Category Archives: Commentary

Bud Light toes the line between a good time and alcoholism.

If you were one of the 106.5 million people to watch the Super Bowl (largest American TV audience ever; take that, M*A*S*H series finale), chances are you saw a Bud Light commercial. Anheuser-Busch (or, rather, AB InBev) trotted out about 80 of them in part to assert its dominance on the grand stage of television advertisement but also to ring in the new Bud Light slogan, “Here we go.” My thoughts on AB’s marketing strategies are known, so it’s surprising to me that they’d go with the worst motto in history of beer.

In the spots, some guy finds out Bud Light has entered the equation somehow and exclaims “here we go,” as if a good time is imminent, like the crest of a roller coaster. Frankly, casting alcohol as a party drug the way this does is disgraceful and the implications of alcoholism are blatant. The Times reports “The idea has been to balance rational reasons for buying Bud Light, which were conveyed as product qualities under the umbrella of drinkability, with reasons that would ‘connect on an emotional level,’ (VP for marketing Keith) Levy said.” Here we go, because you can’t help it, you’re addicted. Talk about emotional.

I reproach Anheuser-Busch for highlighting the negative, consuming affects alcohol has on some. Good work, guys. And I invite you to visit my dad’s new blog on recovery and addition therapy if the topic interests you.

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AHU: Breaking into the Boys Club

How female brewers are looking to change the face of beer culture

graphic by sasha plotnikova

graphic by sasha plotnikova

Errol Morris, the Oscar-winning director of The Fog of War and The Thin Blue Line, is also the director of a lengthy campaign of commercials for Miller High Life extolling the virtues of being a man and enjoying a beer. Each spot has a 1950s air of male hegemony and revels in it, thick arms, hairy knuckles, and all. In one commercial, the gruff narrator asks a newlywed housewife standing before a supermarket beer cooler what kind of man she wants her husband to be. She chooses a High Life man, of course. Another asks a shirtless beer belly, “Is your name Sally? Sally, the salad-eater? No, you’re a High Life man and you don’t care who knows it.”

It’s not hard to admit that the prevailing undertones of the beer world are masculine ones. If we are to believe the dated notions that beer is the working class beverage and working class families are supported by a sole (male) breadwinner, then the brews in the fridge must be Dad’s, right? Wrong, says the growing number of women who drink, brew, advocate, and otherwise enjoy beer, and they want you to know it. Continue reading

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AHU: The few, the proud, the drunken

Does fanaticism toward one beer mean it is truly worthy of merit?

graphic by Sasha Plotnikova

graphic by Sasha Plotnikova

On February 9 in the small seaside town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a beer will be placed on tap in the Portsmouth Brewery. Its reception will ripple through the sea of beer aficionados across America. Portsmouth Brewery, which only produces about 1,000 barrels of beer annually (for comparison, Boréale’s brewers produce around 60,000), releases this beer so infrequently and in such small quantities that the Internet is buzzing with anticipation of its arrival.

Kate the Great, as the beer is called, wasn’t such a hot topic before December 2007, when the readers of BeerAdvocate Magazine rated it the number one beer in America and the number two beer on Planet Earth. The magazine is the periodical of the popular web site beeradvocate.com, which has over 175,000 members, most of whom are self-labeled beer geeks – lovers, defenders, and sometimes, to a fault, crusaders of craft-brewed beer. Such an accolade for Kate the Great created enough hype to give rise to Kate Day, the name given to the not-to-be-missed celebration of its release.

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The Globe and Mail finds solution to Quebec independence

In Monday’s Globe and Mail came an article about a beer aimed at Quebec’s sovereignty, L’Indépendante – Vive la bière libre. The main angle here was seeing the release of a beer whose profits are donated to the separatist movement as frustration that sovereignty has taken a back seat in the provincial elections.

Although it was good of the national daily to pick up the story, there were a couple of areas where the writer, Ingrid Peritz, missed the point. Continue reading

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AHU: Budweiser puts on a patriot act

graphic by Ben Peck

graphic by Ben Peck

Anheuser-Buscher overcompensates after merger with Belgian company InBev

How many Budweiser advertising slogans can you recall? I bet it’s at least three. To name a few, there’s “This Bud’s For You,” “The King of Beers,” the image of Clydesdale horses (even ones trained to act like Rocky), and, of course, the three frogs croaking, “Bud,” “Weis” and “Er.” The marketing wizards at Anheuser-Busch, the brewers of Bud, must be proud of the level of pop culture ubiquity that their commercials can claim; they must also be among the highest paid in the industry – and that’s the advertising industry, not just the beer world.

When a company spends so much money on advertising, every decision is made with the calculated precision of branding. In 2009, a 30-second slot during the Super Bowl, arguably Budweiser’s most effective medium, will cost an average of US$3-million. That much money makes even an absurd ad campaign – like two guys on couches yelling “Waazzaaaaaa” into the telephone – a planned investment on the part of Budweiser.

[Note: this particular advertisement has come back to haunt Anheuser-Busch in the form of an Obama ’08 support spot. The brewing company, which never bought the full rights for the concept when the original ad ran eight years ago, can do nothing but watch as the popularity of their product is used to endorse a presidential candidate.] Continue reading

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AHU: The 100-mile diet, liquid edition

As the first days of school and the last days of summer are upon us, one phase of drinking slowly morphs into another. Languidly beating the heat on a terrasse with a bottle of beer in hand turns into complaining about profs and exams over pints at Biftek. The reality of student drinking is that it’s often centred more on where and why you’re drinking rather than what you’re drinking. Even more disheartening for the student beer enthusiast is watching as large, corporate beer factories are chosen first, time and again, just for their price.

However, thanks to a 25-year-in-the-making revolution in beer taste, craft beer is all around us. Continue reading

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AHU: Old world beer in New France

Originally published in The McGill Daily on April 7, 2008.

graphic by Noelani Eidse

graphic by Noelani Eidse

If, somehow, beer culture was a religion – and the zealous, prophetical, and dogmatic sides of the industry do exist – Belgium would be the holy land. Of the places on the globe where beer is given its due respect, nowhere is it revered as much as in Belgium. Belgian culture is beer culture. Because of this, an earnest admiration of Belgium’s beers, their original styles, and history, have become the hallmarks of beer geekdom.

Here in Quebec, Belgian beer is certainly celebrated. Some breweries, like the American Allagash or Ommegang, or the Chambly-based Unibroue, excusively brew Belgian-style beers. Others, like the local brewpub Dieu du Ciel, keep a few tried and true Belgian styles on the roster. Over centuries of practice, Belgian brewers have crafted so many different beers that the Belgian style is easily assimilated into modern beer culture.

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