I tend to regard myself as Crooked Timber’s online myrmidon of a number of rather unpopular views; among other things, as regular readers will have seen, I believe that the incitement to religious hatred legislation was a good idea (perhaps badly executed), that John Searle has it more or less correct on the subject of artificial intelligence, that Jacques Derrida deserves his high reputation and that George Orwell was not even in the top three essayists of the twentieth century. I’m a fan of Welsh nationalism. Oh yes, the Kosovo intervention was a crock too. At some subconscious level I am aware that my ideas about education are both idiotic and unspeakable. But I think that all of these causes are regarded as at least borderline sane by at least one fellow CT contributor. There is only one major issue on which I stand completely alone, reviled by all. And it’s this; Budweiser (by which I mean the real Budweiser, the beer which has been sold under that brand by Anheuser-Busch since 1876) is really quite a good beer. I have been threatening this post in comments for a while now, and here it is:
I am perhaps biased in this because Budweiser was the beer I was brought up on. When I was a kid, we lived in Oklahoma for a couple of years, which was at the time one of the states where the brewers sold beer that was 3.2% alcohol in order to comply with local regulations. My mum and dad therefore reasoned that it was a suitable beverage for ten-year-olds to have with Sunday lunch. I didn’t actually like beer all that much at the time and only took a few sips in order to feel grown up, but I suspect that it probably had some formative effect.
So anyway, anti-Budweiserism, the form of mindless anti-Americanism that even anti-anti-Americans are prepared to endorse. The facts of the matter are as set out below: (by the way, I heartily recommend Maureen Ogle’s book “Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer (which has not gone down well with beer snobs. And just because I’m so happy to have found the Ogle book, here’s her blog)
- Budweiser has been around for at least as long as your “traditional” British ales, most of which also date back to the Victorian period. The Anheuser-Busch company began selling it in 1876. This was a full 20 years before the Budvar brewery in Ceske Budejowice was even built, a subject I will come back to. The recipe has not changed since then, apart from a period during Prohibition when the alcohol content was reduced to 0.5% in order to comply with the law. It is an authentic, traditional product just like the ones CAMRA promotes.
- Budweiser is not “full of chemicals”. It does not comply with the German “Purity Law”, but this is because it has a non-barley grain in it (rice). The Rheinheitsgebot is a stupid law in any case, and was originally passed not to safeguard the sacred purity of German fluids (a concept that ought to be regarded as suspicious in its own right, as history has shown that when the Germans get keen on “purity” it is not always a wholly positive development) but to preserve wheat for making bread. Budweiser is brewed with barley, hops, yeast and rice, and has a small amount of tannin in it from the beech chips used in conditioning. It’s a natural product. It is not “processed” either; it’s filtered to remove sediment (in other words, it’s a lager) and the bottled version is pasteurised, like Budvar or Guinness . Unlike Guinness, however, it isn’t served using a nitrokeg process.
- Budweiser has rice in it. So what? So do Asahi and Kirin of Japan, Bintang of Indonesia and Efes of Turkey, and nobody has such a hate on about them. Lots of the people who claim to hate Budweiser will out of the same mouth discourse long and pretentious about the merits of sake. Rice is a perfectly sensible bulk grain to make beer out of if you want a light lager, particularly in countries like America which grow a protein-rich strain of barley. Plenty of real ale types will maintain that Anheuser-Busch uses rice in its brewing in order to save money, which shows a worrying lack of curiosity, as anyone making this argument can’t possibly have looked at the price of rice and the price of barley. Adolphus Busch in 1876 was a German master brewer of exactly the sort that beer nuts go gooey over, he was trying to make a high quality beer (as proved by Budweiser’s use of expensive Saaz hops), and he decided that the best way to brew a lager was to use rice.
- Budweiser does not taste like piss. Normal urine has a pH of 4.6 to 8.0. Budweiser, like most lagers, has a pH of around 4.0. Therefore, Budweiser is definitely more acidic than piss. It’s also just the ticket if you happen to be drinking beer for breakfast, as the fresh taste of the rice content goes particularly well with most cereals (it is not coincidental that nobody has yet marketed Barley Krispies).
