Anheuser-Busch has a new mission, so it seems; give beer drinkers more choice. One way they’re doing this has been by extending their Michelob brand, a logical place to work from. Although you’d probably never know it, A-B has been “stealth-brewing” some great beers under the Michelob label since the 1990s, including an Amber Bock, Honey Lager, Pale Ale, Marzen (sic) and a Pumpkin Spice.
As a sidebar, last week I noticed A-B’s Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale on the shelves. Wow! End of August and a pumpkin beer is already making the rounds, which indicates to me that pumpkin beers are long past being a novelty brew, but instead are truly being profiled as beers to be expected as an annual addition, albeit only available for a short time.
I call these Michelob beers listed above “stealth beers” because I personally think that A-B has ignored the Michelob line for way too long. With its origins going back to 1896, the flagship Michelob is foaming with heritage, a theme A-B likes to use, but for quite some time now, the beer has lost its way. From a non-pasteurized, draft only beer, Michelob became a pasteurized beer in the early 1960s—not losing its traditional rich and slightly sweet taste characteristics—and eventually made its way into the distinctive and award-winning tear drop-shaped beer, topped with a swath of golden leaf foil. Cans soon followed.
When you walked into a bar and saw that bottle back in the early 1970s, you knew that someone was enjoying a Michelob pilsner, and that distinctive shape and cumbersome foil often triggered a Pavlov-like response in me; I would order a Mich, preferably on tap, but hey, bottled was just as good a choice.
The brand, however, was ignored in the later years (I blame the advertising dollars shoveled into Bud Light), first becoming an adjunct beer and then bottled in the common 12-ounce bottle—like so many other beers. The flagship Michelob pilsner lost its panache, its distinctiveness. It became, “just another beer.”
Surprisingly, while A-B today rekindles the aura of quality and prestige that Michelob once had with today’s expanding selection of new and exciting brand extensions, they’re still treating their flagship Michelob pilsner with little fanfare, especially odd since it’s once again being brewed as an all-malt product and has been repackaged in a slimmer version of the old and squattier tear drop bottle. This has been going on since early 2007—but did you know this? I didn’t.
But last night, while watching Governor Sarah Palin do her thing at the Republican National Convention, I sort of glanced up at a beer commercial and mostly ignored it. I was 99.99% sure it was just another commercial from Jim Koch and his Boston Beer Company…you know the one, young brewers, hand-held camera shots, OSHA-approved wraparound protective glasses on everyone. I was waiting for the familiar part where Koch grabs a handful of hop cones and rubs them before taking a whiff, and all of a sudden I realized—Hey! This was a Michelob commercial!!
Well thank the beer god Gambrinus. Scores of millions of advertising dollars are annually plowed into the Bud Light account, are keeping the lilly pads of those charming frogs so green, and have inspired way too many people to run around exclaiming “D-u-d-e!” It’s so refreshing to finally see A-B throw some schekels towards the Long Tail of their product line. Please, St. Louis, keep it up. it makes no sense to bring out these kinds of great beers and then let them whither on the vine. While you’re on a roll, how about pumping up your all-malt Michelob pilsner a bit? This is a proud beer with s-o-o much history and a proud heritage behind it; let’s not forget it in a rush to promote new brands when an old favorite could use some bucks and a chance to let beer drinkers know that it’s back.
Why the sudden change in attitude? I just found out that A-B has recently spun off the Michelob portfolio as a separate company. In other words, the suits are now letting the “kids” play with this new toy, and hopefully they’ll let them get a little crazy with their brewing toys. I’m all for it!
OK. What you’ll see in the video are two Michelob extensions—a Dunkel Weisse and a Pale Ale. I’m guessing that the Pale Ale is a re-release since it’s been on the Michelob website for a while. Both beers are good-tasting brews. The Dunkel is described as an unfiltered wheat ale with a “light finish that’s characteristic of dark weissbier.”
I’ll say this; when I lived in West Germany for almost 4 years as a translator, all German wheat beers were highly-carbonated, low alcohol brews, and served in giant-sized 1 liter clear glasses. And despite the nonsense I read all the time on U.S. beer sites that lemon served with wheat beer is an American practice, it’s NOT. For 4 years, my wheat beers were ALWAYS served to me with a slice of lemon. This “no lemon slice” story is just one more of those beer urban legends that some “expert” started years ago and that every beer lemming “expert” and beer writer continues to repeat.
But I digress.
The Michelob Pale Ale I enjoyed was also tasty, an orange-hued brew, dry-hopped with Cascasde hops, which does contradict the true style of an English Ale. But since I like the citrusy, pine-like, even grapefruit-like nose of Cascade hops, I’ll let this style contradiction slide by. Hey…it’s all about the beer.
And finally, I take a look at the Budweiser American Ale in the video. If you watch the video, you’ll hear the A-B explanation of why this beer became an extension of the Budweiser label, and not the Michelob brand. Before I forget, all of these beers will be priced at the lower end of the craft beer pricing spectrum. In my stomping grounds in the Chicagoland area, this probably means around $5.99-$6.99 or so per six-pack with aggressive discounting when neccesary. It also means widespread distribution.
Of the 3 beers, the Budweiser American Ale is my overall favorite. I’d really like to try this on tap, and better yet, on a nitrogen line for added creaminess. Although I was originally told that the Budweiser American Ale would be coming out in October, it’s now being reported that it will preview in kegs nationally on September 15 and joined by the bottled version on September 29. Looks like I’ll get my chance for a draft beer sooner than I thought!
If you want to see the original briefing I had on the Budweiser American Ale, check out this video I made while enjoying the hospitality extended to some of us beer writers at the corporate tasting room in St. Louis a few months ago.
Eric Beck, brand manager for this beer, also provided me with this additional nutritional info for this all-malt, dry-hopped beer;
” ~177 calories and ~16.5 g carbs…abv will be 5.3%. I don’t really consider this nutritional but….IBU’s will be in the 28-30 range and color will be in the low 20’s (probably 22-24 lovibond).”