Did you ever get a birthday present that you completely did not expect? That happened to me last birthday my wife bought me a “limited edition” bottle of Budweiser Copper Lager. It came in a handsome 22oz bottle in an even more handsome wooden case. The bottle was affixed with the world-famous Budweiser logo, albeit in a slightly muted and more tasteful color palette, with a secondary Jim Beam logo also displayed. Ahhh, it was an AB/ JB collaboration; essentially a slightly higher ABV version of their stock lager aged on Jim Beam bourbon barrel staves. Being predominantly a craft beer guy I didn’t quite know what to make of this gift. On one hand, Bud had clearly spared no expense wrapping this beer in first rate packaging, and anything aged on bourbon staves is at least somewhat interesting to me. On the other hand…. well, it was still Budweiser. Wracked by indecision I was in no particular rush to drink this beer. In fact it languished in its pretty engraved box as a display item on my bar for almost five months. I thought of drinking it from time to time but never really felt like I HAD to drink it, and I always felt like there was a better choice. It was a forsaken beer waiting for its moment to crawl out into the sun, and there it sat gathering dust on my bar.
Until the 4th of July. That morning I an epiphany while debating which beer to select for our afternoon cookout. If there ever was a moment for an iconic American macro brew America’s birthday is that moment. What could be more American than fireworks, parades, barbeque and… a nice cold Bud?! So I broke the seal on that nice collector’s box and threw the bottle in the fridge. Yep, I was going rogue; no fancy NEIPAs or goses for me that day! It was time to reacquaint myself with the King of Beers!
Appearance and Mouthfeel
It pours a burnished reddish copper color; more interesting and more attractive than the weak yellow of the flagship Bud and Bud Light brews. The head was thin and honestly pretty fleeting. It was gone within a minute or two of the pour. Not a huge deal but it would have been nice to see better retention.
Surprisingly complex with notes of vanilla, biscuit-like malt, caramel and even some oak and bourbon. If the appearance didn’t convince me that this was not my father’s Bud then the aroma certainly did.
The flavors are well aligned to the aroma with vanilla, bourbon, the light touch of oak and some toasted caramel malt. There’s also a just a touch of light bitterness behind the toasted malt sweetness but the sweetness is a bit more than I prefer. It was definitely malt forward and could have benefited from a slightly more assertive hops kick, especially in the finish.
It’s a lager so it pairs naturally with grilled meats; especially picnic fare like hotdogs, burgers, chicken, etc. For the more adventurous it also would pair quite well with spicy dishes such as tacos or a Thai curry. The maltiness would be an excellent counterpoint to the spice in those foods and the effervescent mouthfeel would be quite palate cleansing as well. In fact, this beer’s “weakness” of perhaps being too malt forward would actually be a strength with spicy food.
Let’s show some love to Big Beer. Sure, their product is produced on a mass industrial scale and sure it almost always falls short of the quality beers of our favorite craft brewers. But on the other hand, the craft beer revolution did not start in a vacuum, and especially in the United States might never have started at all if it weren’t for Big Beer.
Consider this. If it weren’t for the direct ancestors of today’s microbreweries beer culture would have died in the United States. Twice. The first time was in the 1840s when we had become a whiskey nation except for a very few holdout breweries in the MidAtlantic and NY. That is until a bunch of German immigrants with funny names started brewing a different kind of beer in the Midwest…The second time was at the end of Prohibition, and during the height of the Great Depression, when ONLY the companies founded by those same immigrants had enough capital to brew any beer at all.
Beer has had a surprisingly rocky and uneven history in the US, and while today we can legitimately argue that we are the premier beer producing nation in the world it wasn’t always that way. Not even close. And we simply would not be where we are today without several major assists from Big Beer. That’s a fact. It’s a fascinating story that demands its own blogpost, and I’ll follow up with that right here in a few more days.
And the beer itself? Surprisingly…. not bad. More potent and much more flavorful than their standard brew. A bit too sweet for my tastes but even that is a matter of personal taste. Perfectly drinkable on a hot day.