Ahem

by Daniel on November 21, 2008

Budweiser, eh?

I asked the brewmaster, Jean-Marie Rock, which American beer he likes best. He thought for a moment, squinting down his bladelike nose, and narrowed his lips to a point. Then he raised a finger in the air. “Budweiser!” he said. “Tell them that the brewer at Orval likes Budweiser!” He smiled. “I know they detest it, but it is quite good.”

Thanks very much for the heads up to Luis Enrique and Unfogged. Sweet vindication, albeit coming from a guy with pointed lips. Other gems from the article:

“When a brewer says, ‘This has more hops in it than anything you’ve had in your life—are you man enough to drink it?,’ it’s sort of like a chef saying, ‘This stew has more salt in it than anything you’ve ever had—are you man enough to eat it?’ ”

Microbrewers, gahhh.

{ 88 comments }

1

matt 11.21.08 at 3:03 pm

Some commenter over at unfogged summed up what the supposed advantages of Bud are- you can drink it for hours and not get drunk and it doesn’t taste bad because it has no taste. I’m not sure I agree that the last one is even true, but suppose it is. Those may be good things in some drinks but it’s awfully hard to argue that they are virtues in a beer.

2

Daniel 11.21.08 at 3:04 pm

you can drink it for hours and not get drunk

Health Warning: not actually true.

3

Brett 11.21.08 at 3:06 pm

Its like making love in a canoe…..

4

Steve LaBonne 11.21.08 at 3:12 pm

Je pense que M. Rock se moquait de M. Bilger.

Bud:Orval::Yugo:BMW.

5

matt 11.21.08 at 3:20 pm

Daniel- don’t reveal yourself as such a light-weight!

6

Grand Moff Texan 11.21.08 at 3:33 pm

it’s sort of like a chef saying, ‘This stew has more salt

Wrong.
.

7

Ronnie P 11.21.08 at 3:39 pm

Of course, J-M Rock also says he wouldn’t pay two Euros for a Bud, and he brews a beer that’s nothing like Bud. To present this article as an argument against microbrews is silly. It’s mostly a debate between the dazzlers (Sam Calagione) and the more restrained (Garrett Oliver) within the US craft beer community.

That hop quote is from Oliver. His Brooklyn Lager has way more hops than Bud.

8

Preachy Preach 11.21.08 at 3:47 pm

That attitude is kind of why I made it to the end of one of last week’s Scott Walker concerts at the Barbican, unlike a significantly large proportion of the audience…

9

Steve LaBonne 11.21.08 at 3:59 pm

I’m with Grand Moff Texan. Usually I lean towards Belgian-style ales but with the right kind of food (spicy) I love me some Stone Arrogant Bastard, which is the kind of beer that quote seems to be making fun of.

10

a. y. mous 11.21.08 at 4:42 pm

Now that I think of it, I’ve tasted Budweiser surprisingly few times. Always a single schooner. Quite a while ago, may I add. And that too underage. Over the years, I have had occasion to taste many a beer. Ahem! Professionally*. Budweiser vaguely reminds me of Toohey’s Blue. An insult, as many Victorians have accused me of. But, I agree with the brewmaster. It not only is not bad. It actually is quite OK, for a mid-week., mid-afternoon refresher.

Now, if you want to to talk about Boston Lager or London Pilsner, that is a totally different ball game with strong views on every side.

* As a bartender of the supervisory cadre. The bar I worked in prided itself on stocking “every beer from every country in every continent”. Till we encountered a high spending customer from a country who got away with quite a few freebies, because his country was not considered important by us.

11

EIS 11.21.08 at 4:44 pm

This is an important part of the quote, I think, which follows what was included above:

“People would rather pay a little more and have a special product than to pay a lot for a Pilsner and have something banal,” he said. “I like Budweiser, but I wouldn’t pay two euros for a Budweiser.”

In other words, the brewmaster at Orval likes Budweiser because it is a good value for the money, not because it is an inherently good beer.

12

CK Dexter 11.21.08 at 4:49 pm

Hey Preachy Preach,

Can I buy you a soda?

13

joel hanes 11.21.08 at 4:53 pm

Long Sunday-night drive from North Tahoe skiing back to Silicon Valley. Heavy cold North California winter rainstorm. Visible from miles away, the red glow of the Budweiser plant on the south side of 80 glowers through the rain and steam and mists that wreath the enormous glowing Budweiser logo stamped across the brute metal facade of this gargantuan industrial machine.

And the product tastes every bit that good. Especially in cans.

14

Daniel 11.21.08 at 4:55 pm

The future is a jackboot stamping on a beer can – forever.

15

CJColucci 11.21.08 at 4:56 pm

For hot summer day refreshment, I used to drink Sam Adams Golden Pilsner, which I thought was everything Bud could have been. I never see it anymore, and I believe they stopped making it.

16

a. y. mous 11.21.08 at 5:26 pm

>> The future is a jackboot stamping on a beer can – forever.

Daniel, you are to blame. You are opening the floodgates. I don’t blame the fifth of the six-pack lying beneath the table. I blame you.

Beer cans. Beer cans. Beer fucking cans! I was working at an automobile ancillary manufacturing unit. A camshaft factory. The HR guy was showing around this engineer from the parent company in Germany, who is to fix the machinery that was down for the past two weeks.

