Well, I may have had a few beers before posting. It was a Friday evening, you know…
Anyway, on the more serious side of all things brewed, this is something I have actually given a bit of thought to. Budweiser is known as “the King of Beers.” It is a self-proclaimed title but the good folks at Anheuser-Busch had a bit of a foundation to make this claim. Budweiser was, at the time, one of the biggest selling beers in the United States. It also, not surprisingly, had clever marketing and one of the larger advertising budgets for U.S. beers. For a few decades Budweiser and beer became somewhat synonymous (much like Xerox means make copies, “Coke” means a carbonated soft drink of any variety in much of the southern U.S., “Google” means to perform an online search, etc.).
What was the largest selling beer in the U.S. for the first half of the 20th century? Schlitz. Why? Again, the not very surprising answer is advertising. It was the “Beer that made Milwaukee Famous.” It enjoyed one of the top two spots, along side of Budweiser, until the mid-1970’s. I remember Schlitz very well. It was the beer my Dad drank! So what happened to Schlitz? They faced some worker strikes in the 70’s, changed ownership and in order to cut costs, slashed their advertising budget. Within a few short years Schlitz faded into obscurity.
While Schlitz was declining and Budweiser was in its supreme ascendancy, another brewer cleverly began a massive – and I do mean massive – advertising campaign for what I am sure all here will agree is a lesser quality product, Miller Light. “The tastes great/less filling” commercials that filled the air during every televised sporting event in the U.S. became ingrained with American culture. Its only televised competition was the obligatory Clydesdales and Budman commercials.
The only other beer to have any impact on U.S. consumers got the best free advertising in history, the – dare I say it? Yes, I dare! – the cinematic masterpiece, “Smokey and the Bandit” bootlegging a truckload of Coors while Sheriff Buford T. Justice remained in hot pursuit. When Coors finally was brought east of the Mississippi – legally – it had an immediate impact and high sales moving into the #3 spot (behind #1 Budweiser and #2 Miller Light).
Americans are uniquely impressionable, in my opinion. We buy what we are told. Whomever spends the most on advertising wins. Madison Avenue actually controls the nation and, quite possibly, the world.
All that being said, my original post was a bit tongue in cheek. I have run across a few micro-brews I actually like. Most micro-brews are, however, swill. They are nasty, bitter tasting, vomit inducing liquids of low quality and high price. So, instead of mistreating my taste buds on a gamble I will usually just buy whatever the Madmen tell me to. It may not be great but I will at least keep from involuntary convulsions.
If I run across any of the beers or ales previously mentioned by the more discerning I will probably be compelled to try them. When I do, I will render my critique.
But tonight my friends, I am going to travel at 90+ mph across Interstate 40 in a big rig, east bound and down with Bandit, Snowman, Frog and Fred… with a can of Coors within easy reach. It just doesn’t get any more American than that.