Friday, March 30, 2007

Here's to beer, I mean Budweiser...

I just spent about 5 minutes on the Here's to Beer site (notice no link). I discovered the site in an add on the back cover of the March issue of BeerAdvocate Magazine. Upon first glance of the ad, I had a sinking suspicion that the site was created by one of the all powerful macro breweries. After a little investigating, it turns out that Here's to Beer, Washington, D.C. is none other than my dear friends Anheuser Busch, St. Louis, Missouri. Of course they don't want us to know who they really are, how sneaky.

My first thought was why are the guys at BeerAdvocate throwing this on the back of their magazine. Before I go on, I have to say that I love what Jason and Todd at BeerAdvocate have done for the beer drinking community--their festivals are great and their site is amazing. I realize that they have to pay the bills just like the rest of us, but Anheuser, not A-B, please.

I have received one issue of the magazine and this ad combined with a review of an A-B product was a disappointing discovery. However, I sought out a few previous issues, it looks like they have rated quite a few A-B products in their nascent venture into print. I counted three in just one issue.

The Here's to Beer site features three really dumb videos and a few links about the brewing process, but my most disappointing find was a big time link to Ok, so it is official, they are in bed together.

I have never officially met Jason and Todd, but the one thing I can say is that they know good beer. So why do they rate Budweiser 3.65 and 3.7 respectively. I am not even sure how to respond to those ratings...disgust, disdain. I have always seen BeerAdvocate as a haven for beer geeks, has our base been infiltrated by The Man.


jalstrom said...

And if you ever noticed we give truthful reviews from no matter who the brewery is. Did we give them all A+ scores in the mag? No.

The scores on line for Budweiser ... we take in consideration the style when we review. We have done this since day one (Aug 1996). This is unlike many beer snobs that just bash macros for the fun of it. We are not macro-bashers, we are beer lovers.

A-B is not being sneaky, they are simply trying to make up for all of the years they dumbed down beer. This is old news as well. I am sure there is a grand plan for all of this but for now you have to hand it to them for promoting beer. They don't promote any of their brands on there do they? This is also business and not all craft brewers are saints.

If we are going to write off people because of their association you can add the Brewers Association and all of the brewers that are members as well.

Speaking of the other BA, if you needed to redeem Beeradvocate in your eyes look here:

All the best, drink what you like.


Todd said...

1) This blogger also fails to realize that magazines require revenue to survive and many of the small- to mid-sized craft brewers simply don't have the budgets to advertise. So who does? The bigger breweries. So I guess every regional bi-monthly beer paper is also in bed with A-B? All About Beer, Brewing News, Celebrator, Ale Street News ... all in bed with A-B? Yeah, must be the case as you'll find the Here's to Beer ads in ALL of those too.

2) As far as them linking to us on the website, we didn't even know that it had happened until after it did. They also linked to, so I guess they're in bed with A-B as well? Sorry, but I'll take it as a compliment and hopefully we'll turn some mainstream beer drinkers onto what we do.

3) As far as our reviews go in the mag, we're always honest and there's absolutely no bias towards our advertisers; this is apparent if you actually read the reviews. As far as our reviews go for Budweiser on the site, we reviewed within the style (American Macro Lager), so it's kind of a "no duh" that Bud would score higher within its style as it's the quintessential example of the style. What? Did you expect us to throw style out the window and simply slam it as every other beer geek robot does? Please.

This blog is simply a typical pessimistic response from a naive beer snob. Wake-up.

Jonathan said...

Sounds like you've made some enemies!

bostonbeerman said...

I don't think I have made any enemies here, at least I certainly hope not. We certainly disagree on several issues, but I think enemies is a bit harsh.

I appreciate Jason and Todd's comments, in fact, I think is it kind of cool that they even know about my they may never read it again, but I do take it as a compliment that they checked it out.

As I state in the post, I respect what these guys have done for beer, I visit their site at least once a day and find myself checking out the reviews all the time, particularly theirs, NeroFiddled, FeloniusMonk, NorthYorkSammy, and The LongBeachBum and several others. These guys know what they are talking about.

Jason correctly states that they did not give all A+ grades to the A-B products, but there are so many other options out there that I think reviewing that many products from one brewery is a bit over the top. Now it is their magazine and they can review whoever they want--I just don't have to be happy with it. I'd rather see more variety for my subscription price.

