Craft beer is doing well. Though other alcohol-related industries have reported a decline, craft has been on a steady upswing. One would think that, given the state of our current economy, all booze sales would be up but perhaps people are choosing to drink better. Instead of buying that suitcase of Bud, they might choose a six-pack of something with more flavor and really feel like they’re getting a treat.
The strength of the craft market and the evolution of palates everywhere have caused the brewing behemoths to attempt to woo beer geeks. This certainly seemed the case when they introduced Blue Moon which, from the ads and labels, seems to be a craftsy endeavor but, in actuality, is produced by Coors. Then, Anheuser-Busch bought Goose Island which sent waves of outrage throughout the craft beer community. And now, they seem to be at it again with Bud’s “Black Crown” and Beck’s “Sapphire”.
The Black Crown claims to deliver more taste for the discerning drinker. Certainly, the ads would have you believe that only incredibly sexy, affluent and vampire-like twenty-somethings have the privilege of enjoying such a fine crafted brew! But wait! Isn’t this trying to sell your product with sex and popularity, just like the Bud Light bikini ads of the 80s?
In the 80s and 90s, drinking Bud meant that you were the life of the party and hot chicks would be instantly attracted to you. Now, drinking Black Crown means you are elite and sophisticated and can gain access to the inner sanctum of the glorious cognoscenti! But besides this, there are other fundamental errors as well. I had already railed about this on BeerZombie, and am skeptical of Black Crown’s royalty.
Similarly, Beck’s Sapphire touts smooth taste and the use of German Sapphire hops. Their Superbowl ad featured an animated, jazz-crooning Black Moor goldfish. I guess goldfish are smooth? Or do they taste like hops? (Hmm. Goldfish stout! Sorry, PETA!) It kills me when breweries too their horn about shit that you can’t taste. Like Miller’s triple hop additions. They may add hops three times but you sure can’t taste it. Cold filtered or “Rocky Mountain Cold”? Bleh.
Of the three recent craft-like beers out there, Guinness Dark Lager seems the most reasonable. A guy you can relate to just telling you how their lager version of the stout just tastes good. But it still seems like shenanigans to me.
All three of these beers seem to be capitalizing on the recent craft beer movement of creating new styles. The latest rage being the Black IPA (or Cascadian IPA), I can see why the Big Boys would want to jump on the bandwagon. But even in the craft beer scene, a well-made black IPA isn’t for everybody! Tastes vary. So how do the brewing giants hope to get into the game when, as a rule, they seem to want to please everybody? In lieu of actually pushing boundaries, they seem to want to push exclusivity. “Only the best and most discerning people drink our beer!” Yeah, the ad marketing has evolved, but the message is the same.
Rather than continue to simply rage against these black lager offerings, I decided to at least give these brews a shot to see if they’re really as bad as I am anticipating. Know thy enemy and all that.
Budweiser Black Crown
I poured this into a Spider Bite pint glass. (The glass instinctively wanted to vomit it all back up but I assured it that everything would be okay and if it let me sample this beer, I would fill it with a nice, bracing IPA later.)
The beer poured an amber color, much deeper and more inviting than the pallid yellow of regular Bud or Bud Light. It produced a pretty decent head and looked, well, pretty good! In the nose, there was more malt detectable.
It actually didn’t taste too bad. There definitely was more flavor though it finished with the same, sharp lager finish peculiar to Bud. I don’t know if they’re still using mostly rice but the introduction of other actual grains produced a good effect. I can see how it won over a majority of 25,000 tasters though it won’t wow any beer geeks.
I won’t praise how well it’s made or it’s deliciousness but it’s definitely a step in the right direction and I am pleasantly surprised. I would go for this at a ball park (if no better, craft choices are available), a wedding, an airport bar or wherever else decent choices may be scarce.
I knew a “Sapphire” once. But she wasn’t very smooth. Or hoppy. Unless you gave her a dollar. But that’s neither here nor there. This drink isn’t hoppy either though they proudly declare that they are made with Sapphire hops. I have a pretty blunt palate but I think that if you’re going to pimp the fact you’ve got a certain type of hops, you should be able to taste them. Not so here.
And this thing pours like a Bud. Barely any head, it’s pale and lifeless. But… it is kinda smooth, if, by “smooth”, you mean “inoffensive”. It kinda drinks easy but, then again, so does water. And, at 6%, it should deliver a nice loopiness if you decide to work through a few of them. It’s not bad but unremarkable.
Guinness Black Lager
I was actually looking forward to this one the most as I do enjoy a pint of Guinness now and then but it was, for me, at least, a bit of a disappointment.
It poured pitch black, like a regular Guinness. A roastiness was more prevalent in the nose but, coupled with that lager smell, made for some olfactory confusion. I really wasn’t sure if it smelled nice or not. It tasted OK but was very underwhelming, the flavor of the roasted barely duking it out with the lager finish all the way down. Surprisingly, of the three, this is one I would probably pass on. If I want a Guinness, I’ll go for their stout.
Overall, I was surprised that the beers weren’t as bad as I was expecting. Though everyone has their own tastes, I still believe that these big breweries should focus more on their recipes rather than their marketing. At the very least, working through these three beers has reminded me why I love craft beer so much more.
I’m off to have a Resin! Cheers!