So, he shacks up in this posh 4 star hotel and spends 4 hours every day unscrewing every bolt and poking the machines with some fancy meter. 3 days later he comes to the shop-floor and says something like “the primary electrical conductor is shot and needs replacement. Spares have been ordered. It will take a week.” My shift boss, an old hand, brings out his blow torch, whips out a dozen beer cans, cuts and flattens them, fuses them together into a long sheet and says “this is the conductor you want?”

Next day, I am moved to a different dept. as part of my management training. The shift boss is asked to take a long pending leave, and I can never forget the stare the German engineer gave to him the previous evening.

17

ajay 11.21.08 at 5:50 pm

15: and it’s that kind of dedication and attention to high quality manufacturing that have made the US auto industry what it is today.

18

Brian 11.21.08 at 5:51 pm

Look, if you like to drink crappy beer, then fine, why do you need to make such an issue of it? Sure, microbrew marketing can be quite annoying (especially at Stone, which brews some really fantastic beer), but surely you don’t mean to say Budweiser’s isn’t??

Drink whatever you want, but if you and the craft beer enthusiasts that evidently surround you want to feel superior because of it, best to keep it to yourselves.

(Of course, I still say this kind of thing wouldn’t happen if people would just learn to brew lagers well)

19

Nick L 11.21.08 at 6:11 pm

There are much, much better unpretentious, simple lagers than Budweiser. Carlsberg, Amstel and Peeterman Artois knock it into a cocked hat and are hardly exclusive tipples of beer snobs. American mass market beer simply sucks.

20

Steve LaBonne 11.21.08 at 6:28 pm

I don’t care much for lagers, but Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold is really good stuff. (And seeing as I live in the Cleveland area I get to feel all patriotic for recommending it.)

21

Dave Weeden 11.21.08 at 6:47 pm

Daniel @ 13: you may support Mrs McCain’s product, but sometimes you talk sense. People: always recycle your beer cans and save the planet. If you flatten them, you can get more in the bag/skip/recycling thing.

22

F 11.21.08 at 7:09 pm

The salt analogy is really crappy. If you want a better analogy, it would probably be along the lines of hops in beer = fat in cooking. The trend is towards more flavor (even if it’s unbalanced and very American in it’s more= better way).

23

Jason B 11.21.08 at 7:09 pm

That hop quote is from Oliver. His Brooklyn Lager has way more hops than Bud.

Yeah, but so does tapwater.

24

c.l. ball 11.21.08 at 7:17 pm

“When a brewer says, ‘This has more hops in it than anything you’ve had in your life—are you man enough to drink it?,’ it’s sort of like a chef saying, ‘This stew has more salt in it than anything you’ve ever had—are you man enough to eat it?’ ”

Yes. Yes.

I am tired of IPAs whose distinctive character is that they have more hops. The IPA has been virtually ruined by the hop-it-up attitude that has prevailed in the last 5 years, at least in the US.

25

Brian 11.21.08 at 8:21 pm

c.l. ball, that’s totally true — but c’mon, you still like those, at least a little bit, right? It would be fine if everyone didn’t try and jump on the bandwagon…

26

Hermenauta 11.21.08 at 8:31 pm

BHWAHAHAHAHAHA

Resistence is futile, you will be assimilated. Anheuser-Busch has just been bought by brazilian brewery AmBev.

Except, of course, that AmBev was bought before that by belgian InterBrew and is now called InBev. Gasp.

You can dream, Daniel, that I´ll end my days drinking Bud at the beach. Pity you: first dare to take this Antarctica from my cold dead hands!

27

Brian 11.21.08 at 8:44 pm

Wow, pretty impressive that Daniel managed to mine the only two pro-Budweiser quotes out of an article celebrating strange new brewing.

What about this one:

“[Dogfishead] is to Budweiser what a bouillabaisse is to fish stock.”

28

Righteous Bubba 11.21.08 at 8:48 pm

Libational Fascism.

29

mpowell 11.21.08 at 9:29 pm


The salt analogy is really crappy. If you want a better analogy, it would probably be along the lines of hops in beer = fat in cooking. The trend is towards more flavor (even if it’s unbalanced and very American in it’s more= better way).

This sentiment is kind of amusing b/c it betrays a lack of understanding of how salt is used. Salt adds flavor! That’s why it’s used! I think a steak would be a better example than a soup, but the point is that you add salt to food to add taste. But if you add too much, it doesn’t taste good anymore. The same is true of hops.

30

Danielle Day 11.21.08 at 9:36 pm

In Ireland, we noticed the lads putting crushed ice in their Bud. Europeans have such excellent taste and discrimination— far superior to us colonials.

31

rea 11.21.08 at 9:37 pm

The guy is a brewmaster for a Trapist monestary in Belgium. The article doesn’t say whether he’s a monk himself, and you wouldn’t think a Trappist would be gving interviews–but the point is, there’s nothing in the article suggesting that the guy has much experience with the more exotic varieties of American beers. So, when he ays Budweiser is the best, there is no reason to suppose he means anything other than better than Miller and Coors, which is not unreasonable.

