11-12-2008, 11:19 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer taste-tested seven "craft-brews" from major brewers, and they didn't do too well. One was compared to UW football (winless) ... the tasters said it was more like lemonade than beer
This were supposed to be MAJOR brewers' craft beers, but the winner was Colorado's New Belgium Brewery ... with their "Mothership Wit," rated 9 out of 10.
Are big brewers' new craft beers any good? We taste and find out
By GEOFF KAISER
SPECIAL TO THE P-I
While the typical U.S. beer drinker historically has preferred light American lagers, consumers' taste buds are changing. The larger brewers, such as Anheuser-Busch, SABMiller and Molson Coors, have noticed that the craft beer segment is the rising star of the beer market. While the light American lager will always remain the bread and butter of these large breweries, they are expanding their product lines across the country to include various styles typical of craft beers.
The larger breweries have been trying to grab market share from the craft beer market for several years now, with the likes of Blue Moon (brewed by Molson Coors) and a variety of styles from Michelob (Brewed by A-B). But, A-B's recent release of Budweiser American Ale has garnered serious attention.
"We are living in a time period that many see as a 'beer renaissance,' and consumers have many choices," said Keith Levy, vice president of brand management for A-B. "Craft beers are a key driver for the growth of the industry, and we feel that Budweiser American Ale and our Michelob craft line will allow consumers to explore beer styles with a name that America trusts."
The main question on many craft beer drinkers' minds: Are these "macro-craft" beers really any good?
The response to the new American Ale has been mostly positive, even from many die-hard craft beer drinkers. But it's going to be a tough sell in markets such as Seattle and Portland, which are arguably the two most craft-beer-dominated markets in the country.
We recently held a blind tasting of craft-style beers and included several beers from the large brewers, as well as beers from more traditional craft brewers. The participants included casual beers drinkers who usually reach for a light lager, as well as typical craft-beer drinkers who enjoy a variety of styles from various brewers. The beers were judged on a 10-point scale.
Budweiser American Ale: 6/10
Alaskan Amber: 7/10
Looking at both of these beers in their glasses, it's impossible to tell which is the macro and which is the craft. Overall, the Alaskan Amber came out ahead in the tasting, but not by much. The American Ale held its own with a lightly sweet malt backing and a definite taste of citrus from the dry-hopping process. But several tasters thought the sample was "watery" and just too thin for the style. It's a step in the right direction for A-B, and it is a good option for craft beer consumers focused on price. The American Ale recently was selling for $6.99 per six-pack at a local grocer, while the Alaskan Amber was selling for $7.99 per six-pack (on sale from $8.99).
| ||Budweiser American Ale|
Michelob Pale Ale: 5/10
Full Sail Pale Ale: 7/10
Michelob Pale Ale was released in September, but it was tough to find in the Seattle market. Once again, the A-B product held its own and surprised with an ample hop aroma. But there was an overbearing bitter astringency in the taste that several of us noticed. In contrast, the Full Sail Pale Ale was more balanced, offering some caramel malts and mild hop flavor without the bitter astringency. With so many great pale ales in the Northwest, the Michelob could be a tough sell.
Belgian-style wheat ale
Michelob Shock Top Belgian White: 4/10
Blue Moon Belgian White: 6/10
New Belgium Mothership Wit: 9/10
There is a large market for this thirst-quenching style, but there are few regular offerings from local brewers, which leaves plenty of opportunity for the big brewers. Molson Coors has been brewing Blue Moon Belgian White since 1995 and has been successful in marketing the beer across the U.S. A-B followed suit with Shock Top in 2006 and has a lot of ground to make up. We all agreed the Blue Moon was pleasant and refreshing, but it also was a little bland. The Shock Top was disappointing and offered very little character from the wheat. One taster noted it was "as bad as Husky football," and another stated, "It tastes closer to lemonade than it does beer." Ouch. Neither of these macro-craft beers lived up to the full, yet still refreshing, taste of the Mothership Wit from well-known craft brewer New Belgium Brewing in Colorado.
| ||Michelob Shock Top Belgian White|
Summary: All of the tasters agreed they would welcome good craft-style beers from the large brewers. But after seeing the results of this blind tasting, no one was running out the door to buy any six-packs. The Budweiser American Ale is the most impressive of the bunch, but the big guys still have a long way to go. I encourage consumers to try these and make their own decisions, but don't forget to support your local breweries as well.