Poorly-justified trademark nonsense and brandwank that flies in the face of the plain meaning of words are rather topical at the moment — for the avoidance of doubt or subtlety, I’m looking at you, D.B. and Moa — and so it is the perfect time to finally enter into my Diary the arguable Granddaddy of such: Budweiser.1

The beer itself is basically universally reviled among the geeks. It’s pretty much synonymous with mass-produced bland fizzy water. They brew it with rice for fuck’s sake; if nearly a third of your grain bill is rice, you’re intentionally minimising the flavour of the end result, or cutting corners to save money to the point of absurdity — or, you know, both.

I was always faintly embarrassed, therefore, that I had never personally tried this thing that my Nerd Brethren hated so passionately. I spotted it in the fridge at Public,2 ascertained that it was the genuine article (rather than a “brewed under license” clone, as we so often do here in the Little Country at the End of the World), and then popped next door after work. In the interests of fairness, I tried desperately to avoid reading their preposterous label text and focus on the beer, first. I’ll repeat that, here.

It is piss-gold. That is absolutely the word for it; everything you ever heard about it looking like urine is true — although, as someone who used to work at an organisation who published helpful guides about these things, I can tell you that it does look like the whiz of a healthy person who drinks around about the right amount of water, if that helps at all. The nose is either absent or pleasantly-but-very-mildly fragrant. Nearby flower arrangements in the bar were particularly numerous (or convinced I was a Bumblebee, or something) and were rather perfumed, themselves, but I can at least say that the beer was basically lacking in the godawful rotten funk I get from most bog-standard mainstream lagers.

I found it difficult to taste anything much, initially; the over-riding sensory impression of ‘Fizziness!’ drowned out all other neural activity for quite some time. It was dry, but weirdly grainy and sweet at the same time. The dreaded ‘Macro Funk’ did slowly emerge as I went / as it warmed a little, but it was certainly a good distance from being the worst beer I’ve ever had in my life. To use a classic Faint Praise metric, I’d instantly choose it over a local clone of Heineken or Amstel, for instance.

But damn. Any time with this beer just amounts to time to savour the utterly absurd boasts on the label. Starting with the attempt at implying Worldwide availability / domination with the buckled-belt logo’s “Europe; Asia; Africa; Australia”: the word you’re looking for to go in that last slot is Australasia, you monkeys. (Or Oceania, if you’re feeling modern.)3 And then there’s this:

We know of no brand produced by any other brewer which costs so much to brew and age.

The only way for that not to be an outright, ridiculous, intentional lie is to keep the man who writes the label text in a very small box, cut off from the world. I can, off the top of my own rubbish-memoried head, probably name a hundred or more beers which would make a falsehood of that sentence — unless they aren’t talking in per volume terms, which would just make them history’s worst-ever statisticians.

Nevermind the pathetically-sad registration, by local giant D.B., of the word “Radler” for a beer which isn’t even a Radler;4 this is the most abysmally lame brewing trademark. They mimicked a brew which had been released in the U.S. the year before (1875), verbatim-copied its name — which was just an origin term, in German — and legally locked it up for themselves. It should’ve never been awarded, and later courts should’ve booted it out summarily, or at least forced them to abide the concurrent marketing of things under the same name which happened to be actually from the place that the word implies.

This is the problem with brandwank. This is it in a little brown bottle. The beer isn’t inherently abominable; it’s just not, whatever you’ve heard. I was as surprised to learn that as anyone would be. It’s limp and bland, not liquid evil. But the yards-thick, completely fucking ass-faced aura of marketing horseshit which surrounds it makes me thank the non-existent gods that I didn’t hand over any of my own money for the one I had. I’d feel sullied and cheap and stained to the core if I did — but I’d still very-swiftly whisk one from a barbeque chilly bin that otherwise only held Tui and Beck’s.

Diary II entry #80, Budweiser

Verbatim: Budweiser 2[4]/3/11 @ Public $8, but shouted. Awesome. 4.9% “Bud Heavy”, says their American, since Bud Light is so ascendant. I can’t believe I’ve never had one. The pale straw colour is the first impression (well, after the brandwank-drenched label). 355ml. And you really do have to say “piss gold”. The nose is grainy, and very faintly perfumed; could be the flowers in here, even. Feel isn’t as thin as I’d assumed, but very fizzy. The usual Macro Funk isn’t as bad here as in many I’ve had; Heineken is certainly worse on that score for example. Strange combination of dryness + light sweetness in the body. Not horrific, certainly. Oh, the Funk does build a bit. But not my worst ever.

Budweiser, ingredients
Budweiser, ingredients
Budweiser, boast and bad geography
Budweiser, boast and bad geography
Budweiser, best before
Budweiser, best before

1: Rather than being anyone’s Granddad, Budweiser would rather introduce itself to you as ‘King of Beers’. And then expect you to curtsey, presumably. I’m enough of an anti-monarchist that that’s hardly helping it endear itself to me, but the main problem is that actual-Budweiser was long known as “the beer of Kings”, so Anheuser-Busch’s slogan is double-pronged dickishness.
2: Or [public] — with a unique, mysterious, and unreproducible p-u ligature — if their typographer is to be believed.
3: The question of what isn’t and isn’t a “continent” (and thereby how many there are) is a tricky one, but absolutely no one except Anheuser-Busch follows the ‘Budweiser Label Model’.
4: And fuck; don’t get me started. Or at least beware, if you do. There’s a court date looming. I’m sure I’ll have more to vent about it — one way or the other, depending on the outcome.

4 thoughts on “Budweiser”

  1. Have you read Three Sheets to The Wind by Pete Brown?


    It contains some fine stories about Anheuser-Busch. I try to avoid anything with their name on it now – as a moral choice rather than anything to do with taste.

    That said, I hadn’t noticed their ownership of Beck’s, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe so it turns out I’ve been doing a rubbish job of avoiding them – especially while I was doing most of my drinking in shitty London pubs.

    1. Yep, it was very good. I gave it one of my votes (as a ‘technically awesome’ vote).

      My memory of the few Heinekens I drunk in the Netherlands in 1998, around the time I was really getting into beer, was that it was significantly more bitter with a bit more hop flavour. But I could be wrong.

  2. All the Heinekens I’ve tried for a while have had a viciously weird rankness about them. Not quite the horrendous cardboard-soaking-in-soda-water flavour that I had from a relatively recent Amstel Premium, but close.

    Since we’ve been talking about Moa so much, and since their brewer (as you allude) has a Heineken background, I should probably note that I always thought of Moa’s ‘Weka’ (soon to be known, absurdly, as Moa ‘Original’) as basically Heineken without the Horribleness — and since it was resting at the same pricepoint, and actually-local (rather than pretend-foreign), I always thought people were barking mad not to have one over the famous green bottle.

    Despite the Nerdery, I do make sure to dip into the Mass Market stuff very regularly, just to recalibrate — my Dad is a usually a supermarket lager buyer, and there are fairly regular mistakenly-opened things at work, so there are always testable bottles lying around.

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