Every once in a while it is important to go back to your roots and remember the path you took along the road of life that led you to the place where you currently hang your hat. That means, in the world of craft beer, you should pick up a macro lager from time to time and enjoy it for what it is. Let’s face it, most of us, as fledgling beer-drinkers, cut our teeth on brews like Budweiser, Coors, and Miller. Beer, like any other product, has been refined to appeal to the masses. To the larger brewers that means brewing a product that is not too extreme and yet not too mild; it means brewing a beer that is readily available at a reasonable price.
So, with this spirit in mind, I opened my first brew baring a label with the name Budweiser on it in many years. But, what I opened was not your average Budweiser with the familiar red and white label, this was a Budweiser produced as a part of a corporate project at Anheuser-Busch known as Project 12. The story of the projects origins and final outcome is intriguing and speaks to a company that recognizes that their customers sometimes want more from their beers. It also is proof that the craft beer movement is being noticed at the highest levels of the big beer industry.
In the spring of 2012, Budweiser asked the twelve brewmasters from their breweries across America to create a unique beer recipe that was still faithful to the Budweiser name. Six of these twelve recipes were chosen to be brewed in small batches and made available to the public at tastings across the country. Those tasting the beers were then asked to choose their favorites. After tens of thousands of taste-tests three of the brews were chosen to be included in the Project 12 Sampler Pack.
“We’ve never done anything like this before,” said Rob McCarthy, vice-president of Budweiser. “With all this feedback from consumers, I guess you can call this the largest focus group in Budweiser history, maybe even beer history.”
The three beers that were chosen by consumers were named for the zip codes in which they were created; Budweiser Batch No. 91406 was created in Los Angeles by brewmaster Bryan Sullivan with collaboration from Scott Ungerman in Fairfield, Calif. and Dave Cohen in Houston; Budweiser Batch No. 63118 was created by brewmaster Jim Bicklein of the hometown brewery for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Mo. with collaborative help from Katie Rippel of the Fort Collins, Colo. Brewery; and Budweiser Batch No. 23185 was created in Williamsburg, Va. by brewmaster Daniel Westmoreland with collaboration from Mike Anderson of Jacksonville, Fla. And Dan Kahn of Cartersville, Ga.
Each beer in the series uses the same proprietary yeast that has been used in Budweiser since 1876 when Adolphus Busch first cultured it at his brewery in St. Louis. The challenge was for the brewmasters to use this yeast and pay homage to Adolphus’ original creation by keeping its characteristics but adding new and interesting ingredients and flavors. The result were distinct brews that present the crisp, clean finish expected of a lager, but adds a bit more interest and, in some cases, flavors more often found in craft ales.
Budweiser batch No. 91406
Caramel malts were used in this deep-amber lager to give the beer its pleasant color and amped up body. The hop character of this brew is also pumped up a bit through the use of four varieties of hops.
This brew pours from the bottle a nice amber color that has moderate carbonation and body. The aroma is of Budweiser with a slightly more pronounced malt characteristic. The flavor is an amber lager through and through with sweet caramel malts and a tease of hops at the end. The finish is classic Bud; crisp and clean with a slight, lingering sweet aftertaste.
Budweiser batch No. 63118
When the brewmasters responsible for this brew got together they decided they wanted to honor the traditions pioneered by Adolphus Busch and use ingredients that the brewery’s founder would have used on the 19th century. They used Hallertau and Tettmang hops to create a pilsner the German immigrants of St. Louis could be proud of.
Upon opening the brew and pouring it into a glass the first thing you will notice is that it is perfectly clear and golden yellow. The aroma is sweet and fruity with the faintest hint of hops. The taste is just as sweet as the aroma suggests with the malts you would expect from a beer called Budweiser and, as hinted at in the nose, the faintest of hops flavors at the end.
Budweiser batch No. 23185
Perhaps the most ambitious of the three brews included in Project 12, this brew is a bourbon cask lager with vanilla beans added for good measure. The brewers used only malt and aged the beer on staves taken from bourbon barrels that impart the oakiness of the wood as well as a hint of the bourbon.
This pours from the bottle a deep golden color. The aromas promise a hint of vanilla and bourbon with the sweetness that is generally apparent in lagers. The vanilla and bourbon promised by the aroma is fulfilled in the flavor as well as oak from the staves.
Project 12 proves to be an interesting side-trip on the road to beer enlightenment. It also provides an excellent opportunity for beer-drinkers to go back to their roots and taste the beers that got them started.
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- Budweiser Introduces New Crowdsourced Beer (psfk.com)
- Budweiser Will Crowdsource Its Next Beer (mashable.com)
- Big Beer dresses up in craft brewers’ clothing (management.fortune.cnn.com)