Handsome and tasteful beer aficionados like ourselves rarely have nice things to say about Budweiser, for the very good reason that it sucks. However! Even sucky beer is pretty good. (Unless you’re talking about Heineken, and why would you?) Plus, qualitative sins of the flagship product aside, Anheuser-Busch has made some important contributions to American beer-drinking life. So let’s cast our snobbery aside for just long enough to run down some of the highlights.
1. Anheuser-Busch popularized freshness dating. Before Bud products began advertising their birthdays right on the packaging in the mid-1990s, drinkers had no way to gauge just how haggard a given bottle of brewski might be until it was too late. Freshness is of paramount importance to many styles of beer, and AB was far ahead of craft on that curve.
2. There are a lot of very good dogs out there named Budweiser. It’s hard to name things, man. That’s why so many new beers are saddled with corny hop pun monikers and so many new humans are called Aiden. Therefore, it makes sense to name your dog Budweiser, if you like Budweiser. It’s a strong, sturdy name that conjures both celebration and longevity. Don’t name your cat Budweiser, though, or your daughter.
3. AB-InBev commits occasional acts of legitimate charity. Even if the recent donation of 50,000 cans of drinking water to flood-fucked parts of Texas and Oklahoma was 100 percent publicity-driven, the bottom line is that people who had no water ended up with some water. And while not quite charity, Adolphus Busch IV’s resignation from the NRA after the group helped block background-check legislation was at least an act of public decency. And his family doesn’t own abominations like Sea World or the Cardinals anymore, either. Things are looking up.
4. Speaking of the Cardinals, Budweiser brought us all here today. The brewery owned the baseball team from 1953 to 1996, which means they oversaw the formative era of Deadspin founder Will Leitch’s embarrassing fanhood. He only started this site so his beloved band of scrappy Right-Wayers would have an ally in the nasty digital sports media. Granted, that has backfired on a grand scale, but still: No Bud would have meant no Cards, no Leitch, no Deadspin, no me and you killing time together at work this afternoon.
5. The Clydesdales. The horses have become a corny cliché, and I want to hate them, but I can’t, because I have eyes and a soul. The Budweiser Clydesdales rule.
6. They didn’t fuck up Goose Island. Fans of better beer are justifiably concerned about AB-InBev’s recent craft-brewery-acquisition spree. Cruddy macro lager still dominates the American market, accounting for about 90 percent of sales volume, but that share is steadily shrinking. This has prompted a few different reactions from the biggest of the old guard: They’ve made pissy ads mocking craft beer, they’ve launched their own faux-craft lines, and they’ve decided that if they can’t beat them forever, they might as well buy them now.
The feared tidal wave has yet to form, though it’s still reasonable to suspect that it will. But as long as the buy-outs are kept to a sub-monopoly level, there’s some cause for hope. Goose Island was Anheuser-Busch’s first splashy craft acquisition, in 2011, and after a bumpy start when some brewing operations were relocated, most informed drinkers concede that overall GI quality has held steady.
It’s ironic that Budweiser beer itself was downgraded after being bought by InBev in 2008, when the new parent company replaced whole-grain rice with cheaper broken-rice particles and shifted away from noble hops. But so far there’s been little outcry over degraded beer from Goose Island or more recent AB acquisitions such as 10 Barrel and Elysian.
7. At least it’s cheap. Budweiser and Bud Light cost about 60 percent as much as most craft beers. Are they even 60 percent as good? I don’t know how to do that math for myself, never mind for you, but I will admit that price is always a factor, and AB brands do well on that count. There are times when it just makes sense to order a Budweiser, even if you don’t love the stuff. My favorite bar sells 24-ounce drafts for $5 during daylight hours, which is why despite all my vitriol, I am quite likely to drink at least a gallon of it over the holiday weekend. You do what you gotta do, and sometimes that means you drink Bud.
8. ShockTop cans have a nice texture. I was forced into a $4 tallboy of the company’s fake-craft Belgian white at a street festival last week, and I have three good things to say about the experience. First, $4 is a pretty fair price to charge a thirsty captive for 16 ounces of beer. Also, ShockTop isn’t as bad as I remembered it being. Once I cast my elitist qualms aside for a minute, I actually found myself enjoying the flavor. And most important, the can had small raised dapples along one side, which made it easier to secure in my sweaty paw on a muggy afternoon. Anheuser-Busch popularized canned beer in the 1930s, and they’re been doing good packaging deeds ever since.
9. A man named Dr. Charlie Bamforth is the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at the University of California, Davis. Cool.
10. It provides training for future craft-brewing superstars. High-class brewers such as Stone’s Mitch Steele and New Glarus’s Dan Carey worked their way up through the AB ranks before striking out on their own. Sure, we all have tons of different gigs before we find our true calling, and I’m not saying that without Budweiser we wouldn’t have Enjoy By or Raspberry Tart, but it’s still worth noting that some of America’s best beers carry at least the faintest whiff of Busch.
11. It is beloved by someone you love. You don’t have to agree with your mom’s choice in beer, but there’s no reason to be a dick about it. Congrats on having developed a more refined palate, sport. But unless you changed your own diapers, coached your own Little League teams, and cosigned your own school loans, it might be respectful to pipe down about how lame your elders’ beer preferences are.
Maybe none of these benefactions are enough to atone for Budweiser’s taste, but they’re pleasant things to remember should you find yourself waterboarded by the stuff in the backyard of a red, white, and blue relation afflicted with the strange sort of patriotism that demands fealty to a Belgo-Brazilian conglomerate’s shitty beer. Happy Fourth of July.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.
Image by Sam Woolley.
Adequate Man is Deadspin’s new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.