These past few months, we’ve seen quite a few new beers come through the door from AB-InBev. First there was Shock Top Midnight Wheat, then the Project 12 sampler pack and, now, we’ve got Budweiser Black Crown—the most popular of the Project 12 beers—hitting shelves this week (the big media push, as one would expect, is slated for this year’s Super Bowl). So, what are we supposed to make of this?
First, the beer: Let’s take a look at Black Crown. It’s not uncommon for a brewery to make beers that have a consistent flavor thread across its line-up, and Black Crown falls neatly into the familiar Budweiser flavor spectrum. On paper, the beer reads like a dark American lager of sorts (“brewed with toasted caramel malt and beechwood-finished for a smooth and distinctive flavor,” states the accompanying literature). But don’t expect the same profile as BJCP examples like Shiner Bock and Dixie Blackened Voodoo. The beer’s distinctively Budweiser, but with a caramel sweetness laced through the swallow. Hints of grainy malts match the sweetness while an even bitterness finishes out the sip. It’s pleasant, but it’s not shockingly different. Think of it as more of a calculated, safe and glacial move by the brewery to introduce new flavors to its consumer base—primarily, caramel. If you’re not into standard/premium American lagers and already familiar with caramel, well, then carry on.
Whether or not you choose to give this beer a spin, what does it mean in terms of the big picture? Yes, we exist in a world of “craft vs. crafty,” which was crystalized late last year when both sides of the argument basically blogged “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Will craft beer lovers bill Black Crown as the new Public Enemy No. 1? Take a look at the comments on the Instagram photo I posted yesterday.
I welcome experimentation by the big beer companies. Why not? Craft breweries may have a monopoly on experimentation, but certainly not the copyright. I still believe—here’s where you can call me naïve—that with each new, different beer hitting shelves from macro-breweries, more craft beer drinkers are born. I arrived at craft beer through macro-lagers, and I’m guessing the majority of craft drinkers did, too. So, if someone pops open a Black Crown during the Super Bowl and thinks, “Caramel—I didn’t know beer could have caramel in it,” then that’s one more slightly enlightened, educated beer drinker in the world—one who might wonder what other flavors beer has to offer.[Yes, we get some elaborately packaged media samples in the office—see Midnight Wheat link above.]