Sunday, 29 October 2017

This Bud's for... WHO??? (Not Glenn...)

This is a screen capture of Corb Lund singing in that
Budweiser commercial. As you can see, in the back is
a Budweiser banner proudly proclaiming the beer to be
"Alberta Made." Which, technically, yes, it is as the
Labatt brewery in Edmonton does produce Bud. But
the ad had a lot of Alberta beer drinkers up in arms.
Do you know who Corb Lund is? If so, you're a step up on me.

Before a small controversy he was involved with during the Summer, if we were playing Name Association and you said, "Corb Lund," I likely would have replied, "That's a damn fine tire!"

So who is he? Well, he's a 48-year-old country singer from Edmonton, Alberta who heads up the band, Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans. Okay, I think the flow of the band name is kinda cool. So there's that. Three of the following four country songs are his; one I just made up so let's see how adept you are at spotting fake song titles. Ready? Here goes: Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer; Time To Switch To Whiskey; This Is My Prairie and finally My Wife Left Me, My Dog Died And As Soon As My Truck Becomes Self-Driving, I'll Be Totally Alone. Don't guess right away. Give yourself time to think about it.

So why am I talking about this dude? It's certainly not because I admire country music. It has its time and place which is "never" and "not near me." No, it turns out that ol' Corb here was in a Budweiser commercial this past Summer. That's not controversial. Except that the theme of the commercial was that Bud was "Alberta Made."
Okay, again, as you can see in this photo of the Edmonton Labatt's plant,
Budweiser is, indeed, Alberta Made. However, Albertans, like the rest of
Canada, have always considered Bud to be an American beer. While this
is something of a tempest in a teapot, the commercial stirred up some
negative response. To me, a country singer associated with Bud makes a
lot of sense. As Lund himself defended: "I've always considered it to be
a cowboy beer." No doubt there. But others were not happy with the ad.
Okay, that part rattled a few feathers, it seems. Or is that ruffled a few cages? I can never remember. Damn metaphors.

In the commercial that shows beautiful Alberta scenery, a very obvious drive-by at the Labatt plant and a crazy amount of pretty young women dancing to his music, Lund says in a voice-over, "Being an Albertan is in my music. It's the places. It's the people. We've been through a lot but at the same time, we've accomplished a lot." Cue to dozens to Bud cans held aloft, proclaiming "Alberta Made" though at the end of the commercial, it does clearly state "Since 1980." And that's the thing. Budweiser was first brewed in St Louis back in 1876, some 141 years ago. To us, it's an American beer and always will be.
In the Summer of 2016, Anheuser-Busch renamed
Bud, calling it "America." (How is that name NOT
protected under a copyright of some sort?) While the
beer promotion was just for a short period of time, it
certainly reaffirmed that Bud was an American beer.

That said, since Labatt started brewing it in 1980, it has become Canada's third-largest selling beer, behind Coors Light and Canadian, both produced by Molson's.

But here's the funny thing. While I suspect many shrugged the commercial off (as I would have), those who took offence were an even mixture of macro and craft beer drinkers. I have frankly never seen these two sides band together on anything. Especially over a commercial.

To the craft drinkers, they thought Corb's attention would be better focused on the province's 50 craft brewers, who could benefit from a little attention. Especially since Corb himself fancies the odd micro-brew. But the macro drinkers' point was simply this: Budweiser was not part of their proud western heritage. They considered wrapping Bud in the Alberta flag to be a slap in the face.

So let's leave the final word on this to Lund himself. As the controversy grew, he went on his website and noted that Budweiser had been the sponsor of the Calgary Stampede for, well, decades and as such, he always considered it a "cowboy beer."
This dude is NOT Alberta-Made. Nope, Beer
Bro Glenn is 100% Grade A Ontario Beef. But
he really knows a good American craft beer,
such as Smuttynose Brewing's Finestkind IPA
He continued: "I'm also a strong supporter of Alberta small business (I run one myself) and that extends to craft breweries. Just because I support one thing doesn't mean I oppose the others. I'm a fan of Alberta's microbreweries and I've had many hangovers to thank them for. I admire their passion and dedication to the craft and I know what it's like to be the little guy trying to beat the odds."

