Wednesday’s ad is for Pabst Blue Ribbon, from 1943. Pabst used these freaky anthropomorphic humanized ribbons with faces for a number of years and I always find them more than a little creepy and unsettling. This was in the middle of World War 2, when collecting scrap metal for the war effort. Apparently my mother was a decorated scrap collector. She would have been 6 in 1943 and her father, my grandfather, was an automobile mechanic, meaning there was lots of scraps around.
Maybe it’s Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter or Guinness that’s making Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) come over to the dark side? But whatever the reason, ABI is apparently poised to release at least five, possibly six, new beers which, if not actually black, have significantly more color than your average ABI beer. And apparently they’re also more extreme beers — which for ABI means 6% a.b.v. (it’s all relative). The first of these, Bud Black Crown, is described as a “golden amber lager” so it would appear “Black Crown” is more of a ceremonial title than a beer descriptor. According to one label I saw, there’s apparently a website set up — www.budweiser.com/blackcrown — though so far there’s nothing set up there yet. The Black Crown came from the Budweiser Project 12, specifically the Los Angeles entry. According to AdAge, there will most likely be a big marketing push behind this release, which may include a Super Bowl ad, and — ooh boy — a specially designed bow-tie can. The Black Crown is expected to be launched in early February.
Next up is Michelob Black Lager, a “Special Dark Lager” and advertised as a “German-style Doppelbock.” There’s not much information I could find on this one, so it’s anybody’s guess what this will be like.
Then, from the Busch family comes Busch Black Light. So either they’re going after the old hippies with their black light posters or having a bit of oxymoronic fun like “jumbo shrimp” or “black gold.” This one’s also something of a head-scratcher. It, too, is 6% a.b.v. — high for a light — and also mentions being “ice-brewed.” It couldn’t be a “black light,” like a black IPA, could it? That seems way too far-fetched, doesn’t it? So what is it? I’m stumped.
And let’s not forget the Newark, New Jersey (née Latrobe, Pennsylvania) brand Rolling Rock. They’re coming out with Rolling Rock Black Rock, an “Extra Dark,” which presumably means it’s as “extra dark” as their regular beer is “extra pale ale.”
Lastly, there’s ABI’s German brand, Beck’s, which is brewed here in the states. Beck’s will apparently be launching two brand extensions, presumably hoping to squeeze more shelf space out of Bud-friendly retailers. The first of these is Beck’s Black Jewel. It appears that it was also be 6% a.b.v. — which I’m starting to think is a magic number — and is brewed with Liberty hops, and could possibly be a single-hop beer. No world, however, on the beer’s color.
Lastly, this one’s more of a stretch, darkside-wise. Beck’s Sapphire looks like it will either be a single hop beer or at least feature the German hop Sapphire (a.k.a. Saphir). But it does have a dark green and black label, so who knows? It, too, will be 6% a.b.v. (so that’s four out of six). Also, I always thought sapphires were blue and my understanding is that if impurities like chromium get into the gem, then it’s called “red corundum,” or more commonly a “ruby.” So who knows what the deal is with the red sapphire?
So why is ABI suddenly going over to the dark side with beer color, labels and in their naming strategies? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s not as if dark beers have suddenly started taking off last week. Guinness has been around for a very long time, and most craft breweries have included a porter or stout in their portfolios for decades. Although we don’t even know if these will even be black in color. It seems doubtful, more likely they’ll just be darker in relation to Bud’s other offerings, in much the same way the original pale ales weren’t really pale, just paler than the popular dark beers at the time of their introduction. Again, it’s all relative. Plus, calling beers “black” this or that just sounds cooler, especially to the hipster millennials they’re obviously targeting with these beers. Some have speculated that it’s in response to the recent success that Yuengling has enjoyed with their (slightly) darker beers, but I don’t know. It certainly will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months.
Okay, last political post for the next four years. Well, maybe not that long, but I’m probably as tired of the political cycle as you are reading me going on about it. With the election finally over, we can get back to what really matters: drinking beer. So, one final congratulations to the Craft Beer President (with a link to an Indiana student paper article from September), and now back to our regularly scheduled program.
Illustration by Ben Wade, from the Indiana Daily Student’s Weekend in Bloomington.
Today is the 56th birthday of Gary Fish, founder of Deschutes Brewing in Bend, Oregon. Gary grew up in Northern California wine country, but relocated to Bend to start the brewery in 1987, opening the original brewpub the following year. Since then, they built a production brewery and have gone on to open two additional brewpub locations, one in Bend and one in Portland. As of last year, they were the 5th largest craft brewery and the 11th largest brewery in America. Not bad for a brewery with a Porter as its flagship. Plus, Gary is a great person to discuss politics with, preferably over a beer. Join me in wishing Gery a very happy birthday.
Larry Sidor, former brewmaster at Deschutes (and now at his Crux Fermentation Project), with Alan Sprints (from Hair of the Dog) and Gary at their downtown Bend brewpub when we visited there last summer on a family vacation.
U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio, Gary, and Representative Greg Walden — all from Oregon — enjoying craft beer at a Capitol Hill reception when the Small Brewers Conference held their first meeting.