Are You Tasting the Pith? - 8th July 07
If you're farly well plugged into the drinks industry, it seems weird that to most people Anheuser-Busch is a name that they're never heard of. Well, most people in the UK, because A-B are a brewing giant in the US, and are currently restyling themselves for an assault on the European "specialty" market.
It's weird when reps come calling at our tiny shop. Although we've managed to make a big name for ourselves, we are the archetypal tiny fish in a big pond. We have a range of 500 beers, and it seems increasingly that bigger breweries want a piece of our very finely-sliced pie; even though it isn't going to be a volume listing for them, there is value to be gained by being endorsed at a haigh-clarse retailer such as us.
To be honest, I didn't hold out much hope when the nice rep from A-B called and left some samples for us; Estrella Damm (already stock it), Harbin and Michelob. Harbin (5%abv), a 'premium' (which increasing just seems to mean any 5% beer in a bottle) lager imported from China, can be dismissed immediately, on the basis that it tastes pretty much of nothing, a quality which we have previously only attached to the majority of A-B's North American output, but now can also be maliciously and gleefully given to some of their overseas offerings.
Surprise, then, that Michelob Lager (5% abv) should be a beer that actually exceeds our (admittedly low) expectations. Reverting to the imported version for the first time in years, this confounds expectation by finding favour (or should that be 'favor'?). It actually tastes like and all-malt lager, has a slightly creamy vanilla smoothness (is that wood-ageing?), and a gently bittersweet finish. This isn't Budvar (or should that be 'Czechvar'?), and when I say a bittersweet, don't be thinking of no IPA, beerfriend, but it is a decent quality all-malt lager, and one that I would drink again.
Estrella Damm, imported from Spain, appears to have dropped a few points of punch in being reduced from it's previous incarnation at 5.2% abv, to it's current 4.2% abv. Whether this has been done by brewing reformulation, reverse osmosis, or some other manner of unnatural jiggery-pokery is unclear, but it sadly isn't the beer it was, and believe me, I never thought I'd say that about what was, at best, a fairly undistinguished but nice enough international clone lager. I wonder what it's all about? My private conspiracy theory is that someone (the government, aliens, David Icke) is insisting that a bottle of beer must equal a unit of alcohol - one drink, one unit - meaning that it is easier to monitor your intake. Anyway, as a medio-Andaluz, I'll end with the obligatory plug about how Cruzcampo is the best Spanish beer.
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