32

Bloix 11.21.08 at 9:56 pm

I personally don’t care for hoppy beer. It’s too bitter for me. I tend to drink amber ale, which is sweet with a trace of hops. Amber ale has a lot of flavor, but people who really like hops generally don’t care for it.
So it doesn’t offend me personally that people like Budweiser. I think of them as people who don’t really like the taste of beer. As there’s no particular moral virtue in liking beer, it’s nothing to get excited about. I don’t drink Coca-Cola either, but it doesn’t bother me that other people do.

33

John Emerson 11.21.08 at 9:57 pm

Hamms is unjustly despised.

34

Charlie 11.21.08 at 11:38 pm

The ujse of Salt as an apt metaphor for hops is kind of ridiculous. Too much salt mames food literally inedible, to the extent of causing nausea and vomiting in more extreme cases.

Hops can be more easily compared to hot chili peppers: You can add as much as you want, the only issue is balance of flavour, and that is a matter of opinion.

Personally, I think a great many ‘craft’ beers are overhopped in the same way that many high end bottles of wine are drastically over-oaked. I want to taste balance, not a singel bitter herb in my beer , or nothing but oak in my chardonnnay.

35

Charlie 11.21.08 at 11:44 pm

I would also love it if, when I go to all the trouble of editing out my spelling and grammatical errors, that the latest version of my text would actually publish, instead of some wierd morphing of the last two minutes of typing…

36

dsquared 11.22.08 at 12:18 am

there’s nothing in the article suggesting that the guy has much experience with the more exotic varieties of American beers

true, but given that the guy does hold a living down as one of the top brewers in Belgium, you do get the feeling that if he wanted to spend every evening drinking 6000 IBU beer he could, and he doesn’t.

37

roy belmont 11.22.08 at 12:21 am

“the point is that you add salt to food to add taste”
Or, your sense of taste is what tells you the salt has been added. And your sense of taste is wired into your metabolic system in complex ways that allow you to interpret the body’s lack of or need for nutrients, which is experienced as things tasting good, or not. Not always but originally, its purpose being to indicate not as an end in itself.
As vestigially taboo here as anywhere is actual mention of the pharmaceutical effect of hops, as much an herb as it is anything else, which effect is not at all negligible.
So that some will prefer the hops experience and respond to the presence of hops in the taste of their beer with appreciation accordingly, others not.
If you can taste the hops distinctly they’ll be having a distinguishable mood-altering effect. Unless they’re decaf.
In completely outlaw contexts like that surrounding say cannabis, such effects can be evaluated openly, such as it may be whilst said evaluation takes place underground except in say Amsterdam, and yet often in intricate and relatively precise analytic detail.
Sativa v. indica, the Northern Light grand-daughter strain crossed into the Hindu Kush by way of Humboldt Violet. Taste in those discussions bearing only the role of indicator, the way it was once in wine-tasting before that was taken over by neo-Puritan nouveaux riches back in the 80’s.
Taste tells you what’s in there, and experience linked with taste tells you what what’s in there is likely to do.
There are millions of people around seemingly who will discuss at length the taste of a wine but who can only discuss the taste of it and its “nose” when they’re debating its merits.
Not a word to the high, the quality of the state of inebriation provided, when that is in fact the chief distinction and value of excellent wine, that it confers a delightfully altered state, pharmaceutically distinct from lesser vintages, with even at extremes of indulgence a relatively negligible come-down, or hangover.
Which is not to say that ridiculous over-consumption of even the best wines won’t exact a price, but that the state of sensible inebriation is discernibly better, less dull, less mindless, more ebullient.
Taste signals that, the potential of that state in the wine, as do smell and even color. That’s why taste is important, as more than just another hedonist pleasure channel.
Not that taste can’t be hoodwinked into sending the wrong message. Viz. the McDonald’s Corporation and its products.

38

theo 11.22.08 at 12:52 am

Charlie: The use of Salt as an apt metaphor for hops is kind of ridiculous. Too much salt mames food literally inedible, to the extent of causing nausea and vomiting in more extreme cases. Hops can be more easily compared to hot chili peppers: You can add as much as you want, the only issue is balance of flavour, and that is a matter of opinion.

Hops and salt both function as preservatives. Neither is a necessary component of a food or drink preparation, although salt is more intrinsically appealing for physiological reasons. Yet both have become customary additions to certain drinks or dishes.

Chili peppers can’t cause nausea and vomiting? I’ve certainly seen it happen. I imagine it’s possible to make someone sick from pure hop extract, too.

I agree that there’s a lot to be said for maintaining a range of palate sensitivity, so you can appreciate the widest range of flavor combinations possible. Provided that food preservation technology is available, I don’t think it’s wise to burn out your palate with super-hoppy beers, Starbucks French Roast, or South Indian levels of spiciness.

39

theo 11.22.08 at 1:00 am

There are millions of people around seemingly who will discuss at length the taste of a wine but who can only discuss the taste of it and its “nose” when they’re debating its merits. Not a word to the high, the quality of the state of inebriation provided, when that is in fact the chief distinction and value of excellent wine, that it confers a delightfully altered state

Wasn’t discussion of wine in the ancient world more focused on quality of high/hangover? Possibly because most of what they were drinking was hugely inconsistent in taste if not partway spoiled. We can do much better now, which gives us a chance to discuss subtle flavors.

