This Bud’s For You

14 May 2007 at 10:38 am 6 comments

| Peter Klein |

Most of my academic colleagues are anti-American food snobs. Why, those poor Yanks, they think Parmesan cheese is the white, powdery stuff in plastic cylinders rather than the expensive, thick wedge with its maker’s mark on the skin. (Note the section “Other cheeses erroneously named Parmesan” in the Wikipedia entry on Parmigiano Reggiano.) Americans even think Budweiser comes from St. Louis, not České Budějovice!

Well, I myself am a bit of an anti-American food snob but I do insist on getting the facts right. In Bud’s case, as pointed out in this brilliant piece by Daniel Davies, the original, and better, Budweiser is Adolphus Busch’s American brew, not the Czech Budvar pretender. Davies explains:

  • Anheuser-Busch has been selling Budweiser since 1876, 20 years before the Budvar brewery was even built. Its brew is the original Bud.
  • Bud is all natural, failing to comply with German “purity” standards only because it contains rice (as do Kiran, Bintang, and Efes).
  • More generally, and most importantly, the beer we know and love today — even the fanciest, premium beer — is a product of capitalism, not some romanticized, pre-industrial “craft brewing” era. Beer brewed before the Industrial Revolution was probably horrible and until recently couldn’t be produced in small batches with any acceptable level of quality. Three cheers for the Factory System!

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Business/Economic History, Food and Agriculture, Myths and Realities.

Design for the Bottom of the Pyramid Congratulations to Drs. Chambers, Chapman, and Xue

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cliff Grammich  |  14 May 2007 at 9:52 pm

    Interesting. A good friend of mine is (as he readily admits) an incurable wine snob (and a very good wine salesman who really knows his stuff), but, to my astonishment, loves Budweiser. I guess he has it right after all.

    On a loosely related note, Slate discusses at why Coca Cola cost only five cents per bottle for 73 years. I’m guessing most O&M readers know or have already read this story, but I had not known that Coke’s boss had, “in all seriousness,” suggested the creation of a 7-and-a-half-cent coin to help boost revenues at vending machines . . .

  • 2. Marcin Tustin  |  15 May 2007 at 5:06 am

    Hmm, as far as can be told a lot of beers are produced in exactly the same manner as they always have, industrialisation notwithstanding. You’re just wrong on this one.

  • 3. Bo  |  15 May 2007 at 2:49 pm

    While your points one and two can be debated (and possibly be right) your point 3 is simply wrong. As one of the early members of the Danish Beer Association (named The Beer Enthusiasts in Danish) and being rather familiar (if not too much so) with American microbrews as well as Danish microbrews – I can tell you that not only are most microbreweries returning to the original way of brewing beer in order to create high quality beer but also the macro-breweries have now been forced to brew micro-brews in a romanticed way, returning to the old ways of brewing. Carlsberg is a prime example of this having opened their own micro-brewery in order to compete in a market that increasingly demands “romantically” brewed microbrews – indeed one of the best things about microbrews is that it is never the same – yet always interesting and brewed from the best ingredients etc. A true beer enthusiast would never be caught with a Budweiser, yet a Carlsberg would do just fine as long as it is from the Semper Arden series or one of their multiple other speciality beers, brewed exactly the way they were 100+ years ago…

    The Copenhagen Beer Festival this past weekend proved that indeed small batches of brew made at home with only traditional methods and ingredients can compete with macro-brews in both quality, taste, body etc – although arguably not in price…

    For more information (sorry only in Danish), please see the URL provided.

  • 4. Bo  |  15 May 2007 at 2:50 pm

    And here is the URL:

  • 5. John Ressler  |  24 September 2007 at 6:39 pm

    To write off pre-industrial beers as “horrible” and unpredictable begs an important issue. Until fairly recently–say up to AD 1100 or so–beer was more food than drink, and remains so in some parts of the world today. Without going into all the recipes employed for brewing through the ages, a great many beers were consumed, and appreciated, as thin, sour gruels with a bit of a kick. It made a fairly nutritious midday meal for someone laboring in the fields. It was distinctly not the refreshing recreational drink that we contemplate, and it didn’t matter if the outcome of fermentation was less than predictable–a certain degree of variability in flavor was probably considered to be a good thing. The craft- and micro-brewers searching for authentic old recipes are never going to go back to beer’s true roots because no one wants a beer that they have to eat!

  • 6. A. Beer Dude  |  9 July 2009 at 1:30 am

    Who gives a flying fuck. If this is the most interesting thing in your life it’s sad. Budweiser is consistent and good. Many micro-brews taste great and are unique in every batch. They are what they are. Budweiser is absolutely and always my choice when it comes to ‘mass produced’ beer, and when the opportunity affords itself I like to sample out various mirco-brews. Jeez. It’s apples to oranges. Who cares. I just wasted 30 seconds of my life typing this….

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