Why American Beer Tastes like Water

Before I get to the heart of this matter, let’s start with correcting two inaccurate points deeply rooted in this argument which stem, almost entirely, from European arrogance and ignorance. First, the founders of Anshueser-Busch, the producers of Budweiser, were German immigrants. Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch were both born in Germany. Anheuser was born in Bad Kreuznach, Germany in 1805 and Busch was born in Kastel, Germany July 10, 1839. The recipe for Budweiser was development by Busch who brewed beer in Germany before founding Anhueser-Busch with his father in-law in 1879. At the very least, Budweiser is a German-American beer and I would argue that two German founders and a German beer recipe incorporating ingredients from Europe make it entirely German-European. So, if you’re wondering why Budweiser tastes like water ask a German. Secondly, while the most widely distributed beer in the world it is by no means the only beer brewed in America. Quite frankly this is the part that moves my hand toward the fridge in hopes of calming my rage. America is a host to thousands of local and regional breweries which produce far superior beers to Budweiser and, yes, Samuel Adams. Now that those points have been corrected let’s move to the heart of the matter.
I’m no stranger to beer. I lived 15 minutes from a pivinice (Czech for beer house) in Prague that served nonpasteurized Pilsner Urquell from a large vat with a roasted pig’s knee for under $5. The beer never saw the inside of a bottle or keg. It was moved from a tank at the Plsen brewery into a truck, driven an hour or so to Prague and drained via a large hose into a vat at the pivinice. The beer then went from that vat via a smaller hose into a glass and into my belly. The pivince poured such large amounts of the liquid goodness that pasteurization was not needed to keep the beer from spoiling. This method of beer transportation yielded several of my most memorable beer drinking experiences. While living in England, I drank Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout at one of the oldest pubs in London. During the 3 years I lived in Europe I drank more beer from more European breweries than I care to mention if for no either reason than that my mother may some day read this.
While I will agree that Budweiser pales in comparison to many European beers, I must insist that American brewers produce beer that is at the same level if not superior to many of our European counterparts. American beer covers the entire taste spectrum from fruit flavored pilsners and lager style beers to dark porters and stouts. The Rogue Brewery in Newport, OR brews a chocolately Stout named after a somewhat famous English writer and a refreshing red ale. The Mendocino Brewing Co. in Mendocino, CA brews deliciously hoppy ale as well. The New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, CO brews a line of beers that covers the taste spectrum and are inspired by old world Belgium breweries. Medium-sized towns to large cities have micro-breweries popping up constantly-there are three where I live. The Mogollon and Beaver Street breweries in Flagstaff, AZ the Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge, CO and the Bloomington Brewing Company and Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington, IN are just a few and in distinctly different geographic regions of the country. While I find some of these beers better than others-some are extremely over-hopped-they are far better than Budweiser and quite frankly better than several French and English beers I’ve tried. Many times the freshness of these beers alone will make them more palatable than exported European beers. Pilsner Urquell imported into the US is stale and produces and awful after-taste compared to the draft beer consumed in the Czech Republic. If you listen carefully, you can hear laughter with a distinct Slavic accent as you open the bottle.
The debate pitting European beer against American beer is sure to continue in beer gardens and pubs around the world. Hopefully, European, and probably some American, participates will argue on a stronger platform now and not insist that all American beer taste like water. As many home-brewers will no doubt attest Budweiser is not indicative of American beer brewing and probably isn’t technically American-we hope.