Suds With Securb: Fly like an Eagle

Everything old is new again… I have been doing much reflection on Anheuser-Busch recently. You see in my old neighborhood Bud always had and still has branding. When requesting a round of beers from our local barkeep after work the brand would never be in question; ice-cold longnecks of Bud would be placed before us.Every celebration, holiday, keg party and poker game I can remember back then had one common theme: Budweiser. Because U Deserve What Every Individual Should Enjoy Regularly is what Budweiser stood for then and still does now for my buddies back in Massachusetts.

When I visit friends and family in Massachusetts quite often they will ask me if I can pick up a case of beer on the way down there seeing it is much cheaper in New Hampshire. Again, the brand is assumed. If I asked them what kind of beer to get them they would laugh at me.

Today my cronies in the old neighborhood are still devoted Bud drinkers while I have taken a strange and wonderful journey into the world of Imperial Stouts and Barleywines.

Alas my expedition has taken me full circle and once again I am staring at a fridge full of Anheuser-Busch’s products. Admittedly I have poked fun at Anheuser-Busch over the years but when someone goes the extra yard to improve their consumer’s drinking experience like they have done I have to stand up and give them their props.

This homecoming to Anheuser-Busch was brought on buy Michelob’s Specialty Ales & Lagers sampler pack. I have not seen a better put-together product to showcase a collection of beers, ever.

The sampler pack includes 18 beers – 3 of each style. Michelob, AmberBock, Honey Lager, Dry Hopped Pale Ale, Seasonal All Malt and a Marzen. Also included with this sampler pack are two etched beer glasses and a guide for pairing beers with foods and recipes for cooking with beer. If that was not enough there is a cheat sheet that shows you how to select glassware, pour, taste and store your beer.

This is hands down the best product I have seen created to bring a Standard American Lager drinker over to the world of richer and fuller beers. Everything they need to begin sampling beers is neatly tucked into a single kit.

What truly surprises me is with all of Anheuser-Busch’s ad pushes of late for Bud Select and B 2 E I haven’t seen one single ad for this phenomenal kit! When I initially picked this pack up I must admit I was a bit skeptical; in retrospect I wonder why? Anheuser-Busch has been the leading US brewer for almost 150 years so lets put that into perspective.

Anheuser-Busch predates cars, refrigerators, and even bicycles. When prohibition hit in the 1920’s, Anheuser-Busch switched gears from beer to ice cream and was able to survive the dumbest law in US history. In celebration of their many years in business they are launching a “retro” campaign complete with reissues of original can designs. This is a great piece of Americana; the ad campaign includes the re-broadcasting of classic TV and radio spots.

Anheuser-Busch has also pushed the technology envelope in brewing. Their processes for quality control and production are the envy of brewers all over the world. It is no small feat or coincidence that the Bud you drink in Fairbanks, Alaska tastes exactly like the Bud you drink in Boston, Massachusetts or Biloxi, Mississippi.

Now I know what a lot of you are thinking; Anheuser-Busch is trying to grab some of the market share that is being nibbled away by the microbrew boom by introducing new beers. Well folks the Marzen/Octoberfest is not a new beer – it is actually the original recipe brought from Europe by Anheuser-Busch in the mid 1800’s. I sampled it following the Beer Judge Certification Program Beer Style Guidelines. The Marzen nailed the style perfectly as did most of the beers in the sampler pack. One that didn’t fall easily into any style was the All Malt Lager. That being said most winter seasonal offerings are off the beaten style path these days.

So what is next for AB? Imperial India Pale Ales, Barleywines or Doppelbocks? The only way for us to find out is to ask AB directly.

I am sure by now you know how we do things around here at TheManRoom: when we want to know something we go direct to the source. I put in a call to Nathaniel Davis, Brewmaster with Anheuser Busch, to get the skinny on this great collection of beers and much more.

TMR: Right off the bat I have to tell you I am totally blown away by your Marzen. Are there any plans on releasing it outside of the Sampler Collection?

ND: We have been getting great feedback on the Marzen. It is a great fall seasonal. We are taking a good hard look at releasing it on its own. We age it so that it mellows out and becomes very smooth and polished. The Marzen also has a fantastic hop balance.

TMR: Speaking of hops, what varieties were in the Marzen?

ND: We used Southern Bavarian Hops to give the beer an authentic European flavor as we are really into hops here. We own two hop farms: one in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, and the other is in the Hallertau region of Germany. We are devoted to growing aromatic hops; a lot of brewers are into bittering hops we like to balance the malt with aromatic hops.

TMR: Again speaking of hops there is also a dry hopped Pale Ale in the collection. How did you come about developing that ale?

ND: The dry hopping really brought out the character of the Pale Ale. The Pale Ale is rooted in the American Pale Ale style. One difference that makes it stand out is we didn’t use a typical northwest hopping with cascade or a similar citrus piney hop. We used a European hop strain that is very similar to Saaz..

TMR: That is a great beer. I notice the beers in the collection were very different and the All Malt Seasonal is another great beer. There is a huge malt backbone to that beer, probably the polar opposite of the Pale Ale.

ND: The Marzen was an essay in balance. The Pale Ale was hop forward, the All Malt Seasonal is malt forward. It is robust and full rooted in the bohemian lager style but with the malt brought forward. It really doesn’t fall into any style category – it is truly our own.

TMR: The whole package is great. I really liked the cards that describe the different beer styles and educate on beer pairings. It looks like you guys are really trying to educate your loyal Bud drinkers on the world of malty and hoppy ales and lagers.

