world. As Gizmodo’s own Alissa Walker pointed out recently, one out of every three beers consumed on planet Earth is made by this sprawling corporation. You might even think a beloved brand like Goose Island comes from a little brewery in the Midwest, when it’s actually just another tentacle of the venomous Cthulhu that is AB InBev SABMiller. There is no escape from this natural monopoly.
The problem with AB InBev SABMiller’s craft beer ambition isn’t just a capitalistic one, either. As any beer enthusiast will tell you, mass-produced craft beer is an oxymoron. Shock Top Wheat beer doesn’t taste like a sumptuous hefeweizen from Bavaria. It tastes like orange-flavored butt. Blue Moon does not taste like a Belgian witbier. It tastes like chemicals. (Blue Moon’s Cinnamon Horchata Ale tastes like chemicals mixed with cinnamon-flavored butt, by the way.) Can you imagine what a Bud Sour Ale would taste like?
Thankfully, you can help put an end to this madness. Buy your beer from actual craft breweries. Go ahead and pay the extra $2 for a six-pack of the really good stuff, too. Heck, pay $32 for that Portland-brewed wild ale if you want. The money will go to a good cause! Because the more tempted you are to buy into the convenience of Budweiser or Goose Island or really any AB InBev SABMiller brand, the most likely they are to brew bad ideas like Bud Sour Ale.
Image: Budweiser / Gizmodo