I’m not convinced that “quality of high” is observable in practice. There are too many variables to control (amount drunk, drinking schedule, food eaten, etc.), all of which participate in feedback loops with the quality of high. There’s no real way to make repeatable observations of a dynamic process which is quite likely chaotic.

And that’s why I cheerfully ignore advice about hangover-free liquors, hangover preventatives, and hangover cures.

40

roy belmont 11.22.08 at 1:18 am

Gracias, Theo. Though inadvertent it may be, your confirmation is appreciated.
Salt and hops do preserve, but that’s not all they do. Salt does complicated things to the body’s metabolic processes, essential things, vital things.
Hops have a narcotic, as in sleep-inducing effect. Like other narcotic substances the hoppy path toward sleep has its own characteristics. And in mild doses produces something other than somnolence exactly.
Alcohol will preserve some foods, and makes a suitable liquid vehicle for tinctures and tonics, though clearly that’s not its main virtue.
There is, to repeat, a taboo, a vestigial Puritanical rejection of intoxication as inferior to the appreciation of savory things. Which means intoxicants like tobacco, and coffee, and tea, and alcoholic drinks aren’t commonly appraised for their pharmaceutical attributes, but for their taste.
Which means people talk about how these things taste more often than they talk about what they do.
Taste is, to repeat, more than just another hedonist pleasure channel.
The idea of burning out your palate with “super-hoppy” beers seems kind of absurd and unlikely, though. Unless those unfortunates with the super-hoppy burnt-out palates are just too ashamed of what they’ve done to themselves to have their conditions known and accounted.

41

roy belmont 11.22.08 at 1:29 am

Theo, our comments passed in the vestibule. Yours entering the room before mine, which was a reply to your other, first, comment.
Your second piece seems to be saying that the ignorant primitives of long ago only talked about the high/hangover features of their chosen intoxicants because they lacked the technologies to produce higher quality ones?
And we have those higher technologies, so we can talk more about the taste and smell of them? Being thus more refined etc.
Are you really saying that? You can’t be.
You’re certainly free to ignore or pay attention to anything you choose, but ignoring hangover cures etc, at least some of which are decidedly effective, if you choose to indulge to the point of being inevitably hung over, seems childish and confused at best.

42

roy belmont 11.22.08 at 1:35 am

No, “quality of high” is as observable in practice as any other subjective state.
The Puritan taboos and their vestiges still blanketing social discourse make this seem less available than it is.
“There’s no real way to make repeatable observations of a dynamic process which is quite likely chaotic.”
This is the voice of youth, and youth only.

43

Matt 11.22.08 at 2:29 am

Daniel, I’ve met a fair number of people who have tried to tell me that, really, McDonalds is pretty good. Or that Sabaro’s is a great pizza, as good as anything else really, and that it’s all just snobbery to say otherwise. Or that the coffee at 7-eleven really is just as good as that at La colombe, and that the sharp cheddar cheese at the super market is just as good as that fancy cave-aged stuff, or that Paul McCartney is just as good as Bach. But we all know, and usually even they know, that they just have low tastes in some areas. That doesn’t make them bad people, as having low tastes in beer doesn’t make you a bad person, and even if a chef sometimes likes eating McDonalds that doesn’t make it good food. The same, obviously enough, goes for Bud. (I know that trolling your own blog is fun, too, but I’m sure you can see that this is what you’re doing here.)

44

dsquared 11.22.08 at 2:43 am

McDonalds – yes, several decent chefs agree. Sbarro, no. 7-11, no, American supermarket cheddar good god no. Paul McCartney, not as good as Back but lovely in his own way.

Broadly speaking, some industrial products are good and some aren’t.

45

Matt 11.22.08 at 2:51 am

Well, now we know you’re wrong on this stuff even more than I would have thought! At least we know it’s not just a beer thing…

46

notsneaky 11.22.08 at 4:04 am

Actually, some gas station coffee (not nec 7-11) is way better than some of that fancy schmancy stuff. A lot of it has simply to do with freshness. A gas station that’s a truck stop is likely to re-brew fresh coffee more often than a hip coffee shop staffed by lazy, snotty and incompetent twerps (which a lot of them are). You can get the most expensive beans in the world but if that stuff’s been sitting there for awhile it’s gonna be nasty.

47

J Thomas 11.22.08 at 4:24 am

Hops can be more easily compared to hot chili peppers

I was going to write almost your post. I’d have used habaneros, though.

“Are you man enough to eat this?” If so, pile on more habaneros and less of everything else.

And when people say they like it, are they lying, or is it cognitive dissonance, or what?

48

PersonFromPorlock 11.22.08 at 5:17 am

My beer is PBR. Louche, I know, and actually there are a lot of better tasting brews around; but they all come in 12 ounce bottles, and if life has taught me one thing it’s that 12 ounces is an unnatural quantity of beer, simply the smallest amount that can be made to look like an honest pint with a trick glass.

49

bad Jim 11.22.08 at 9:25 am

Are we arguing the audacity of hope or the adequacy of hops? though I ask as I uncork another cheap Bordeaux from Trader Joe. The tragic simplicity of Bud or any such industrial brew is that it’s always the same from day to day. Corona, Dos Equis, siempre la misma cerveza. ¡Basta ya!

