As you may have heard, Budweiser has renamed its beer America until the November election. According to Fast Company’s Co.Design blog, the thinking is that between the Olympics and this tragicomedy of a campaign, we’re headed for “maybe the most American summer ever.” Think that’s hard to swallow? Consider for a moment that Kirin is at least as American as Budweiser. Then grab a brew and let the reality checks begin!
1. American Beer Has Been Around Longer Than America.
We got our first brewery way back in 1612. Adrian Block and Hans Christiansen founded it in then New Amsterdam, now New York City. (America’s oldest brewery still in existence is Yuengling, founded in 1829.)
2. It Was Worth Fighting For.
In 1775, the Massachusetts Provincial Council mandated that each of its troops in Boston would get daily rations including “one quart of good spruce or malt beer.” Congress later approved the same basic ration, noting only that our soldiers could also be given cider. Britain never had a chance.
3. The Founding Fathers Loved It.
While Ben Franklin likely never said, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”, George Washington famously wrote a recipe for one and Thomas Jefferson became obsessed with it, spending part of his post-presidency devoting the full force of his genius—besides writing the Declaration of Independence, he was an inventor and architect—to making a really good brewski. It’s recorded that in 1812 he succeeded and told his overseer words as beautiful as any in the Declaration: “Brew the beer.”
4. Beer Came Back When We Needed It Most.
Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933. During most of this time, the economy was booming and Babe Ruth was hitting homers: in short, life was bearable sober. Then the stock market crashed. Unemployment rate in 1929: 3.2 percent. By 1933: 25 percent. And beer returned.
5. Heineken Was Prompt Post-Prohibition.
A mere four days after Prohibition ended, the Dutch beer Heineken returned to American shores. This is worth noting because in the years to come our beers will become confusingly international.
Before and after the hyper-patriotic facelift.
6. A New Beer Baron May Have Arrived.
Anheuser-Busch InBev is currently attempting a $100 billion takeover of SABMiller PLC. Between them, they would control roughly 30 percent of the world beer market, including the major brands from nations like Germany (Beck’s), Brazil (Skol), South Korea (Cass), Poland (Tyskie), Argentina (Quilmes), Italy (Peroni), and Mexico (Corona and Modelo). What about the U.S.A? Funny you ask…
7. You Likely Drink Something They Own.
So you’re at a bar and they have on tap Bud, Michelob, Miller, Busch, Goose Island, Landshark, Shock Top, Rolling Rock, Blue Moon, Milwaukee’s Best and Mickey’s. These beers have two things in common:
1. They are “American” beers. (We’ll explain the quotes in a moment.)
2. SABMiller PLC or Anheuser-Busch InBev own them.
These aren’t the only beers they own either. These two companies control a staggering 71 percent of the U.S. market. While they likely would have to give up a domestic brand or two for regulators to approve the deal, we’re still talking this equation: one company = majority of the market.
8. Did We Mention They’re Not From Here?
AB InBev is a Belgian-Brazilian multinational, while SABMiller PLC is a multinational of the South African variety. Indeed, this is just the culmination of a trend that’s swallowed up any number of iconic American brands. That said, there’s also an interesting countertrend…
9. Foreigners Are Faking It.
Kirin. Beck’s. Foster’s. Bass Ale. Red Stripe. You hear those names and think, “Japan, Germany, Australia, England, Jamaica.” You should not. These beers are increasingly being brewed in the U.S. (letting the companies avoid shipping costs)… but still often sold at a premium price since they’re “imports.” Kirin and Beck’s have been sued for misleading labeling and reached settlements, meaning you can soon look forward to the ad campaign: “Foster’s: Australian for ‘actually brewed in Texas.’ ”
10. Even Craft Beer Isn’t Safe.
On one hand, small brewers accounted for less than 3 percent of the U.S. market in 2004 and now account for 11 percent, suggesting the sky is the limit for craft beer. On the other, AB InBev has been buying up beer distributors, inspiring a Justice Department investigation into whether they’re doing so at least partly to stop beers they don’t own from being distributed, suggesting craft beer is about to be crushed.
Takeaway? Start drinking some American craft beer quick. For your country, dammit!