Brew Biz: Werts and All

The Topic: No Truth in Advertising

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay, Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 15 years.

MillerLite
 ”True Pilsner?”
 Really?
 No, not “really.”
 Aside from the fact Miller loves to use corn, which really isn’t part of tradition of a “true” Pilsner, let’s go with the fact what they’re calling “Pilsner” traditionally comes from Plzeň (Pilsen), in the Czech Republic. It once was a very specific style with water chemistry specific to the region and certainly didn’t have corn in it, or adjuncts: period.
 Yes, it now fits a style, even the “lite” fits one. But “a true Pilsner?” Hardly.
 There’s been a whole lot of mucking about when it comes to the usage of “pilsner” over the years, including spelling. I’ve seen “pilsener,” “pilsner,” “pils,” and far worse. Then, of course, we have the slapping that label on so many types of beer that only resemblance is that a lager yeast is used.
 Actually, even before the 1800s it is more than doubtful that lager yeast was used since lager yeast was isolated and identified at Carlsberg Brewery in the 1800s. (Hence the use of “Carlsbergensis” name in the original name for the yeast.)
 From a mildly obsessive, former, English major, can we decide when to use it and then move on, please?
 Budweiser (meaning, originally, “of Budweis.”) owes it’s “King of” slogan (sales, really) to the fact Adolphus Busch I decided to honor a well known, well loved, beer out of Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia) now called “Budvar” because…) which had used the Budweiser moniker for a long long time. Called anything but Budweiser because the Busch family “respected” the origins of their brew, and their name, so much they sued the Budweiser Budvar Brewery for using a name BBB, well, originated.
 It’s as if the McDonalds corporation sued the McDonald family for having (instead of using for a product) the same name of the company they actually started because they didn’t trademark their family name. The actually history of McD’s in that regard is almost as bad.
 I’ve had Budvar. Not only did they bastardized a great name, but they double bastardized a great beer.
 Not uncommon when in America big beer companies have tried to standardize all beer to one style, and then attempted to sabotage upstart craft which challenged that homogenization process by using unfair business practices. Oh, and also by stuffing dollar bills in pols pockets then having them write law after law in various attempts to crush craft. Open up a brewery and have take out in growlers? Make growlers illegal, or regulate sizes of growlers to the point having them for sale is somewhat impractical. Restrict abv and other factors that could make their product appeal more to the public. Tell distributors they can’t carry your product if they carry craft, Craft still survives? Pretend to be them.
 Can anyone tell me where the unconnected to Miller “Plank Road Brewery” is?
 So are the purveyors of brews like “the King of Beers” like some kind, benevolent, “king?” No, more like the bastard who overthrew the king then got so powerful he could force most of the kingdom to do everything his way. A “king” with enough influence to seriously hurt others who might challenge him. Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as Caligula, would be an interesting comparison. From what I understand Caligula was one of the inspirations for the Caesar (there were many, not just the Julius. And this one would have deserved the knife in the back) …from the movie Gladiator. Not a nice guy.
 Of course it all comes down to taste. Maybe you prefer less taste.
 But what, if anything, qualifies Bud as “King of Beers,” other than sales?
 Other ads…
 Corona: “Miles from Ordinary.” Really? With Apricot Wheat, beers with chiles in them, beers above 50abv and a beer brewed from a yeast culled from the brewer’s beard, you’re going with “miles from ‘ordinary?'”
 This isn’t just a big beer problem, though Sam Adams is close to qualifying these days. Their ads are noted for a few, “Please don’t feed the beer ignorance trolls, please” moments. “Hops are to beer what grapes are to wine?” Really? You do know there are styles with very few hops, like Scottish Ales, right? Malt might be better, though there are styles where malt isn’t one of the only almost mandatory ingredient… roasted barley: stout. Then you have gluten free beers. Brewed right: “Barley, where for art thou?”
 IPA is one of the bigger variables, and to be honest over the years makes one wonder what’s being sold. Brewer’s claims to “hoppy” seem to vary from palate ripping goodness to, “Eh? ‘Hops?'” sometimes. Hopping rates have varied over the many, many years. Some might as well be called “Imperial without the malt or abv punch.” Too long? OK, “Hop Soup?” At other times in history perhaps “Slightly Beyond the Pale?” India had its own great breweries making IPA and the British shipped IPA to Australia, America and elsewhere: all who also had breweries brewing IPAs. Even the “India” is a tad historically suspect. The malt in the original IPAs was basically pale, caramel malts added later as one of the variations I mentioned. Then we have the canard that Scotland lacked hops so they brewed mostly without them, or little: hence Scottish 60s etc.
 Sidebar time! Ales from Scotland get the almost hop free nod, even though they have brewed IPAs in Scotland too over the years. The Scots simply enjoyed their malt, no surprise when one considers all malt scotches are, and were, highly treasured.
 But thankfully seems we’ve finally left behind that mono, mostly singular, brew style in the beer starved 50s and 60s, where the “different” brands of beer in America, if they were in a movie, would probably be called “The Clone Wars.”
 Kind of like AB’s Busch which really did make me want to “head for the mountains.”
 Yup, that’s exactly what the Clone Wars made me want to do, at least until I discovered there were other styles when I started homebrewing, as the slowly, at first, sprouting seeds of the craft beer revolution eventually became a delightful forest.

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Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”

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