Bud attacking the craft beer drinker not the beer

Budweiser ran an ad during the Super Bowl that has attracted a significant controversy. The ad isn’t an attack on craft beer, it’s far more sinister than that. It’s an attack on the craft beer drinker. It uses tactics straight out of the American conservative playbook to target democrats by branding them as elitist, smug and self-righteous. They made liberal and well-educated negative in the political discourse. Now Budweiser is branding “craft beer” drinkers as north eastern liberals and west coast hippies. They’re simply the counter-culture to real beer drinking America.

To examine this, you have to look at the three different ads Budweiser aired during the Super Bowl. We have the whimsical ad that keeps people talking about long after the game ends and this one certainly did. Gone are the days of Wazzup or the Budweiser frogs. In their place is an ad called “Brewed the Hard Way” that’s trying to put across the message that Budweiser is a beer for the many, not just the few. To put it bluntly, it’s are putting out the message their beer is for ordinary Americans and not elitist beer drinkers. “Let them sip their… pumpkin peach ale” because the Budweiser is “brewed the hard way” for hardworking people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siHU_9ec94c

Yes, craft beer enthusiasts can at times take things too far. There are those that see beer as the new in thing, those that have moved beer appreciation to a level that of a superior wine club and of course those that talk people’s ears off about beer. Not all drinkers are enthusiastic about beer as we are. Our passion for beer can come across a little too much at times. It affects the one true thing that beer has above all other alcoholic products, its accessibility. It is this very point that the company’s attacking.

The first ad has attracted a lot of the attention of the beer community out there but another ad run during the game also has craft drinkers in its crosshairs. The “Clydesdale Beer Run” is set in a supermarket where a customer first picks up case of beer that’s clearly not Budweiser (or any other macro brand for that matter). As soon as he does this a Clydesdale horse appears and plainly isn’t happy. Needless to say the customer then opts for a case of Budweiser and slowly backs away. The tagline is “Don’t forget your Buds”. This ad’s quite sinister in that it practically invokes the infamous 100 percent share of mind campaign that began almost 20 years ago. Whilst that campaign focused on strong-arming distributors, this ad targets the actual customer. It’s interesting to note that these ads and the share of mind campaign were both borne out of surges in popularity for craft beer, not its macro-rivals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAsjRRMMg_Q

Finally, “Lost Dog” is a continuation of Budweiser ads of recent years designed to pull on the heartstrings of viewers. In the past, they even promoted pet adoption in one ad. This ad shows a pick-up truck driving country-boy looking for his missing dog who in turn is looking for his owner. This is an out-and-out American family-values ad (although the song’s a cover of 500 Miles by local band the Proclaimers). It continues the theme of Budweiser being the beer of traditional small-town America that’s resilient against change. It’s trying to convey certainty in an uncertain world. Craft beer is just one more uncertainty. Bud’s just plain folksy and uncomplicated.

What Budweiser fails to mention is that it itself is no longer American, as its global HQ’s in Belgium. It’s more than likely of course that failure to mention this was simply an oversight. So too did they omit to acquiring a portfolio of craft breweries, the most recent of which took place 10 days before the Super Bowl kicked off. But what are #BestBuds for if we can’t remind them of this?

Super Bowl Sunday picking a winner

This is one of those in the sporting calendar which has a lot of traditions attached to it. The FA Cup Final used to have some of it, when we’d hear about how many kettles were boiling and toilets flushing at halftime. I have never experienced “Super Bowl Sunday” first hand in the US. Most of what I associate with it comes from various TV shows which have a Super Bowl themed episode. My experience tends to come from trying to stay awake and wondering if It’s worth the trade-off in terms of having to go to work the next morning, usually tiredness wins out regardless.

One of the most intriguing aspects besides the whole concept of the “halftime show”, is the excitement generated for the big budget ads shown during the countless interruptions to the game (again something we don’t get during our coverage of the game). It was an ad break during Super Bowl XXIX that the infamous Budweiser frogs first appeared and let’s not even go near “wassup” (an ad during Monday Night Football). Needless to say YouTube will have each one available shortly after broadcast and we can see for ourselves what the creative agencies pushing the macros have come up with this year.

Today’s match up sees the Denver Broncos with the best offence facing off against the best defence in the form of the Seattle Seahawks. I toyed with the idea of doing a sort of beer Super Bowl but it was hard to get some of the great beers from Colorado that were around last summer and autumn particularly those from Odell (who could forget deconstruction), Oskar Blues and Left Hand. I could have perhaps turned to Flying Dog, which has its spiritual home in the Rockies before escaping to Maryland. Rather unfortunately we also have a distinct lack of great beers on this side of the Atlantic from Washington State. I would have had to turn to Redhook, which would have courted some controversy from beer aficionados for its “Budhook” connotations. Perhaps we could’ve hand a Redhook v Blue Moon (if we took some of the seasonal collection) shoot-out.

So with time running out, I decided to opt for one beer only and one that reflects the game for me. This year’s game has an added twist because of the weather factor. It’s being played out doors for the first time in 42 years and the venue being New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, the successor to Giants Stadium which of course was home to one of the greatest days in Irish sport. So much talk during the two weeks leading up to the game was about the cold snap (polar vortex anyone?) and the potential for snow. The most interviewed person was not Peyton Manning but the NFL’s official Super Bowl weatherman. Taking all this and the fact that I’m picking Denver for no other reason but having seen more of them this season, I have opted for Accumulation from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery.

I really like this brewery and am a fan of their iconic Fat Tire (amber ale) and their black lager 1554. They can really brew and perhaps like Sierra Nevada they’ve become a little bit of a victim of their own success in that people see them as too familiar. Just wait until they try their Rodenbach-inspired La Folie and other Belgian interpretations. They haven’t called themselves New Belgium just to be clever. I hope that they will soon follow their neighbours and also family-owned brewery from Fort Collins (i.e. Odell) to this part of the world. This may be sooner that we think, they’re expanding like Sierra Nevada with a new East Coast brewery in North Carolina.

Accumulation was the brewery’s winter seasonal and it’s a white IPA. Sure why not? Apart from the classic and black IPAs, Uncle Sam would be proud we now have the red and the white and all we need now is a blue IPA (A step too far? I once worked at the International Food Expo, which had a tribute to “blue” food). Now back to Accumulation, it pours a hazy light straw colour that was topped with a vibrant creamy white head that gave way for a thick band around the rim. There’s fresh citrus and pine on the nose. Amarillo and Mosaic are the workhorses here. It is initially bitter but allows some sweetness to come through. A mild and pleasant bitterness remains in the aftertaste of this 6.2% brew.

The brewery chose Accumulation for their winter seasonal to demonstrate that not all winter beers need to be dark. It might not be too your taste or you might prefer other styles, but in many ways it reflects our approach to American Football. Regardless both are increasingly popular at this time of year.

Post-game follow-up: Well that was a surprising result, no one expected the Seahawks to completely dominate the game and for the Broncos to capitulate like they did. Another surprise was the weather apparently was a balmy 7ºC at kick-off. The ads involved at one time Arnold Schwarzenegger playing table tennis, Anna Kendrick plugging Newcastle Brown Ale (still so popular Stateside), a puppy and a clydesdale (guess who?), as well as Don Cheedle and a llama because why the hell not?

I may have gotten it wrong about the result of the game but I watch it more out of curiosity than anything else but I still think Accumulation was worth the punt.