Beer, like life, should be variable, unpredictable, surprising. Gratifyingly delightful sometimes, foregiveably disappointing occasionally, as we may be ourselves. Judge not what you drink, lest you be drunk.

50

CK Dexter 11.22.08 at 2:52 pm

“So it doesn’t offend me personally that people like Budweiser. I think of them as people who don’t really like the taste of beer. “

This is very generous. I’m the same way. I allow people to, say, enjoy reading Harry Potter or Jonathan Strange. They’re just people who don’t really like literature–not that there’s anything wrong with that.

51

Righteous Bubba 11.22.08 at 3:42 pm

Would anyone turn down a Bud if it was free and was all that was offered over the course of, say, an hour?

52

Matt 11.22.08 at 4:21 pm

RB- I’ve gladly turned down Bud at, say, parties where it was offered to me for free. Usually I’d just rather drink water or something in such cases. I’ll drink it once in a while when it’s needed to not offend. But, the times I’ve had Bud or something similar in recent years was when I was, say, at a bar watching a sporting event and it was really cheap- a dollar a bottle or something. I’d though, “well, for a dollar a bottle it can’t be _that_ bad”, but yes, it was that bad, not worth a dollar a bottle. It reminded me of going to McDonalds after not having been there for years, thinking, “well, I sometimes liked it in the past and it can’t be that bad”, but then being shocked at how vile it was. Then again, Daniel says he thinks McDonalds isn’t bad, either, so we know something about his tastes.

53

CK Dexter 11.22.08 at 4:28 pm

“Beer, like life, should be variable, unpredictable, surprising.”

This is false. Many things are good precisely because they are unlike life in this respect, which is often variable in unpleasant ways. Beer is liquid bread and, like bread, it is a staple, not a garnish. Many wonderful staple foods are destroyed when morons make them surprising — this is particularly true of ethnic and cultural staples when bobby-over-flayed Americans get their hands on them and start gourmetifying them. Hey these wasabi-flavored chived sprinkled French baguettes are to die for! They go particularly well with my chipotle cinnamon stout!

54

Righteous Bubba 11.22.08 at 4:44 pm

RB- I’ve gladly turned down Bud at, say, parties where it was offered to me for free.

I’m genuinely surprised. It seems reasonable that food that appeals to that many people would be inoffensive. I’ve had genuinely nasty beer and Bud does not seem to me to have any properties worth noting except that there’s alcohol in it.

55

Matt 11.22.08 at 4:53 pm

_It seems reasonable that food that appeals to that many people would be inoffensive. _

But this is surely false, of course. It applies to Twinkies, McDonald’s cheese burgers, valveta (SP?) cheese, Spagettiios, and a huge other amount of garbage. Now, this doesn’t mean that everything that’s popular or has large appeal is bad, of course, but just that because something has large appeal doesn’t mean it’s not awful.

56

Righteous Bubba 11.22.08 at 5:15 pm

Now, this doesn’t mean that everything that’s popular or has large appeal is bad, of course, but just that because something has large appeal doesn’t mean it’s not awful.

Depends on what you mean by awful: I wrote inoffensive. On the burger continuum, for instance, I’d put a McDonald’s burger on the awful end of the spectrum, knowing what I could be having otherwise, but that doesn’t mean I think such a burger is offensive.

I have a kid, for instance, who gags at strong flavours and it’s been difficult to get animal protein into her. What worked first? A McDonald’s cheeseburger, a product so bland and devoid of character that a kid who gags at the smell of boiling dumplings will eat it.

57

dsquared 11.22.08 at 5:31 pm

Then again, Daniel says he thinks McDonalds isn’t bad, either, so we know something about his tastes

Even better, you know the same thing about the tastes of Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay, so the list of people who you can feel superior to because of your rarified princess-and-the-pea sensibilities is even greater. (“Zounds! Me? Drink Budweiser? The idea! I may swoon!”)

58

CK Dexter 11.22.08 at 5:40 pm

“Depends on what you mean by awful: I wrote inoffensive.”

Yes, this is what’s particularly bewildering about the faux-trage in the responses to the OP. The distinctive feature of Budweiser is lack of flavor, lack of character, innocuousness. The equation of mediocrity and blandness with awfulness is silly. Budweiser will not strike awe in anyone, no matter how precious their delicate beer-drinking palate.

I why is it that a nation (I include most English speaking countries as American colonies, of course) of ignorant no-nothings about ever other issue of aesthetic judgment is so pretentious about beer of all intrinsically mediocre objects of taste?

Wait, that question answers itself, doesn’t it?

59

Bloix 11.22.08 at 6:03 pm

” I allow people to, say, enjoy reading Harry Potter or Jonathan Strange. They’re just people who don’t really like literature—not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
But I DO believe that taste in literature does say something fundamental about a person’s character, while I DONT believe that taste in beer does.

It’s curious the different prejudices we have. For example, I think that people who drink cola in the morning instead of coffee are revealing a moral defect — they’re probably childish enthusiasts with bad judgment. I know it’s ridiculous to react that way but I do. I have a sneaking suspicion that people who drink tea in the morning (if they’re not British) are not quite reliable. And people who take sugar in their coffee are probably honest enough but they might turn out to lack backbone in a crisis. So although it’s not a prejudice I share, I can see how some people might believe that choosing to drink Bud demonstrates a character flaw, not merely personal taste.

