Friday, June 27, 2008

Budding Conflict

Budweiser, the toast of Belgium
Ian Williams 26 March 2008 Guardian CiF

America's most famous beer may taste like water, but if InBev succeeds in taking over its brewer the US will lose a national symbol

There is probably a graph somewhere correlating the decline in the strength of American beer and the value of its dollar. If so, it would likely feature Budweiser, the archetypal American beer. There are many mysteries about the US for non-Americans, but few so imponderable as their attraction for the fizzy, aqueous substance.

The old Q&A sums it up. Why is drinking Bud like making love in a canoe? Because it's f*ing close to water!

There is surely a thesis to be written about what happened to hundreds of varieties of cheese, beer and sausage taken by European emigrants to the US in the 19th century. By the time they reached Ellis Island, only the frankfurter, Wisconsin cheddar and Budweiser were left.

Somewhere around the mid-Atlantic ridge, will future marine archaeologists discover, preserved in the cold dark depths, a huge depositary of tasty, nutritious brands dumped overboard to ensure tasteless homogeneity on arrival?

So there is multiple irony in the threatened InBev takeover of the iconic American brand. InBev is mostly owned by a company from Brazil, home to one of the world's strongest liquors, cachacas, but it is itself from Belgium, a thoroughly heterogeneous country whose one unifying factor is an attachment to hundreds of tasty and strong varieties of beer.

However, Budweiser has the seeds of hope, emblematic of the new world. In a sense, it is already very cosmopolitan. In total defiance of the ancient Nuremburg laws on brewing, it is made with rice, so in one sense, it is America's most popular brand of sake, thus anticipating Asian domination of the US economy, and a Belgian takeover would somehow bring in the theme of Euro-power.

It is also a pleasant counterpart to the deranged, reactionary Coors brewing empire, bankers to all the causes that led us into Iraq and may yet lead us into teetotal Iran – probably with compulsory beer consumption as part of the occupation agenda.

And we really should cheer a company that gets "Pinko George Clooney", in the words of one Christian conservative blogger, to do their voiceover work. "I mean, come on, has this country gotten so pathetic where an American beer company can hire a radical liberal pansy to be its spokesperson," he continued, wondering why middle America was not "so freaked out that they have to fire him and issue an apology within two weeks!?"

Let us hope that InBev continues the good work – and, if the takeover is successful, improves the strength of flavour of its new brand so that the Bud blossoms at last toward the flavoursomeness of its Bohemian Budovar origins.

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