Bud Light still outsells every single craft beer combined, and by a wide margin. Good afternoon!
Last winter the beer media did a great job triumphantly reporting that in 2014, craft beer finally outsold Budweiser for the first time. Since Budweiser calls itself the King of Beers, this made for a lot of snappy grave-dancing references to deposed monarchs, so that was fun. But some of these stories also felt obligated to rain macro lager down on the parade by mentioning that Budweiser hasn’t been the best-selling beer in America for over a decade now, anyway.
One in five beers sold in America is a Bud Light. Coors Light is in second place, and Budweiser’s third. None of the 20 most popular beers in the country qualify as “craft” by even the loosest definition, and five of them have the word “Bud” in the name. Bud Ice not only still exists, it also outsells every allegedly ubiquitous craft beer you think you’ve outgrown. Samuel Adams Boston Lager, which has dedicated bars in more than a dozen airports, is less popular than Bud Light Lime. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the 35-year-old legend that can now be purchased at most gas stations, minor league ballparks, and chicken-wing emporia, is still looking up at Bud Light Platinum, Keystone Light, and two flavors of Natural.
AB-InBev and MillerCoors are slipping, but not nearly as much as we’d like to think. Their flagship brands are losing market share to craft, for sure, but also to their own shitty new siblings. This is because the world is a dark place full of tasteless monsters, which, really, is fine. Let a Bud Man be a Bud Man. He’s not hurting anybody. I don’t care which brand of sneakers I wear, even though I’m willing to believe there are qualitative differences, so I can’t judge a person who doesn’t put too much thought into his beer.
I admire how the big, shitty beer brands have managed to turn indifference into loyalty, which is the key to their continued dominance. A person who isn’t all that concerned with her beer’s character just sort of settles on one macro light or the other and is done with it. Contrast that to archetypal craft drinker, who is more likely to pledge allegiance to a breed of hop than a brand of beer.
This loyalty, combined with macro lager’s relatively low price and potency, means that the people who drink a given brand drink a fucking ton of it. I’m quite certain that Sam Calagione himself has consumed less Dogfish Head 60 Minute in his life than my father has Miller Lite.
Again, I have no problem with any of this, because I don’t own a brewery. But I was still glad the other day when a friend told me he’d picked just two beers to serve at his wedding, and those turned out to be a couple of Massachusetts session beers I happen to like. I got married in a bar, so we just served whatever couple dozen things were on tap, but in retrospect it would’ve been cool to take the opportunity to buy a few kegs of just one special beer. If you find yourself in that or a similar position this summer, may I recommend Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale? They sent me a few bottles last month, and I wish I could buy more in my state. It’s good.
Twilight is a 5-percent-ABV blonde ale dialed toward the hoppy side, with Northern Brewer, Amarillo, Cascade, and Tettnang combining to give it a multidimensional aroma featuring a modern fruitiness along with a slightly retro earthy edge. There’s lemon and grapefruit along with pine and hay, plus some nice bread-y malt. It’s not a bitter beer by pale ale standards, but it’s heavily hopped as blondes go, with a long, resinous finish that helps it straddle the categories and ultimately leave the impression of a good, universal, all-purpose, long-haul ale.
Sampling a million different new things is fun, but nothing’s more fun than a keg on the back porch. Give Deschutes Twilight Summer that whirl if you get a chance.
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Image by Jim Cooke.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.