Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Budweiser Brewmasters’ Project 12

This last spring, Budweiser revealed it had asked the brewmasters at its twelve American plants to come up with new “tribute” beers. Now, the brewmasters didn’t get to go completely crazy. The rule from on high was that they had to stick to “all-natural” ingredients, the beers had to be lagers, and they had to use the same proprietary yeast as regular Bud.

Internally, those dozen brews were reduced to six and after taste tests around the country, three beers remained. That trio is now in supermarkets as a special 12-pack, four bottles of each. They’re named for the zip codes where they started. (Your actual bottles might have come from whichever brewery is closest to you or had the room to brew.)

Batch 63118 (St. Louis): The label promises a golden pilsner brewed with the kind of hops used during the 19th century at the St. Louis Anheuser-Busch brewery (Hallertau and Tettnang). The label also promises 6% ALC. (Regular American Bud is 5%.)

Poured into a pint glass, 63118 is a yellow-tan with a faint malty aroma. A few sips confirm it’s maltier and deeper than regular Bud, but not by much. Those touted hops are buried. There’s a little sour-sharp-floral edge, but nothing I’d call “hoppy.” Finishing sweet, Batch 63118 might hint at what a Budweiser was like around 1885, but beyond that, it’s not memorable.

Batch 91406 (Los Angeles): This time, we get a “deep amber lager brewed with two-row and caramel malts and finished on beechwood chips.” The Bud website also reveals four types of hops and 6% ALC.

91405 is a brassy amber in the glass with (yes, again) a faint malty aroma. It’s got a slighty richer flavor and mouthfeel that Budweiser, and definitely more browned malty flavor … but that’s because regular Bud doesn’t have any of that. Batch 91406 comes off as a poser - just not distinctive or memorable or flavorful as even Budweiser's attempt to take away Yuengling shelf space, Budweiser American Ale.

Batch 23185 (Virginia): I’m expecting the most from this one. It’s aged on bourbon staves and vanilla beans, so it should at least taste like that stuff, right?

The brew pours about the same color as 91406 with just the barest whiff of vanilla. It’s creamy going down and there’s definitely that hit of ‘nilla, but the bourbon essence is so mild as to get lost behind the already-mild malts. At most, it comes off as caramel. Batch 23185 has the same sweet finish as 63118 and 91406, but it makes more sense here. 5.5% ALC.

The bourbon-vanilla is the best of the three, but don’t expect true craft beers. Budweiser loyalists will probably groove on the trio because they’re all variations on the same Buddy tune. If you’re not a Budweiser drinker, you probably won’t like them for the same reason.

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