In the late ’90s, the MP3 file format was born. This new digital compression technology allowed audio files to be much smaller, easier to transfer, easier to store and easier to share, even on old-school dialup computers.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) had a choice to make. Either they could purchase this technology and develop a way to monetize it, creating the iTunes store about 10 years early, or they could hit the panic button, call an army of lawyers and begin a battle against a movement that has cost them more money than they could have foreseen 15 years ago.
The problem is, the RIAA had total dominance of the market for years. People could copy cassette tapes, but never to the degree we can today. Instead of embracing and monetizing the new technology, the RIAA wasted millions fighting forces it did not understand. This only emboldened the enemy, which had a superior understanding of technology and the art behind it.
During the Superbowl, I saw Budweiser make the same mistake by throwing down the gauntlet with craft beer. Maybe you saw the ad? You can find it on YouTube. Look for “Brewed the Hard Way.” I’ll wait.
I was tempted to do what others have done and address each laughable statement in turn, but then I stepped away from the laptop, opened a nice Scottish Ale, poured it into a glass, and sat down to think.
Ultimately, Budweiser came off like a jilted prom date who’s hit the spiked punch, screaming, “I don’t need you! You with your chiseled good looks, class, sophistication and gifted anatomy! I’ve got Tom, who is … a really big fan of pro-wrestling and stock cars! He’s just as much man as you are! In fact, he’s more man than you are because he’s just better … for reasons! And I think his uncle has a dealership, so there!”
There are craft beer fans and brewers out there who are offended by this ad, but in reality, it comes off as hilariously sad. Budweiser spent millions to tell craft beer off in the middle of the Superbowl, in which the New England Patriots were playing. New England is home to Massachusetts, which is home to the Boston Beer Company, which makes Samuel Adams, which is the biggest craft brewery that could threaten Budweiser. The founder, Jim Koch, must have seen this ad. So did every microbrewer in New England.
So Budweiser just fired the opening shots in a war it never needed to fight, against an enemy that has been rallying together for decades. Nothing unites people like a common enemy. The only way Budweiser could have backfired harder is if it had a sad man reading the ingredients of Bud Platinum and screaming when he got to the word “rice.”
I bear Budweiser no ill will. To be honest, I’m torn between feeling sorry for whoever approved that tremendous waste of advertising money and feeling amused at what has to be the most pathetic attempt to sound overconfident I’ve ever heard. It would have been fine if Budweiser just said, “No fruit in our beer,” or “Beer that’s not too bitter.” We’d understand that. But to actively call out craft beer in such a desperate manner, one that has brewers laughing and big-name microbreweries researching beechwood aging just for giggles? Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if homebrewers everywhere started making pumpkin-peach beers and shipping them to the Anheuser-Busch head office just to troll them.
And all Budweiser had to do to avoid this fate was hire a talented brewer to make a few decent beers and get in on the movement. They might not be in the driver’s seat, but at least they’d be on the bus instead of trying to figure out where to land their Learjet in the middle of a small town brew fest, overshooting it and landing in the ocean.
I’ve seen two beers absolutely worshipped on the inter-webs lately, so I searched high and low to find them and render my own unbiased opinion. I say unbiased because by the time I was done, I could barely remember my own name.
Grey Sail Captain’s Daughter
This sweet little IPA has a very floral nose and reminds me of the Lagunitas Sucks. It’s very fruity, but inviting. The hops dominate the flavor, but it’s more reminiscent of Flower Power than a potent, harsh IPA like most West Coast IPAs. The malt blends in nicely; rather than providing a counter-balance, the fruity-floral hops and lit malts dance upon the tongue, changing tempo with each sip. The hop flavors take the lead, but in a good way. This brew is unbalanced in the best possible way, mingling hints of malt in with a very pleasing hop body. All IPAs are different, but this is one of those rare brews that truly elevates above the conventions of the style.
Revival’s Cthulhu Stout
This cosmic brew boasts three kinds of chocolate malts: marshmallow, star anise and mint. Well, if that isn’t a bizarre amalgamation of madness, I don’t know what is. The brew itself is a deep, dark, chocolate brown with a thick, creamy, mocha-colored head. There’s a weird mix of anise and mint on the nose. The marshmallow gives this brew some weight, and the natural flavor of the chocolate malts blend with the bitter anise to create a sickly-sweet brew that leaves a strange tingle on the tongue, probably from the mint. The anise lends a bite that prevents the brew from being too sweet. True to form, it’s a beer that defies description, a maddening mix of flavors. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking for a sweet brew for dessert, the stars are right for conjuring this mysterious elixir.