So I’m minding my own business tweeting about craft beer and occasionally terrorizing my buddies at It’s Just the Booze Dancing with outrageous comments to their insightful and entertaining posts when I see that Big Beer’s biggest bully, ABInBev, is about to launch another “premium” label beer. This time the pig skipped the lipstick and went straight to the tight black cocktail dress. Unfortunately for Budweiser, the dress doesn’t cover the mud stains beneath its slinky straps. You’d think they’d know enough to address the mud problem given how prolific they are at slinging the stuff at craft brewers.
Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Bud, MillerCoors or anything related to Big Beer. Anyone who follows my twitter feed or who’s ever shared a pint with me knows that. When it comes to Big Beer I like to think of myself as more of an educated hater. In this case, education meant buying a bottle and pouring it through its paces as I would with any craft beer (just like the Schlafly Dry Hopped APA I’m enjoying as I write this). With a marketing slogan like “Discover Taste”, how could I not rush out and grab a bottle?
“Discover Taste?” Wait…what? What the…? Are they finally admitting that all the other Bud products are tasteless swill? I guess so. Well, the ridiculous Super Bowl spots didn’t shed any light on it. They were almost as confusing as Stanley Kubrick’s farewell flick, Eyes Wide Shut, though, mercifully, not nearly as long. I doubt even most of the Budweiser execs have much a clue what their own Black Crown advertising is all about. Maybe you can figure it out because I certainly can’t.
I also can’t figure out exactly what they’re up to with this beer. Most of their other tactics are pretty transparent (to anyone who isn’t already blinded by thoughtless brand loyalty). As craft beer has enjoyed explosive growth and market share at the expense of Big Beer over the past decade, the industrial brewers have engaged in a dizzying array of methods to confuse less educated, less discerning beer drinkers. Big Beer’s lineup of fake craft beers like Blue Moon, Landshark, Schocktop & Leinenkugel are the most obvious examples. They’ve long exercised bully tactics by dominating distribution and retail shelf placement in many markets all but forcing their way into weekend shopping carts. More recently they seem to be recognizing that since they can’t beat the craft brewers at actually brewing legitimate craft beer, they can buy them. ABInBev’s purchase of Goose Island in 2011 was probably the first of what may be an unfortunate series of such acquisitions. MillerCoors took steps in that direction with Tenth and Blake. So where does Black Crown fit in?
Nobody would mistake this beer for a craft beer. First of all, its too well advertised to be a craft beer. Too slick. Oh, and then it has “Budweiser” slapped all over it so there’s that. It’s an entirely unremarkable brew. Looks reasonably good in the glass for the 7 seconds worth of head retention but after that it has little to offer. It smells like Budweiser – but a tad stronger. It tastes like Budweiser – but with a tad more assertiveness. So it’s a Budweiser – maybe with a slightly larger capital B. But it has something else that its little brother doesn’t: a 6.0 ABV. The boys at ABInBev are so proud of its higher alcohol content that they have it prominently displayed on the neck and 6 pack packaging. No other Budweiser product waves the ABV freak flag quite the same way.
So maybe that’s it. Maybe I shouldn’t refer to it as Black Clown after all. Perhaps Bud Buzzed would be a better name. I guess it’ll appeal to a certain segment of their demographic that’s looking for a quicker buzz. I just wonder if they’ll mind the mud stains on the sheets the morning after they peel off that sexy black dress.