Belgian Beer giant InBev has long had a reputation as a cost-cutter. As much a bean counter as a brewer, InBev grew big enough to gobble up American mega-brewer Anheuser-Busch by closely watching the bottom line and by making up for any real or perceived drop in product quality with aggressive marketing.
Now that InBev owns A-B instead of only brands that many Americans find difficult to pronounce — such as Hoegaarden (pronounced WHO-Garden) and Stella Artois — some of the ruthless InBev cost-cutting measures are hitting closer to home.
See: The recent decision by Busch Entertainment Corp. to stop serving free beer at its theme parks, ending a 50-year tradition at Busch Gardens. The taps dry up on Sunday, though customers will still be able to buy beer.
Then InBev announced it would close the historic Stag Brewery in London. The brewery, which dates to the 15th century, is one of the oldest in London. Its 180 employees will join some 1,400 former A-B workers who were handed pink slips by InBev.
And then, on the heels of all of this, InBev announced that it planned to raise beer prices by 3.5 percent!
That might be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Many stalwart A-B loyalists might finally be willing to give up their devotion to A-B brands and try some other fare.
Always the helpful sort, I put together this handy list detailing some good alternatives that former Budweiser and Michelob diehards can turn to.
The classic American Lager. You have plenty of options if Budweiser is your brew of choice. Coors and Miller are nearly interchangeable with Budweiser, though Coors somehow manages to be even less full-bodied than Bud. But if you want your beer to be American-owned, Coors and Miller are out. Look to Schlitz, Pabst Blue Ribbon or, if you like flavor in your beer, Samuel Adams or Yuengling. If American ownership is unimportant to you and you simply enjoy paying a premium for subpar suds, Heinieken is a great replacement for Bud.
Again, Coors Light and Miller Lite are interchangeable, but they're not American-owned — and let's face, it the only widely available light beer that even remotely tastes like beer is Samuel Adams Light. If light beer is your major concern, just get a full strength beer and mix 1 part water to 2 parts beer. You'll cut the calories and be pretty dang close to "making" light beer the way most brewers do.
Here's where it gets interesting. Michelob was starting to produce a pretty interesting lineup of beers when A-B was acquired by InBev.
You had your standard Michelob and Mich Light, which were once again being brewed as all malt (no rice or other adjuncts) beers. You had AmberBock, which, while not a bock by any reasonable definition of the style, was not a bad beer for what it was designed to be. And added to these staples were Michelob Porter, Honey Lager, Marzen, Pale Ale and Dunkelweizen.
Of course, the Michelob line also included Ultra and the incredibly awful Ultra line of fruit-infused brews, but on the whole, the Michelob beers were a decent lot.
So how to fill that Michelob bottle-shaped hole in your heart? Look to craft brewers with large line ups like Flying Dog, Saranac, Shipyard and, again, even Samuel Adams. All brew a wide variety of styles that are great replacements to the Michelob line, and they aren't priced outside of a Michelob man's budget.
— Joey Redner is a Tampa resident and world beer traveler.