I will also acknowledge that the Alstroms do rate their beers with consideration to style and they are pretty consistent in doing that. I don't expect them to throw the style out the window, all beer should get a fair shake. As I often say, I have never met a beer that I did not like (except for those with things like pineapple and chili peppers floating in it). I drink macros too. I just wouldn't grab a Bud, I would opt for a Genesee, Miller High Life, or a Rolling Rock (even though A-B just bought them) before a Bud. I just don't think it is good and that is my opinion. I say high 1s or low 2s at best.

I must retract my statement of "disdain and disgust." I broke my cardinal rule there, everyone is entitled to an opinion and their opinion of Bud is just as valid as mine. I apologize for that . Jason is correct, "drink what you like."

I will admit to being a macro-basher however. I think macros do the beer world a disservice, and that is my hang up. They are all buying up lots of smaller breweries, even some mini-macros and I don't think that is good for the industry. Some agree with me, call them snobs if you like and obviously based on sales, a whole lot more will disagree with me.

I do think that A-B is still being sneaky. There must be a reason they are not upfront about their ownership of Here's to Beer. I find it hard to believe that A-B has altruistic motives and they are going out of there way to "make up for years of dumbing down beer." It is a business and they are in the business of peddling Budweiser - in a perfect world something I would rather see not happen.

I am disappointed that all the other beer periodicals that Todd mentions are also running a Here's to Beer ad--sure call them in bed with A-B too, I realize they are paying their bills, I just wish they could do it another way. Call my polyanna, many people have, but I won't change that.

I understand that BA has to pay the bills, running a magazine is an expensive venture, I just like to see change initiated from the outside and that is another hang-up of mine. I feel the same way about politics and social issues. I don't trust A-B to bring the kind of change I want. Based on their history, I cannot trust them to advocate for good beer.

That is what I love about BA online, no ads, no bias, just consumers talking about beer. Todd is right, BA should take it as a serious compliment that they are perceived as so strong that A-B is linking to them. Perhaps I was wrong, but finding that link looked to me like a clear "quid pro quo."

Pessimistic, yes, pretty much always when it comes to A-B, SAB Miller, and Coors Molson, sometimes to fault, but that is my opinion. Beer way. Like I read on BA somewhere, "life is too short to drink crappy beer," so I don't and I never advocate for it--however, tell me that Bud is the only beer left in the world and I will drink it.

jalstrom said...

A-B brought "Here's To Beer" to the Beer Institute first

I believe Miller was the first to turn them down. So A-B did it on their own.

bostonbeerman said...

For those who do not know, The Beer Institute is a Washington C Street lobbying firm for the beer industry. August Busch IV is the current President and the previous president was Jeff Becker of SAB Miller. The Institute has several member breweries from the big macros to some outstanding micros that I love (not really sure how much power the micros have, but I can see why they join, it makes sense for them - the BI is promoting the consumption of beer).

However, the 4 heavy hitters are, A-B, SAB Miller, Coors Molson, and Heineken. They do some good things for the beer industry and like just about every Washington firm, they do some really shady things. They have established a self regulated advertising code and I am pretty sure that only A-B and Miller have the power to veto changes to that code. They have also fought some states in pushing for lowering the DUI level to .08 from .10. In my opinion a foolish thing to do. The site also lists all of the alcohol education initiatives that member breweries have created.

Again, I still question the altruistic motives of Budweiser advocating for beer. Their goal is to sell 30 packs of beverages made of fermented corn and rice. Hey, that is fine if you like it, but my goal is to get as many people as possible to drink hand-crafted, quality beer.

An Advocate of Beer said...

Hi There,

First time reader, and I like what you do.

I've been a member of Beer Advocate for two years and I have seen what they do for the industry. It's all good.

Do I dislike AB? Of course I do.

I'm not a macro fan by any means at all.

The existence of "Here's to beer" is an indication of the population of America today drinking better beer. Anheiser wants a hand in it too. Notice that all the heavy players are making more "micro-brew" styled beers? Is this a bad or good thing?

If the end result becomes more people drinking better beer I think both you and I would be happy.

Anonymous said...

Beerman - thanks for giving us a balanced perspective and flushing these guys out for who they really are. Appreciate their capitalistic spirit but leaving us to wonder if their reviews + content could be compromised is unfortunate.

theculinarybrewer said...

I guess that after the recent takeover of AB- by InBev product reviews will expand into the newly aquired brands!
I had an interesting Bud experience lately, you can read about it here. (The Beer Diary)