I didn’t start this blog to rail against Anheuser-Busch. Really I didn’t. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Until recently, I hadn’t been paying as close attention to the daily derring do of the brewing world as I used to. I had taken a little over a year off from watching the industry that closely in order to care for my autistic son Porter and his little sister Alice. When I became a stay-at-home father I gave up my job as GM of the Celebrator Beer News and I decided not to watch the world of brewing quite as closely. But this January I decided to jump back in and see what I could do writing more seriously from home and it feels a bit as if I’ve just woken from a long nap. I’m still a little groggy and when I look around I feel disoriented. And every other day it seems it seems like Anheuser-Busch is doing something to make me wish I hadn’t woken up.
Today’s head scratcher is a dark light beer, Michelob Ultra Amber. Now I realize that to A-B a dark beer is really just a beer with a little color, an amber beer. Something on the order of 6-9 lovibonds, I suspect. Budweiser is 2 although Michelob Dark is around 18. Your average Guinness is 40, which is the upper end of the scale. So calling this dark is more than a little bit of a stretch.
But I have to be fair here about who should really take the blame for it being characterized as a dark beer. And a close look at the official press release reveals that they never refer to the new beer as a dark beer. In fact, the word is used only twice in reference to the use of “dark-roasted specialty malts” and in mentioning “using darker roasted malts to increase the flavor.” So much as I’d like to, I can’t fault A-B on this one. The blame falls squarely on the mass media who decided a catchy headline like “dark light beer” is better than accuracy. The AP story seems to have been the first to use this dark-light fallacy in their headline. This in turn was echoed all over the media that uses AP wire stories. So chalk up yet another example of the short shrift beer gets in the mainstream press. The author, one Jim Salter, appears to write about everything from business to sports. So he can’t expected to know anything about what he’s writing. The facts just don’t matter in today’s entertainment journalism.
This is a very frustrating situation for most beer writers I know. Any of us would happily fact check a beer article for almost any journalist just to insure the public is not told another ridiculous falsehood which will take a lot of work to undo. People tend to believe their daily paper and discount what they read in the free brewspaper they pick up at their local bar even though it’s generally the opposite. Most news outlets, if they cover beer at all, assign it to a wine or food writer who generally could care less about beer itself and any attendant accuracy. There are exceptions, of course. But sadly, not too many.
However, I can’t let Anheuser-Busch off the hook completely. They are still rolling out another pointless beer. An amber colored light beer is, after all, another light beer. And heaven knows we don’t need any of those. But as long as they’re the only beer category showing growth, I don’t think they’ll be disappearing any time soon.