- Budweiser is not for poofs. In fact, it is Bud Light which is the Anheuser-Busch brand targeted at the gay community, not Adolphus Busch’s original recipe.
- No, bollocks to your “microbreweries”. These so-called “craft brewers” are a newfangled modern invention and have very little to do with the traditions of the brewing industry. We have no real way of knowing what beer tasted like in Ye Olden Days Of Bavaria Etc, but it was probably horrible. Beer as it is drunk today is a product of the Industrial Revolution; it was arguably the first recognisably modern industry. It is not an artisanal product and up until very recently could not be produced in small batches at all with any acceptable consistency of quality. “Microbrews” are in general wildly overpriced – some of them are quite nice because they use extremely expensive ingredients, but they are not intrinsically better than industrially produced beers. There are good and bad industrially produced beers – I am only arguing here that Budweiser is one of the good ones, because it has an excellent pedigree, it is 100% natural, the recipe has never been altered and it has never compromised on the quality of ingredients. This is not true of a lot of competing American (and Australian, the sad state of whose brewing industry probably merits a post from someone more familiar with it than me) beers.
- Budweiser did not rip off the poor little Czech government. Budweiser did not steal the Czechs brand name. Budweiser is not a copy of Budvar. Budvar is not the original Budweiser. Budweiser does not use malicious lawsuits to keep the honest Czechs down. And a number of related issues. Ahem.
As I mentioned above, there is no question at all over which beer has been sold for the longest under the brand name “Budweiser”. It is the Anheuser-Busch product. The Budejowicky Budvar brewery sold beer under the brand name “Budvar”, (because that’s what the brewery is called) for most of its history until in the 1960s they realised that they might be able to stick on a few export sales if they put “Budweiser” in bigger type on the labels.
Anheuser-Busch had got the trademark on “Budweiser” internationally, and defended it in a pretty reasonable fashion. It is true that “Budweiser” is a generic term for beer from Budweis in the same fashion as “Pilsner”. (I parametrically note that the word “Budweiser” seems to me to be the only German place name that Czech nationalists get all proprietorial about, with the possible exception of Prague/Praha. IMO, if they want to be consistent, we should go back to Budweis, Pilsen, Carlsbad, and in general fewer diacritics on the road signs). But of course, Budvar didn’t want to establish it as a generic term – they wanted to claim the “Budweiser” trademark for themselves. “Bavaria” is also a pretty generic term, by the way, but somehow the Bavarians, who certainly care about their beer, don’t get so bent out of shape about it being trademarked by the Dutch.
However, in a number of European countries, Anheuser-Busch have either lost judgements or ended up settling out of court on disadvantageous terms to themselves (mainly France and Germany; Budweiser is marketed as “Bud” in a lot of Mediterranean countries, but this is because the name is easier to pronounce).
On the merits of the case, it appears to me that A-B have got pretty badly screwed in quite a few jurisdictions. As a pure trademark case, it certainly seems that they have got priority, so the Czechs’ case tends to revolve around “Budweiser” being a geographical indication. But this really doesn’t fit in with the reality of the brewing industry. Beer is an industrial product, not an agricultural one. It’s made from grain, a standardised commodity. Breweries can and do move from one location to another. There’s no real basis for a geographic appellation scheme for beer.
It seems not impossible to me that in a few cases, the legal judgements may have been coloured by the prejudices of beer snobs for a beer that wasn’t Budweiser. It wouldn’t be the first time it had happened.. The notorious “Beer Orders” of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1989 were basically a love letter to Camra. They had very little economic reasoning (the consumer interest in the beer market was in local monopolies in pubs, not large brewers) and they did very little to halt the slow decline of the independent UK brewing sector – all they did was create the “Pubco” specialist pub operating companies which – guess what – the real ale types are now whining about. (John Kay thinks that the Beer Orders were good for the licensed trade, but not in a way which the connoisseur would find congenial).
