As you’ve probably noticed, Budweiser is currently undertaking a fairly aggressive ad campaign to get the word out about their new product, Budweiser Crown–which, for some reason is called Budweiser Black Crown in the US. Part of that advertising and marketing campaign involved getting some beers (along with a bitching wooden box, a glass, and some malt) out to beer writers. Accordingly, last night, once again, I found myself drinking Budweiser.
Now, if you read my beer ranting with any sort of frequency, you’ll know I tend to view things through a very micro- vs. macrobrewer lens and that I typically see most things that big brewers do as a soulless, robotic, money-fueled machine’s attempt to destroy all that is good and pure in the world of beer.
Philosophically speaking, in my world big brewers are not unlike the Empire and I see most of the moves they make as an effort to build a better death star (Alderaan is your favourite small craft brewer in this thinly-stretched metaphor).
But last night, skimming the press release that accompanied my samples of Budweiser Crown, it dawned on me that maybe–just maybe–the big guys do the occasional thing simply because they like beer. When you think about it, as massive and potentially planet-destroying as companies like AB-InBev and Molson-Coors are, they’re still staffed by people who know a lot about beer and are really good at what they do. The big guys have the resources to put together a great, talented team–perhaps not unlike the way Imperial Stormtroopers are all cloned from the renowned bounty hunter Jango Fett, if you’ll excuse me for beating the shit out of this Star Wars metaphor.
What I mean is that, where I’ve been quick to dismiss some “crafty” efforts of big brewers as vaguely transparent attempts to muscle in on the growing craft market share, I’m pretty confident this is not that. Instead, Budweiser Crown is the result of “Project 12,” which instead of being as nefarious as it sounds was actually a project wherein Bud enlisted 12 of their brewmasters to each make their own “version” of Bud. Something that, I think we can all agree, is a pretty cool project. If you substituted the name Great Lakes Brewery or Amsterdam instead of Bud (and pretended that they had 12 brewmasters) it would be precisely the kind of thing craft beer nerds get massive beer boners for and I’d probably write the whole thing up up for blogTO.
This beer, Budweiser Crown, was the winner of that 12-beer project after it was meticulously market-tested. So yes, there are some financial motivations involved here (it is Budweiser, after all) but there’s no attempt to be “crafty.” In fact it feels almost symbolic that, at a time when hops seems to be to craft beer nerds what cat nip is to kittens, Bud has opted to champion that other, neglected key beer ingredient, malt.
So how’s the beer?
Well, in short, it’s a malty Budweiser.
It’s pours a coppery-amber with a little thin, white head and the aroma is, as you might expect, all malt. Like really malty. This is possibly the first time I’ve smelled a Labatt’s product and have actually been reminded of the smell that’s in the air surrounding the Labatt’s facility in my home town of London–which is not an entirely unpleasant experience. As for the taste, it’s a clean, refreshing, well-made macro beer, but it’s just a little sweeter than you might expect. I’m not going to bother getting into specific taste details, because frankly the subtleties are just that: subtle. Mainstream beer drinkers will likely drink one and think, “Hey, that’s a bit different!” and I imagine that’s precisely what the intent was. If you’re looking for a clean, utterly inoffensive beer that has just a little more complexity than Budweiser, by all means pick up a Budweiser Crown.
Just keep in mind you probably helped finance another TIE Fighter or Star Destroyer.