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Is that a beer fault? Or intentional choice?

Rather than languishing as the 22nd comment on the previous post this question from Tom seems worth making a new post.

There seems to be a conflation between intentionality and fault running through a good portion of the comments here. My question: if AB continually produces a beer with a particular flavor profile, with components that are marked as a fault by certain drinkers but not by others, doesn’t that point to a certain level of intentionality on AB’s part that makes that fault not so much a fault but an intentional choice by the brewery? Sure, some people may or may not like it, but to call something a fault would imply the brewer didn’t intend it to be in the beer. And I’m guessing AB wants that flavor in their beer. Whether we as drinkers like it or not. A rough similar analogy would be with diacetyl/butter flavors in British beers–there seems to be a lot more tolerance for this as a flavor component of beer in England than in the United States. Thoughts?

Not to rehash the analytic versus hedonistic argument of last week but acetaldehyde hardly seems to be what provokes such vitriol toward Budweiser and its brethren at the beer ratings sites.

Just for the heck of it I took a quick look at the Budweiser ratings at Rate Beer. (As a quick aside, seems curious that Bud had been rated 2,994 times, while the “impossible to get” Westvleteren 12 a comparatively high 1,886 times.)

No mention of green apple, grassy aroma or flavor or acetic (vinegar) character, all attributes of acetaldehyde.

Anyway, Tom asks a good question.


25 Responses to Is that a beer fault? Or intentional choice?

  1. Seamus Campbell February 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    Seems to me like the more intriguing focus for this question is Corona, whose advertising is generally focused on people drinking beer out of clear glass bottles in full tropical sunlight. Should we consider skunkiness an intentional part of the flavor profile?

  2. Velky Al February 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Those “ratings” are fascinating simply because both extremes seems to be basing their rating on something other than the beer itself.

  3. Darren February 26, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    @Seamus – there would need to be hops in Corona to make it have a predisposition to skunkiness 🙂

  4. Stan Hieronymus February 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    @Darren. Isn’t calling for a lime (it is a lime, right?) proof of hops?

  5. Stan Hieronymus February 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Velky Al – I’m OK with people basing ratings on something other than what’s in the glass. Whether they are predisposed not to like large companies with big advertising budgets or to love small ones who use only crazy ingredients. (Yes, there are many more combinations). But they shouldn’t pretend they aren’t rating the beer itself.

  6. Darren February 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    @Stan i thought the lemon/lime was to get the rust taste of the mouth of the bottle?

  7. Alan February 26, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    Tom is right and I think we all know it. People buy and consume exactly what they actually like for the price point and other factors in the decision to buy a beer. Many craft beer fans dream of both the community and one that is also “right” in some sense or another in disapproving bulk beer. But that people in a general sense like and buy what I do not like should not matter to me, the individual beer drinker. It’s actually harmful if they do as it would raise the price of scare good beer resources thought increased demand. So, I am glad that AB or whatever it’s called keeps pumping out the well loved basic brew and sells it to the many millions who have never heard of Ratebeer let alone considered posting. They brew to the pleasure point they are aiming for.

  8. Steve February 26, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    “…doesn’t that point to a certain level of intentionality on AB’s part..?”

    Intentionally making it a consistently flavorless, characterless beverage and brainwashing consumers with marketing that says it’s the best beer available. Sad state of consumer affairs.

    Stan, despite the Rate Beer ratings, I’ve talked with many ranking BJCP judges who often mention the acetaldehyde character of Budweiser.

    And if we look at the BA ratings, there are plenty of reports of “corn” character in Budweiser, a grain not in the beer’s recipe — so are we to use online ratings as a benchmark?

    But no, acetaldehyde is not what provokes vitriol from me upon the likes of a Budweiser, Miller, or Coors — it’s those labels’ years of selling a bill of goods that brought down the public perception of what beer could be that draws my disrespect.

  9. Pivní Filosof February 26, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

    We may have reasons to call Bud (Foster’s, Staropramen, Stella, Quilmes, Brahma, you name it) rubbish and perhaps they are valid, but as Alan says, people drink it because they like it, and if you like it, it’s good, that’s it, that’s the end of the argument to me.

    We can talk all we want about acetaldehyde, DMS and all those funny words most people don’t know, neither care about (and frankly, I don’t think they should), but at the end of the day it all goes down to whether you like what’s in the glass or not.

