August 21, 2001
Budweiser, if you will believe what you read on beer labels, is "The King of Beers." This is a serious problem for the residents of the beer nation, for they recognize that amongst them many of them are considerably more suitable for the crown.
An Early Meeting with Bud
My first introduction to Budweiser wasn’t in the form of the beverage itself but rather the advertisements the company used to push their product. As a child, I was rather jealous of my friends who had Spud McKenzie t-shirts. This was back before I even cared about the difference between products, and so I never would have associated the dog with one kind of beer but “Tastes Great, Less Filling” with a different one. All I cared about at the time was that the ads were amusing and had little catchy slogans that, when repeated in the company of schoolmates, would bring about a tittering of sorts. I was too young to drink, at least so I thought, and so the only thing that mattered was how funny the ad was, not how good the drink.
This trend continued through my teens though I eventually came to have some sort of brand recognition. Of course, the fact that the frogs on the television screen were clearly stating one brand and not another, and that during the Super Bowl ads I was treated to the “Bud Bowl” not the “Boddington’s Bowl” or other such things were evidence of such. I loved watching the advertisements, but everywhere around me people kept telling me that Budweiser was the worst beer that a person could possibly drink. I wasn’t much of a drinker at the time, so it didn’t really matter to me. At one point I distinctly remember being in a hotel room in Albany and I tried Bud Light, and it didn’t seem to bother me at all. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have tried to assess the qualities of a beer when I was extremely inebriated.
The real revelations and waves of amazement came to me a year or so after my twenty-first birthday. I had been old enough to drink, but whenever I would go out with a friend I would always order liquor based beverages, if anything. I never had all that much experience with beer, having avoided it from a young age. I had a negative mental association connecting drinking beer with drunk driving for some reason – it could have come from a lot of public service announcements during the Reagan administration.
My experiences in Mexico taught me that sweet beverages with alcohol in them could be savored over long periods of time. They also taught me that certain Mexican beers, which I had assumed horrible due to drinking them in the United States, were actually quite good. This perhaps had something to do with the fact that we were staying a mile or two away from the place where the beer was bottled. Then again, it could have had something to do with the fact that it was really hot outside in Mexico, and when you are dehydrated even a beverage that would otherwise have a horrible taste is refreshing and quenching.
When I was confronted with the reality of being in a pub, where ordering a sweet drink like that was an impossibility, I went for beers I was somewhat familiar with. I remembered liking (or was that disliking? The memory wasn’t too strong) Guinness, and so I ordered one. There was one point in time when I would go to a small pub with a classmate of mine and we’d alternate paying for drinks and light snacks. I thought it would be a good experience to have a different beer every single time I went. I found beers with names such as Old Speckled Hen, Boddington’s, and Caffrey’s Irish Ale. Every time we came out it was as if a new world was being opened to me. I found a few beers which I realized were preferable to the others, and so I stuck to them.
I recently read a column which asserts, “Anheuser-Busch brews more beer a year than the whole of the British brewing industry.” This is ridiculous. I have had many beers from many British brewing companies and not a single one of them could come close to rating as below “thoroughly good,” in my own estimation. On a similar note, the few pseudo-beers that I have suffered through that have come from the Anheuser-Busch company or other similar domestic mass-producers have never ever been above a “obscenely disgusting.” For some reason I feel compelled to ask people who are drinking these products if they are really enjoying them. It also makes me wonder what it must be like to be a bartender in a bar where they have lots of good beer as well as garbage. It reminds me of an online comic called Goats, specifically this one. I think if I were a bartender and someone did what the person does in the comic, I would pretty much want to do the very same thing the bartender does.
Another shock in terms of advertising and its effectiveness on people came when I was waiting to get my car repaired. Another customer explained to me the way that advertising for car racing is priced. It all depends, he said, on how much “screen time” the racer is going to get per race. Would it really matter though, I asked, as they were only names of products placed on cars? If a person hadn’t previously cared for that brand name, or knew nothing about it, would it matter what brand was placed on there? He told me that it mattered, for the fans of certain drivers would often times use the brand names on the cars their heroes drove, to the exclusion of the brand’s competition. Was it really possible that people felt that strongly about race car driving? Apparently so, according to the gentlemen who were sitting in the garage that day.
You don’t have to be a peon in the Budweiser monarchy. You too can go out and get a Samuel Adam’s, a Boddington’s, or if you are really ready to try something different, a beer of the hefeweizen variety. Go with a friend, even. Beer drinkers of the world, unite! We have nothing to lose but our cheap, mass-marketed watered down beer.