People seem to lose all rationality when dealing with things like beer. Football clubs are a bit similar – all sorts of idiotic and dishonest business practices are tolerated there, and people like Simon Jordan who try to insist that people honour contracts, tell the truth and don’t self-deal in business transactions get disciplinary hearings and dark mutterings that they are “not football people”. Meanwhile, it seems pretty clear to me that if Robert Mugabe were to buy West Ham tomorrow and promise to spend £100m on players, he’d be described as “a slightly controversial figure, but beloved in East London” by the end of the week. One good thing about countries like America where everyone with an income greater than a subsistence farmer but less than a Russian oligarch calls themselves “middle class” is that they don’t have this phenomenon of sensible middle class people doing silly things in order to pretend to be working class. Another good thing about America, of course, is Budweiser beer.
Coming next: Mick Hucknall is an excellent songwriter and Simply Red stand up very well as one of the best soul bands of the last thirty years.
 JM Keynes, JK Galbraith and Elizabeth David were all better, IMO.
 Actually this was something of a miscalculation on their part. In one of those irritating measurement discrepancies which occasionally bring down satellites, Oklahoma’s regulations define alcoholic strength by weight, rather than by volume under the European standard. The “weak” Budweiser was actually 4.1% ABV, which made it substantially stronger than a lot of British beer of the time, including Robinsons’ bitter and Wrexham Lager, for which my Dad was occasionally nostalgic while we were there. But no permanent harm was done.
 We really had no chance of understanding this one. The British standard for measuring the alcoholic strength of beer at the time was “original gravity”, which can of course be converted to ABV by subtracting the final gravity, a number you were not usually given, and dividing by 0.00738. Strangely, few tears were shed when this relic of the days of chains, bushels and furlongs was discarded in favour of a more sensible European metric.
 Robinsons is actually a local beer brewed and sold around Stockport in Greater Manchester, but they had quite a bit of tied estate in North Wales, presumably in order to reduce the culture shock experienced by holidaying Lancastrians.
 “Wrequest Wrexham Lager: The Local Hero”, as its ad campaign of the 80s went. One of the genuinely awful beers of Britain; I and everyone else assumed that it was some horrible creation of a corporate marketing department but no, it was actually a local tradition that had been around since 1882 and had been desperately unpopular for its entire existence (it is now apparently, and deservedly, extinct) and went into insolvency roughly once every twenty years. Sold more or less exclusively through tied houses owned by the increasingly despairing Allied Breweries (later Carlsberg-Tetley), and in extraordinarily cheap and nasty cans and polyurethane bottles through the off-trade. No doubt there are a bunch of real ale enthusiasts out there who are prepared to claim it tasted better than Budweiser.
 Actually, the Wrexham Lager brewery was started by German immigrants, and thus the current inhabitants of Wrexham would probably have burned it down. The town had anti-asylum-seeker riots in 2003 despite having no asylum seekers there (they had a small community of about 40 Iraqi Kurd immigrants and got the wrong end of the stick). The BNP polled 9.4% there in the recent local government elections, on the back of local dislike of Polish and Portugese workers (there is no Kurdish community in Wrexham any more as all 40 of them decided to go to Birmingham or somewhere). As post-industrial hellholes go, Wrexham really is thoroughly deserving of its EU Objective One money; it doesn’t even have particularly nice scenery surrounding it. About the nicest thing you can say about Wrexham is that they don’t make Wrexham Lager there any more.
 An entirely counterproductive slogan because the North Wales coast is a really quite parochial place and we certainly didn’t regard Wrexham as “local”; they talked funny there and local mythology held them responsible for our heroin problem. I suspect that the ad agency people hadn’t spent much time in Wrexham, although thinking about it this is pretty obvious; Wrexham did not have much of a media industry and if you’ve got a job in an ad agency (or for that matter a job at all) you’re not going to visit Wrexham very often.