    It would be nice if we could do the following experiment. Get a panel of Bud (or etc.) drinkers and make them taste, for example, the top 10 beers of Rate Beer, or some sour beers, or some DIPA’s, or whatever it is that beer geeks get aroused with these days. I’m sure we will hear many of them say “this is crap!” more than once.

  10. Tom February 27, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    So if I follow you, Steve, you’re angry with Budweiser for lying to you about the quality of their beer through advertising, and for using those same lies to “brainwash” consumers. During our last conversation (and if this is a different Steve, please forgive me) on Stan’s “Which beer is not like the others III” reply thread, you seem much less concerned about calling out beer companies for the racism and sexism of their advertising–you were more concerned about knowing their intentions than calling them out, although you begrudgingly admitted that the “trivialization is not right.” Now, while making beer and the advertising of it are certainly two separate things (and by no means is Budweiser’s advertising free of these problems), it appears that you find being lied to in advertising a more egregious form of brainwashing than the brainwashing created by the use of racism and sexism in advertising. Maybe one affects you more than the other–I don’t know. Or maybe your ire is up just because Budweiser is involved–again, I don’t know. But where was this indignation last week?

    In relation to your view of Budweiser, my question for you would be how do you view Stone Brewing’s advertising campaign? After all, they pull pretty much the same trick, just from the highbrow beer geek angle. Same thing, different perspective. Well, and their tone is different, what with the talking down to consumers and all, but one could make the case that it is in fact the perfect parody of Budweiser that takes into account the crowd being brainwashed and panders to the idea of aesthetic refinement, whether real or imagined. Moreover, it works. Does this garner your ire as well?

  11. Pivní Filosof February 27, 2011 at 3:25 am #

    On a side note, I wonder how many of the people who’ve rated Westvletern and other hard-to-get beers have actually drunk them instead of just tasted them.

  12. Darren February 27, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    Hang on are you trying to say that people who shotgun cans of shitty cheap industrial lager go to places like rate beer to wax lyrically about them? when I get to good beers I take my time. I dont often take time to dwell on the ordinary beers, like the 3 pints of Boags I had with my chicken parma tonight. I did take time with the bottle of 8 Wired Tall Poppy I had last night. Dont hang shit on people commenting on things that are highlights to them, taste or drink

  13. Mike February 27, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    Other people’s tastes mean nothing to me. Rating sites exist to make money for the site owners. I’ve seen many times on IMDB, for example, that some crap film gets a high rating by teenaged males or teenaged females.

    I wonder how many of the geeks on RB or BA have actually even tasted beers they are rating or just do it because they are under-age and this gives them a thrill?

    If I want to know how a beer tastes, I’ll buy a bottle and try it. End of.

  14. first stater February 27, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    I’d rather drink a Bud than a Duchesse de Bourgogne. I’ll take apples over a horse’s ass anyday of the week. One of the problems I see is the new generation has grown up with choices us old guys never had. I grew up in a time where you had Bud, Miller, Schlitz, Pabst, etc. No craft, relatively few imports. This is the time when the big guys consolidated their share and many locals shut down. So I have a certain respect for these beers because they are imbedded in my memories. I don’t drink them anymore but I will never speak badly of them or the people who drink and enjoy them.

  15. The Professor February 27, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    “Intentionally making it a consistently flavorless, characterless beverage and brainwashing consumers with marketing that says it’s the best beer available. ”

    To some people (not to me however) it IS the best beer available. So what? I don’t understand all the fuss.

    Besides, Budweiser’s (or any other big brand) hype isn’t much different than the hype from some of the sso called “craft” beer industry, which tries to convince consumers that there was no great beer available prior to the micro revolution (which those of a certain age group know is a just a crock).

    I myself don’t like Bud either. But why should I care if other folks do???
    I DO like well made “craft” beer (as much as I hate the term itself) and I DO like some of the specialty products made by some of the bigger brewers who are getting wise to a slight shift in consumer preferences toward more flavorful products (and I hope they continue introduce such products…many of them are as good as what some smaller brewers are turning out).
    Good beer is good beer, and the definition and perception of what good beer is will vary from consumer to consumer. I don’t understand why some people have a problem with that simple fact.

    In the end, it’s really not more complicated than that and it’s just not a big deal. The astounding variety available these days is such that there is something for every palate.

  16. Bill February 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    Tom, I assume it was the same Steve, and from my perspective, he listened to you and responded to you fairly and kindly, giving you the chance to educate and explain and treating you with respect, so your calling him out here seems kind of churlish. You might as well call all of us out, as we all didn’t answer with “hear, hear,” even as we may agree with you.