60

Matt 11.22.08 at 6:56 pm

That would be funnier, Daniel, if it fit very well with what I’d said. It doesn’t, though. Try again if you’d like.

61

John Emerson 11.22.08 at 7:10 pm

62

notsneaky 11.22.08 at 7:20 pm

“And people who take sugar in their coffee are probably honest enough but they might turn out to lack backbone in a crisis.”

Wow. I think you just articulated what I’ve been unconsciously suspecting all these years.

From point of view of economic theory it’s weird how one’s person’s complements are another’s … not even substitutes, but anti-complements. I can’t stand sugar in my coffee and every time I’ve accidentally drank some I’ve had to run to the kitchen for some water to wash the taste out of my mouth.

As far as Budweiser goes, it does too have taste. And trust me, I’m a person who likes the flavor of beer. A lot. Some of you just have bland palates that need extreme defibrillation to get your taste buds jump started. Either that, or admitting this would just cause too much cognitive dissonance.
(Also people used to commonly believe, and maybe still do like #1 above, that Budweiser has less alcohol than Guinness or other fancy beers. If you told them otherwise they would look at you like you’re crazy)

63

Righteous Bubba 11.22.08 at 7:30 pm

Some of you just have bland palates that need extreme defibrillation to get your taste buds jump started. Either that, or admitting this would just cause too much cognitive dissonance.

It might also be that people, their tastes, and their very nerve endings are different and therefore some of them should have pianos dropped on their heads.

64

dsquared 11.22.08 at 7:51 pm

Yes it does; you may think you’re coming across as a sensible, grounded man of taste rather than a squealing prig here, but as Robert Burns said, wad some power the Giftie gie us, to see oorselves as ithers see us.

65

Matt 11.22.08 at 8:05 pm

Okay, Daniel. If you say so. I’m sorry that suggesting that your own tastes might not be great in every area has hurt you so, as it seems to have. This especially so when I am happy to admit that I have low tastes in many areas, too, as do we all. In the future we’ll never criticize anyone’s tastes, and we’ll all have great taste, as you obviously do in beer.

66

roy belmont 11.22.08 at 8:35 pm

There’s a serious categorical difference between one American Budweiser yes or no, and seven or eight, yes or no.
As opposed to one yes or no, and seven or eight yes or no of a beer a more caringly brewed.
But that’s pharmacology not taste, and we’re not allowed to debate pharmacology in our intoxicants. It is a sign of weak character to be concerned with the effects of intoxicants beyond the immediate, shallow, and momentary pleasures of taste and smell.

And CK Dexter your anti-yuppie snark in no way refutes bad Jim’s paen to whatever it was he was so forthrightly paening about.

67

tom bach 11.22.08 at 8:42 pm

“Even better, you know the same thing about the tastes of Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay,”
This is incorrect, White said something positive about McDonald’s consistency and Ramsay replied that in addition to being a health hazard “McDonald’s . . . is consistently bland.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-gospel-according-to-gordon-ramsey-warning-it-may-be-enough-to-put-you-off-your-breakfast-446699.html

68

Matt 11.22.08 at 8:58 pm

Tom- you’re going to make Daniel cry soon! Don’t tell him he’s wrong about McDonlds! You prig!

69

notsneaky 11.22.08 at 9:40 pm

“some of them should have pianos dropped on their heads.”

As the song says, people should be beat up for stating their beliefs.

70

CK Dexter 11.22.08 at 9:57 pm

I’m always intrigued by how easily people apply the normative discourse of aesthetic judgments to food and drink. Does this language really meaningfully carry over? Of course, to say that an artwork is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ means more than ‘it pleases me’ or ‘it displeases me’. While I don’t accept the reasonable, but I think questionable, view that aesthetic judgments are either literally nonsensical or expressions of subjective emotive states disguised, in bad faith, as informative, truth-apt statements, nevertheless I think that that aesthetic anti-realism may be right about culinary judgments.

The artistic judgment of ‘good’ includes, at least, the implication that one _ought_ to find it valuable, and that those who fail to find it valuable have misjudged it or missed something. We make culinary judgments this way, but isn’t that a category mistake? What does it mean to say: you _ought not_ find Bud as good as “x”? Not, is it correct, but what does such a judgment _mean_? What state of affairs would verify or falsify it?

The obvious answer is, I think, craftsmanship. You ought, I guess, to find it better-crafted. But then the debate is a farce, and it’s another category mistake to make culinary judgments as if they were about aesthetics and taste, and not craftsmanship. And it’s a mistake to go into fascist moral rants about people with the audacity to judge matters of culinary taste with their tongue, and not with their class war team cards and/or their Trader Joe’s membership cards.

Beer is not good or bad, but the belief that it is so is a good negative indicator of the moral value and aesthetic competence of the believer.

71

notsneaky 11.22.08 at 10:05 pm

“The artistic judgment of ‘good’ includes, at least, the implication that one ought to find it valuable, and that those who fail to find it valuable have misjudged it or missed something… but isn’t that a category mistake

CDK, yes, but who cares? Some people like crap and they should be made aware of the fact that they like crap. Some people like crap solely because it has a fancy name or because society tells them that it’s not crap, and as a corollary of this they insist in a very annoying way that non-crap is crap. This too should be mocked.