ND: Beer education is very important to us. We love to teach about beer. We have a huge internal teaching system that helps our employees understand the different styles of beer, the history of beer, how it is made and what ingredients go into them.

TMR: I really like the guide to pairing beers with foods in the specialty collection. Are there certain types of foods that beer goes better with?

ND: Beer should be at the table with every type of food. The biggest mistake people make is when the go out for dinner they order a beer at the bar but they don’t bring the beer along to the table when it is mealtime.

TMR: I have beers with most meals, in fact, I saved the Michelob for a couple of weeks until I was in a pizza mood. It has been a while since I had one so I wanted the total experience the two complimented each other perfectly.

ND: Michelob is a treasure, it is crisp and malty with the European hopping. It goes great with food and is also great for cooking.

TMR: Do you have a Michelob recipe that is a favorite?

ND: One of my favorites is my mussels recipe. You sauté garlic, cerano chillies, some haberneros if you are brave, green onion, and yellow onion. Once the onions start to become transparent add a couple of room temperature Michelobs, tomatoes and your mussels and let it simmer until the mussels open. Pair it with the Marzen or a Michelob and it is fantastic.

TMR: That sounds awesome and I bet it would also be good with shrimp. The Honey Larger is also a great beer for cooking… any recipes for that?

ND: The Honey Lager has a delicate floral character. The hops balance the sweetness perfectly so that the beer doesn’t come off to sweet. It’s also great in salad dressings. Try adding a couple of tablespoons to a lemon salad dressing.

TMR: Salad dressings made with beer – that is a new one for me. So I take it you cook with beer a lot at home. When you are drinking at home do you have a ManRoom to do it in?

ND: I have my tasting room where I keep my beer fridge. That is where I keep my beer books and my stein collection. I have one favorite stein that was given to me by the Crown Prince of Bavaria. There are also some beer art and beer ads from the 40’s and 50’s.

TMR: Sampling a beer at home… how does that differ from tasting at work?

ND: At work it is a lot more clinical. As I taste I am backtracking the brewing process trying to pin point where in the process different flavors developed and how they interact with one another, then of course you have tasting by committee were as multiple people add his or her own commentary about the beer. When I am drinking a beer for pleasure I like to back away from all of that and just enjoy the beer.

TMR: So are there any wild styles that you like to drink?

ND: I’m a lager guy. I love my lagers. Brewing lagers takes time, patience and imagination. There are a huge range of flavors and lager styles to enjoy. A well-crafted balanced lager is a beautiful beer.

TMR: So is there anything you would like us to know about Anheuser-Busch that most people don’t know or are there any myths you would like to resolve?

ND: Some people think that beer produced by a large company is mass produced and soulless and that is the furthest from the truth. I imagine Anheuser-Busch could have one large central brewery if we wanted to but that is not us. We are 12 breweries and seeing we work for this large company it gives us access to the best ingredients in the world and the most state of the art tools for our brewers. All of our brewers are very passionate and proud of the product we produce.

TMR: Nathaniel, thanks for taking the time to step into TheManRoom with us. We will be keeping an eye out for new beers coming from Anheuser-Busch and definitely will be enjoying the great beers you guys have already given us.

All 6 bottles in the Sampler Collection are great but keeping with tradition here are my 4 top picks.

Michelob: The beer is perfectly balanced, textbook! It pours a golden color with a thin white head. There is excellent lacing in the glass. The aroma is of sweet malt with a touch of European hops. The mouthfeel is light and crisp with a earth hop finish. It is very clean and very unassuming. The perfect beer to compliment grilled meats, pizza or Thai food.
Commercial Description:
This classic lager is brewed with only the finest all-imported hops, offering a rich flavor and smooth finish. Enjoy with grilled meats, pasta, pizza, seafood and poultry.

Michelob Seasonal All Malt Lager: The pour is a deep clear golden brown with a thin white head. There is excellent lacing on the glass. The aroma is of malt with nice sweet caramel notes and a touch of bread. The palate is medium with a huge malt mouthfeel and a subtle carbonation that takes over the tongue. The hops show up at the very end of the finish and linger for a long time with a very earthy dry flavor that balances out the hops perfectly.
Commercial Description:
This all-malt beer is brewed with the finest blend of barley malts for a rich, full-bodied flavor. Choicest imported hops make it smooth and delicately balanced. Pair it with full-flavored dished, game, and barbecue fare.

Michelob Pale Ale
The beer pours a deep golden color with a nice white head. The aroma is of very earthy pac-west hops. There is also a light straw aroma that is very nice. The mouthfeel offers malt that show up instantly followed by a nice hop finish that’s very bright and aggressive.
Commercial Description:
This rich, malty ale is dry hopped for a pronounced hop character. Brewed with Pacific Northwest Hallertau, Saaz and Tettnag hop cones and a variety of malts, it is an excellent match for lamb, roasts and steaks.

This week’s number one pick is:

Michelob Marzen: This beer pours deep amber with a thin off-white head. The aroma is very malty with touches of caramel and ever so slight roasted notes. The mouthfeel is medium and crisp with a generous hop finish. For the style this beer nails it! This is the best beer I have had from Anheuser-Busch and is only available in Michelob’s Specialty Ales & Lagers collection.
Commercial Description:
Only available in this Sampler Collection, this beer uses just four ingredients: malt, yeast, hops and water. The result is a beer with a fine, malty aroma and taste. Enjoy it with smoky and spicy foods such as smoked meats, bratwurst, pork or sauerkraut.