 The media capital of North Wales would of course be Caernarfon, home to the Sain record company (basically the Bertelsmann Group of nashie culture; Wales is like one of those Balkan republics where the pop music industry is heavily entwined with nationalist politics, albeit that Dafydd Iwan is both a more serious musician and in general a more progressive political figure than Arkan) and to the Northern office of the Cardiff kiddie CGI titans (“Fireman Sam”, “Superted” and about a dozen others) Siriol Productions. Wikipedia is completely untrustworthy on this one, by the way, listing Wrexham as “the main commercial, educational and cultural centre in North Wales and often termed ‘The capital of North Wales’”
 No, I am not going to let this one lie. Those arrogant Wrexhamites cannot have this one all their own way. This aggression will not stand. Let’s look at that little list shall we? Wrexham is the main “commercial” centre? I think not; the town’s main industry is tripping over paving stones. Main “educational centre”? Really? NEWI is more prestigious than UCNW Bangor is it? Which one of these is the UK’s premier research centre for marine biology, with a medical school and a well-regarded School of Banking and Finance, and which one is a jumped-up teacher training college? “Cultural centre”? The Welsh National Opera plays in Llandudno when it comes North, not Wrexham; there is only one theatre in Wrexham and it is about a third of the size of Theatr Gwynedd in Bangor. Even the “ooh la di da, look at us, we play in the English League, the Principality Building Society League of Wales isn’t good enough for us Wrexham FC is not the power it once was (insolvency and a three year legal battle trying to prevent the chairman from selling the stadium will do that to you). The only place that is often termed “The capital of North Wales” is Liverpool.
 In fairness, I cannot actually blame them for this; the Principality Building Society League of Wales isn’t good enough for anyone. Its only claim to fame is that about ten years ago (when it was called the Konica League of Wales), David Taylor of Porthmadog FC won[10a] the Golden Boot for having scored the most goals in league football in Europe, making him undisputably the equal of Ronaldo, Marco van Basten etc.
[10a] Actually, although David Taylor was indisputably the highest scorer in Europe in 1993-94, he didn’t officially win the Golden Boot. The sponsoring body for that trophy had suspended it in 1990-91 after a nasty argument and legal tussle involving a player in the equally pointless and uncompetitive Cyprus football league who was demanding to be awarded it for scoring 40 goals past clubs that nobody was even sure if they existed. The Golden Boot was only reinstated in 1996, with some bogus stipulation that places a greater weight on goals scored past teams like AC Milan relative to goals scored past Abergavenny Thursdays or NEWI Cefn Druids (both actual teams from the League of Wales and by no means the worst ones). What a chiz, I ask you. Tony Bird of Barry Town and Marc Lloyd Williams of Bangor City have already been screwed out of their rightful honours in this way.
 I get an uncomfortable feeling that I ought to be writing the article rather than just piling up footnotes having a go at Wrexham, but I am determined to shoehorn in a reference to Mickey Thomas as Wrexham FC’s third most famous ex-player after Ian Rush and after his contemporary, the iconic Joey Jones.
 Mickey Thomas will always be identified in North Wales with Wrexham as he played for them at the beginning and end of his career, but he was actually born in Mochdre (literally “Pig-Town”) further to the West. Mickey Thomas was something of a larger than life character who played for Manchester United during one of their unsuccessful periods in the early 1980s. He is most famous in football for his ability to earn free kicks by play-acting (he claims, undeservedly), and outside football for presenting a radio show, getting arrested for his part in a counterfeiting racket in 1993 (a forged note is still called a “Mickey Thomas” in North Wales I am told) and being stabbed in the bum with a screwdriver by a jealous husband.
 Apparently Mochdre was the first place in the world where trackside water troughs were used so that steam trains could take on water without having to stop, as if anyone gives a fuck. Oh yeh, and NEWI Cefn Druids can trace their history back to the original Druids FC, the oldest club in Wales and therefore are the oldest football club anywhere in the world outside England. To be honest I’m now just trawling through Wikipedia looking for fascinating facts (many of which are probably just disinformation put there by passing Wrexhamites) and diminishing returns have surely set in. Back to the article about Budweiser.
 I have a feeling that neither Kieran nor John are going to be particularly big fans of this endnoting strategy, particularly this last endnote which is not even referenced anywhere in the text.