72

Bloix 11.22.08 at 10:52 pm

NSP – CDK is denying that the word “crap” has any objective meaning. If “crap” means “stuff-I-don’t-like” and nothing more, then you’re saying, “people who insist that ‘stuff-I-don’t-like’ is ‘stuff-they-like’ should be mocked for liking ‘stuff I don’t like.'”

73

CK Dexter 11.22.08 at 10:56 pm

notsneaky,

If culinary judgments aren’t judgments of taste, then no, we should _not_ make people aware of the fact that they like crappily crafted things, since who cares if people truly enjoy crappily-crafted things and don’t pretend their judgment is anything more than of enjoyment? It’s cheaper and easier for them, and leaves all the more well-crafted crap for the picky crafts snobs. For this reason, I agree that we should mock those who insist non-crap is crap. But only because on culinary matters, nothing is “crap” or “non-crap” aesthetically speaking. (Put another way, mock people with bad taste in art, not people with bad taste in crafts. Indeed, mock anyone who takes crafts seriously.)

I also agree that we should make people aware of the fact that they like crap–but only when it comes to true aesthetic judgments. I also agree that the proper way to do this is to mock them, preferably meanly. But that’s because misinformed, mistaken aesthetic judgments actually make the world an uglier, less satisfying place for all, including the misjudgers, and because they harm creators of aesthetically valuable art.

This is less clearly the case with crap-smanship. Crappily crafted things tend to be of mediocre, not bad, quality, and they tend to be that way because they serve a very useful function: crafted well enough to do the job at little cost. These things don’t make the world an uglier, less satisfying place for all, but only for snobs who get their sense of self-esteem by purchasing, displaying and talking about worthless crap that’s of a higher caliber than other people’s worthless crap. Craft snobs are, in this sense, analogous to fashion snobs, since their happiness depends on arbitrary distinctions, not aesthetically substantive ones (they are not, in other words, part of the reality-based community). For this reason, their happiness, like that of fashion snobs, doesn’t count. I think we should mock these people, and actively support anything that makes the world ugler and less satisfying _to them_.

74

nick s 11.22.08 at 11:06 pm

It is to Budweiser what a bouillabaisse is to fish stock.

Er, no. It is to Budweiser what nam pla is to fish stock. I remember seeing video of that stupid contraption at the Dogfish brewery tap where the beer is/was piped through dried hops at high pressure en route to the glass.

The obvious parallel (for botanical reasons, as roy b. notes) is with stoners who breed plants and plant-substance-absorption methods that (so I’m told) make you fall over at first puff. For High Times, read IPA Times.

(Me, I’m still waiting for Americans to go full-on microbrew with cider. There are plenty of places where, and it’s got tradition behind it.)

75

Mrs Tilton 11.22.08 at 11:35 pm

Ronnie P @7,

His Brooklyn Lager has way more hops than Bud

When we lived there, the Brooklyn Brewery sponsored (and ergo sold beer at) the wonderful Celebrate Brooklyn summer concert series in Prospect Park. On a visit after we’d returned to Europe, we discovered to our horror that the sponsor was now AB, and no, they weren’t content to simply pony up but let BB go on selling the beer. We also visited the man who runs the festival, whose son had been friendly with ours during our two Brooklyn Years, and scolded him roundly. With a sheepish shrug, he noted that he had a festival to run, and that AB had deep pockets. No doubt it would have salved his conscience to learn that Daniel thinks Bud a good beer, but the poor man knew not that balm. AB are still sponsor, BTW, as I learned this summer when we went to hear Brazilian Girls. The music (not least that from the opening acts) was almost good enough to make me forget my annoyance. Almost.

Nick L @ 19,

American mass market beer simply sucks

True to a first approximation. But don’t let Bud and Coors mislead you, there are some half decent American non-“craft” beers out there. Yuengling’s certainly springs to mind. I suspect that, in export markets like New York, it benefits from something of a Coolness Bonus. But in Pennsylvania, there is nothing in the least Exotic about it; it is Just Beer. And it’s a Yank beer I’d non-ir0nically offer to a German. Nobody here would mistake it for anything German, but I think a lot of people would like it. There’s plenty of mediocre and even bad German beer, BTW, not least where I live (which, to be fair, is traditionally a cider rather than a beer region). It’s just that the Purity Law limits the extent of the badness German brewers can achieve.

RB @51,

Would anyone turn down a Bud if it was free and was all that was offered over the course of, say, an hour?

Yes, I’ve done so myself. To be accurate, what I turned down was a second Bud. (I note, at some risk of prompting Daniel to mount his other hobby horse of that name, that AB are not allowed to call it “Budweiser” here .) This was at the Togo-Korea match in the group round of the 2006 World Cup. Purely to stick it to the chaibe Schwobe, Sepp Blatter had negotiated a deal that made (American) Budweiser the only beer sold in German stadia during the whole of the WC. (Not the worst of Blatter’s sins, surely, but the one for which watching demons prodding him with pitchforks for all eternity will be most enjoyable.) Before taking our seats we grabbed, as we customarily do in the Waldstadion, a beer and a bratwurst. This was on a sunny, humid, blistering day, the sort of day on which, one is told, American beer is sort of not really that bad at all, actually, if taken ice cold. Half an hour into the first half I was asked did I want another. I did not, and stuck with Apfelschorle for the rest of the match.

