A few days ago, I wrote about the seismic shifts in the brewing industry when European mega-brewer InBev made an offer for American brewing giant, and home of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch. I wanted to mark the occasion by trying an American beer from the Anheuser-Busch stables, but was deterred by Budweiser being a cheap lager. So I cheated and had an unrelated and equally cheap Miller Beer instead.
Since then, London taxis have continued advertising a new, and different looking beer from Anheuser-Busch. So, after much procrastination, I relented and picked up a bottle of Michelob Lager.
And it’s not a bad looking bottle. All the black and gold offers a premium look. And a nice change compared to the shouty look of other American beers. The dark coloured bottle even has a Coca-Cola-esque middle. And the name “Michelob” is subtly embossed upon the surface. All unusually classy.
The bottle top isn’t something I normally dwell on. But this one deserves mention because it’s a screw top. The quality of the bottle just went down a notch for me. But what do you think? Leave your opinion at the end of the post.
With no front or back labels cluttering up this stylish bottle, what we do have is a very large neck label. Something I think makes the bottle look like it’s wearing a spangly dinner-jacket.
I like the font of this neck label. And that’s because it has all the words the convinced me that it would be worth trying. Even though it’s a lager that comes from somewhere with a poor reputation for mass-produced beer. Starting with the gold coloured top, it describes itself as “a classic all-malt lager brewed with noble European aroma hop varieties”. I’m salivating already. Malt is good. European hops can be good. As for this being a lager, well, I’m staying open minded about this one.
The “Michelob” brand is new here in Britain. And I’d be interested in learning what reputation is has across the pond. To me, the discreet little flag, and typeface sum up elegance. They also remind me of after dinner mints.
Even after vowing not to bother with lager again, there are some things that get me interested. And the word “Imported” does just that in this instance. The Miller Beer turned out to have been brewed “under license” over here. That’s no good. I want to review real American beer. And beers genuinely from other countries for that matter. So this one fits the bill nicely.
Just like the cap, the best before dates aren’t something I normally mention. But this time I will.
Some countries require food and drink to have a best before date. Others require the date that the food or drink was produced on. Because this is the export version, it sensibly has both. It has a “Born On Date” and a “Best Before Date”. Adding a belt to those braces are the words “Freshest Taste within 110 Days”. This isn’t something I’ve seen on many other beers. Not those from Europe, Africa or Asia at least.
Over on the other side of the neck label is all of the small-print.
After seeing so many faux foreign beer that turn out to be brewed in the UK, the St. Louis address for Anheuser-Busch, Inc., is a welcome sight. This really is from the USA and imported to me, via Richmond in Surrey.
This bottle is the usual volume of 355 millilitres. But the alcoholic volume is a rather typical 5%. It contains, surprise surprise, barley malt. And there is a UK postal address for comments. Unusual not to see an email address or consumer helpline though.
With that out of the way, its time to answer the big questions of our time. Namely, are there exceptions to the rule of big-name American beers generally being terrible? And does Michelob Lager taste as good as it looks?
Be careful if you decide to pour it. The head fizzes up almost uncontrollably, so keep an eye on your enthusiasm. It does end up as a good, thick layer after a few moments though. The other thing you’ll notice, if you went for the half-pint glass, is that it wasn’t big enough. Frustratingly, 355 millilitres is somewhere between half a pint and full-pint.
The colour is typical for a lager. It’s a pale yellow. It’s also filled with bubbles. Oh dear.
The label talked about “European aroma hop varieties”. And I’m delighted to report that the smell is not bad. Even compared to European lagers, it smells good. It has a much more rounded smell of barley and hops than many others. Not quite up to the levels of a proper ale, but not bad.
The first gulps were hindered somewhat by the thick layer of foam. First impressions aren’t too bad. I liked that it was smooth. I liked the initially light taste of lager. I was starting to think that it wasn’t a bad example of a lager.
Then the aftertaste hit me, and everything changed. The initial taste of a light blend of malted barley and hops vanishes. To be replaced by an intense, sour and bitter aftertaste. It feels like it’s clinging on to every surface of your tongue. And it is ghastly. You might expect this taste if it were a 9% super-strength lager, but for a premium, imported lager, it cannot be excused.
I truly wanted to enjoy Michelob Lager. My expectations were modest, and achievable. It looks the part. And smells the part of a quality, premium lager. But that taste. It is one of the worst and most unpalatable I’ve tasted.
How can I sum it up? This is a beer for people who have spent their lives drinking Budweiser, and want to imagine that they’re experiencing a European quality beer. When in fact, all this is doing, is perpetuating the reputation that big-name American brewers produce urine and get away with it.
Have you tried Michelob Lager? What did you think? What reputation does it have elsewhere in the world?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas and suggestions here please. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think.