Immediately upon the airing of the now-infamous craft beer commercial produced by Anheuser Busch, the craft beer community took to social media in droves, expressing their displeasure at the nerve of this conglomerate to display pride in its product. The Super Bowl commercial poked fun at mustachioed, pumpkin peach beer-drinking craft brewers, proudly describing Budweiser as a “macrobrewery.” Hipsters everywhere unzipped their skinny jeans, wiped off their glasses with a homemade vinegar and water concoction, tossed their gluten-free/dairy-free/calorie-free soy nachos back on their plates, and unplugged their beard trimmers to charge their phones, making sure they had the juice to tweet their anger.
Folks, Budweiser isn’t going away any time soon. That’s a fact. Let me preface this with a bit of background about me. I detest Bud Light. Yes, like many of you, I think it’s just this side of carbonated water with some beer flavoring added. And yes, I am deeply involved in the craft beer industry. I drink it. I film it. I write about it. I am also a chef who enjoys cooking with craft beer. So much so that I produced a pilot series that focuses on that very thing. You will find no defense of rice beer here. Yet I respect Budweiser, just as I respect Miller Lite. I have owned multiple businesses and know how hard it is to succeed, and, even more, how difficult it is to brand an item as an icon. And yes, Budweiser is an American icon. As much as Ford or Chevy. As much as Coca-Cola.
Ask any brewer and they’ll be likely to tell you that they respect Budweiser. No, it doesn’t mean you have to drink their swill. But the ability to consistently produce the exact same beer is no easy task. Making beer is a process that is, at the very least, temperamental. The four main ingredients of a beer are typically a grain,yeast, water, and love. Every bottle of Budweiser you taste will be identical to the last. Considering the volume that Budweiser produces, this is no easy feat. This is a company that distributes that same beer to 80 different countries. It’s a company that puts food on the table for over 150,000 families. Thousands more are employed indirectly through various distributor services. Forbes Magazine lists it as one of the world’s most innovative companies. In the last ten years, ABI has donated over $360 million dollars to nonprofit organizations. In 2005 they supplied over nine million cans of drinking water to Hurricane Katrina victims.
Now, all that being said, understand that I am putting things in perspective, for you, Dear Reader. And, as stated, you will find no defense for Budweiser’s beer in this article. Nor will you ever find a Bud or Bud Light in my hand. Not even if it’s free. Many people have criticized Budweiser’s ravenous acquisition of many microbreweries. But, as with many things, free thinking is important. Since 2001, Google has purchased 174 technology companies. Since 1988, Apple has purchased 63 technology companies. Since 1987, Microsoft has purchased 171 technology companies. Where was the Twitter uproar about these other acquisition-happy companies? Did your Gucci Organic Bear Beard Grease cause your fingers to slip off your phone? Or are you simply riding the craft beer bandwagon and obeying whatever Draft Magazine says? Sure, craft beer is making a major comeback, in a major way. We just surpassed 3200 breweries in the United States and are approaching an all-time brewery count high, in a nation that, in many ways, is here because of beer. But make no mistake, Budweiser isn’t going to close its doors just because you got your mankini in a wad over their commercial. Nor should they.
Budweiser spills more beer each day than 80 percent of the brewers in this country produce. The beauty of the craft beer world can be summed up in two words: creativity and passion. Craft brewing is a thankless job. Those in the business face long hours and lots of sanitizing and cleaning. Most brewers I know call themselves the janitor. But they are also a fiercely proud crowd that wants to put a product in your hand just so they can watch your face in that magical moment when you take your first sip. I’ve seen it many times as a chef. Your eyes close as you breathe deep to inhale the brew’s intoxicating fumes. As the liquid passes your lips, it coats your tongue and invades your nose. Thousands of bubbles in a single sip, all carefully crafted for that exact moment, coat the back of your throat as the beer washes down. Yes. You just experienced a hopgasm. And it’s the finest compliment you can give your brewer.
Now more than ever, Budweiser is in the business of business, rather than the business of beer. A growing craft beer market has forced the company to pay attention. And it’s going to do whatever is necessary to survive— and, hopefully, grow—as any business should. Elysian Brewing, a recent acquisition of ABI, is a prime example of this persistence and flexibility. Elysian’s brewers have made it very clear that, if anything, they are now able to produce an even more superior beer. Thanks to their purchase by ABI, they have access to new equipment and technology. They have a better distribution platform to work from. Yet their core beer will not change. It’s business. And it’s good business. But hey, Budweiser, that was a dick move with the whole “pumpkin peach ale” statement. Clearly a shot at a brewery you just purchased.
At the end of the day, don’t forget your roots. And know that you are welcome to establish a company that earns the title of “King of Beers”, employs hundreds of thousands of workers, and donates hundreds of millions of dollars to charities. In the meantime, if you don’t like Budweiser, don’t drink it. Saddle yourself up to your local craft brewery and thank them by taking a long sip of history. But, most importantly, stop the hate. Think for yourself. And remember that beer plays well with others.