76

John Emerson 11.23.08 at 12:38 am

The conversation having slowed, I’ll just repeat my claim that if Iowa had not imposed prohibition decades before the rest of the US, you people would be grumbling about Selzer beer made in the brewery founded by my great-great-grandfather Rudolf Selzer two decades or so before Budweiser got started under that name. and a few years before the proto-Budweiser brewery was founded under a different name.

77

Colin Danby 11.23.08 at 1:12 am

Well let me be the first, John, to defend the humble, quotidian “Selz” against all those hypothetical snobs complaining about its watery, industrial taste. And I quite like the idea of you as a beer baron. In that alternative universe, I assume you’re a Republican.

78

John Emerson 11.23.08 at 1:31 am

Grandpa Selzer’s wife was named Vasser, leading to no end of crude jokes. The brewery still exists, I’ve been told.

79

bad Jim 11.23.08 at 9:00 am

My objection to branded products is partly Heraclitean: you can’t drink the same bottle twice, not least since the first bottle changed the biochemical environment you call yourself. Apart from that, a cold brew after a spate of physical labor on a hot day isn’t the same as a bottle from the same batch on the patio in the cool of the evening.

It’s trivially true that non-industrial beverages vary from batch to batch, year to year, like any agricultural product. Where are the snow peas of yesteryear? I encounter difference in every glass (I try to control this by opening only one bottle at a time) and I entice myself to continue by promising that the next one will be as good as the last, but interestingly different.

80

Bloix 11.23.08 at 4:51 pm

I saw Mike Leigh’s new movie “Happy-Go-Lucky” last night. There are a fair number of pub scenes, and in every one the characters – young attractive Londoners – seem to be sipping from bottles of Budweiser. I wonder if this is purely product placement or if young people’s beer of choice in London really is Bud.

81

John Emerson 11.23.08 at 5:14 pm

Dsquared’s own opinion is product placement. That’s what you wanted me to say, right?

Raising little Attilas can be spendy. They often kill their own fathers in their eagerness to take power, too. It will be like a family comedy, except with more bloodshed.

Budweiser asked themselves: “What one man in Europe is best capable of making us cool?” The question answered itself.

82

tom bach 11.23.08 at 5:23 pm

Re Bud in Pubs, I remember reading something about large volume vertical drinkers or mass volume vertical drinkers (lads who stand and drink from bottles) in London and recall that it was Bud or like products they stood and swigged.

83

David 11.24.08 at 12:39 am

@50 C.K. Dexter. The analogy doesn’t really hold up. People who like Budweiser and similar industrial brews generally do not like even mild craft beers. Many people who like Harry Potter are both voracious and discriminating readers and just as likely to vary their reading diets with your “literature.” Tolstoy with tatertots, why not?

84

seth edenbaum 11.24.08 at 3:11 pm

Between corporate and industrial culture and the cult of individual self-expression there is the culture of community and communication, and language. Nothing that has been made the same way for hundreds of years has actually been made the same way for hundreds of years. That applies to beer as much as law. It’s slow change. You put 20 people in a room you’ll get an argument. You put 3 people in a room followed by 3 more as the first ones leave and 3 more following again on and on for 500 years you might get something interesting, whether it’s or bread or beer or wine or cheese or Homer or the Bible.
Budweiser is not good beer. Microbrewers, by and large, miss the point. Of course they do, they’re beer geeks.

This is the critique from cultural “depth” which some conflate with mysticism or ‘spirituality.’ It’s simpler than that: Subtlety takes time.

85

MQ 11.24.08 at 3:52 pm

Good comment, Seth, but can’t you argue that Budweiser expresses a mass production ethic that in itself has a craft dimension of the sort you describe? I would argue that mass production is(was) a particular genius of America. It doesn’t aim for subtlety in its products, but historically an immense amount of craft went into the development of standardized, mass-produced food and drink that reliably appeal across a wide range of tastes.

86

seth edenbaum 11.24.08 at 4:29 pm

I go to McDonalds sometimes too.
I used to like their apple “pies” when I was a kid and they were fried in the same fryer with the french fries and the fish.

87

John Emerson 11.24.08 at 6:05 pm

I was a McDonald’s cook in 1967-8. My cooking training was 15 minutes and mostly was about keeping the area clean. I refused to eat the hamburgers I cooked, and so did all of my coworkers.We weren’t boycotting McDonalds, we were boycotting me. And I was the most adamant boycotter of the bunch.

I only ate the fish sandwiches, which were hard to ruin, and I eat them even today in a pinch. With a more interesting bun and a more interesting sauce they’d be absolutely good.

88

roy belmont 11.24.08 at 9:49 pm

Subtlety takes time
Yes, but no, consistent subtlety takes time.
Consistently reproducible subtlety requires subtleties of recognition and technique, which take time to gather and and confirm and collate, but subtlety itself can happen overnight.
The right amount of the right spices on the right chicken cooked just the right amount of time. Ciao bella!
Now, how the heck did I do that?

Comments on this entry are closed.