  17. Stan Hieronymus February 27, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Thanks, Bill. I’d like to see this conversation remain on track.

  18. Tom February 27, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    If I came across as churlish I apologize, as that was not my desire.

  19. Steve February 27, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    Thanks for the support Bill, I was going to respond similarly, but probably not as eloquently. It wasn’t beer companies’ prejudices I was questioning (or not), it was proof of their malicious intent. And yes, I thought Tom and I had reached agreement back when.

    And Tom, angry is much too strong a word to use to define my feelings on Budweiser. Refer to Appellation’s Rule #5. I don’t spend my nights tossing and turning over Anheuser Busch’s marketing campaigns, I just can’t buy into their best beer in the world chest pounding, especially since there are too many, much beers on the shelves these days.

    Unfamiliar with Stone’s marketing, but I can attest that the beers of theirs I’ve had have bucket loads more character than Budweiser.

  20. Stan Hieronymus February 28, 2011 at 7:06 am #

    This might be a diversion from Tom’s questions, but Max wrote:

    We can talk all we want about acetaldehyde, DMS and all those funny words most people don’t know, neither care about (and frankly, I don’t think they should), but at the end of the day it all goes down to whether you like what’s in the glass or not.

    This from “The Scent of Desire” seems relative:

    “But we do not need words to experience olfactory sensation or to know how to react appropriately to them. Our experience of aromas can reside in a pure wordless smell-scape, and in fact is often purer and more exquisite when it does so. Wine connoisseurs begrudgingly admit that ignorance can be more blissful than the weight of their knowledge. having a rich vocabulary to describe the flavor nuances of a vintage can actually diminish the richness of the experience, because it forces the expert to dissect and analyze a sip into parts that are much less pleasurable than the whole.”

  21. Chris Quinn February 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    I think the question is somewhat irrelevant, given that Budweiser cares very very little about winning beer competitions or ascending the ratebeer ladder. They want to sell beer. I think the taste of the beer, outside of how it affects sales, matters not at all to them. I think this is true of 99% of all brewers.
    The difference comes from the PEOPLE who drink it. Craft consumers don’t want diacetyl in their lager, acetobacter in their ESB’s, and acetaldehyde in their flemish reds. As a result, the brewers make their beers to accommodate these tastes.

    Does it really need to be more complicated than that?

    In terms of marketing, I think it’s a slippery slope when you’re dealing with subjective matters like taste. If Bud was all malt, then would their claims of being the best be ok? How about it they were more heavily bittered? I think being the number 1 selling beer in the world is just as good a reason to say you’re the best. Not that you really even need a reason to call yourself the best in your own commercials.

    I’d also like to set aside Corona and some of the green bottle German macro’s for now, since their “defects” occur outside the brewery, and aren’t present when the beer comes off the line, unlike the examples above.

  22. Stan Hieronymus February 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    Chris – Got to disagree on the last point. A brewery should take at least reasonable measures to deliver beer to the customer so that it tastes the way it was/is intended. Of course, imports have long benefited from what many perceive as “imported” flavors.

  23. Chris Quinn February 28, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    I totally agree, Stan. I just feel it’s a bit different since it’s not the beer itself. And as far as I know, corona is available in cans, as is Becks and many other green bottled beers. Is it the brewer intentionally skunking their beer, or merely the mishandling of their product? Most likely some of each.

    As a side note, Saison Dupont is also in a green bottle, and I’ve certainly had some light struck ones. Are they to blame as well?

  24. Stan Hieronymus February 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    In my opinion, yes, they are to blame. I’ll only buy a bottle if I can pulled it from a case, preferably one I opened.

  25. Tom February 28, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    While Budweiser was the example in my initial question, I was more interested in the tension between fault and intentionality in the brewing process as it related to the description of individual perception. As Stan pointed out early in the conversation, perceptions are often influenced by “something other than what’s in the glass,” which is most certainly true. This cumulative perception of both what is in the glass and what is outside the glass–taste, mouthfeel, and aroma mixed with advertising, the company, and packaging–creates schisms and demarcations between groups of drinkers because the implied values connected to certain attributes are not always shared. Pretty obvious stuff, certainly. My initial questions stemmed from a desire to bracket off and focus on what was inside of the glass. My post to Steve was a sincere albeit flawed attempt (and in rereading it now it does make me sound like a petty ass) at reframing the question to focus on the outside of the glass. Where does this leave me? I’m not sure. But thanks for bearing with me.

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