I think that's a pretty legitimate mea culpa. I mean, actually thanking craft brewers for the hangovers they have given him? I've never done that. He's definitely a gentleman cowboy, this Corb Lund dude. I'll never invite him to sing at a party because he's a little bit country and I'm a little bit rock and roll. But still, I'll include a link to the commercial at the end if you like to rant over inconsequential things. I'm very considerate that way.

So, at this point, how do I take the Corb Lund controversy and segue into column about craft beer? Glad you asked. It's a specialty of mine. You see, this whole thing was about America and Canada, specifically Alberta. And who do I know that's NOT from Alberta? Beer Bro Glenn. And what does Beer Bro Glenn do in his free time? He crosses the border and smuggles me back a crap-ton of American craft beer. Was that segue smooth? Not at all. I clearly need a new specialty. Maybe as an Uber driver. Except, you know, people. Talking to people. Shuttling people. Being civil to people. Ugh.
Another day, another new American IPA courtesy of
Beer Bro Glenn. This bold beauty is Troegs Brewing's
Perpetual IPA. Now "perpetual" indicates endless
movement or activity. Not so here. I poured it in this
glass and drank it. All activity stopped after that. Oh,
wait, I probably had to pee. Maybe that counts, too...

Now, as usual, there is one Yankee Doodle standard that Glenn does not come back without. That would be Stone Brewing's (Escondido, California) Ruination 2.0 Imperial IPA. If Glenn returned from the USA without one of those for me, knowing full well it's my all-time favourite American beer, he also knows, again, full well that he would have to turn back and rectify that grievous error. So Ruination is always a gimme. It's an unspoken bond between us.

But to his everlasting credit, he also includes a few reruns that he knows I love. For instance, he brought me back Bell Brewery's (Kalamazoo, Michigan) Two Hearted Ale, again one of the best IPAs America has to offer. Also, whoever named Kalamazoo should have been given the opportunity to name more American cities because that's a cool handle. There was Dogfish Head Brewing's (Milton, Delaware) 90 Minute Imperial IPA, which, aside from being another America classic, is 30 minutes longer than their 60 Minute IPA but also a half hour shy of their 120 Minute Triple IPA. (I'm all about teaching here.) And finally, of the Previously-Enjoyed Brews, he brought me a monster bottle of Sierra Nevada's (Chico, California) Pale Ale, considered by most to be the best pale ale ever produced in America.
I have lost count of how many different beers
from Ballast Point Brewing that Glenn has
brought me. So when he finds one I haven't
had yet, I'm always a little bit surprised by it.

So just like Corb Lund, Beer Bro Glenn is very much a gentleman cowboy. Minus the cowboy part. And we take the gentleman part on a day-to-day basis. But usually, he's good for it. A generous bastard, though, to be sure. Why not take a look now at some of the new beers that our gentleman cowboy Glenn brought me this time?

Let's start with Troegs Brewing (Hershey, Pennsylvania) Perpetual IPA. I love this because I had never even heard of the brewery before so yes, guy, I'm totally down! New brewery, new finds!!! Troegs Brewing is officially now on the "I Want More Of Their Stuff" List. Totally west coast style, this 7.5%, 85 IBU (international bitterness units) Double IPA is, according to their website, run through their Hopback Vessel. You know what that is? If so, tell me the next time we have a beer together because I got nothin'. I do know what a Hollaback Girl is but only because Gwen Stefani told me in 2004. But it's probably not the same.

In fact, in their words, "At Troegs, artisanal meets mechanical in a state of IPA we call Perpetual. Cycling through our HopBack vessel and dry-hopping method, this bold Imperial Pale Ale emerges rife with sticky citrus rind, pine balm and tropical fruit." Artisanal meets mechanical? Is that like handing an Amish dude an iPhone and saying, "Go nuts, Techno-Blank"? No idea. Craft brewers are crazy.
Ahhh yes, Stone can brew no wrong and once again,
they hit the jackpot with their 21st Anniversary Hail
To The Hop Thief Double IPA. How was it? Well, we
are talking Stone Brewing here so take a wild guess.

That said, their description is bang-on as that's exactly what you can expect from this Imperial IPA. The aroma jumped out at my nose and then bitch-slapped my taste-buds. What can I say? #GotHopBacked. And I really enjoyed it!  (Legal Disclaimer: If not enjoyed in moderation, getting HopBacked may cause prolonged euphoria, that feeling of always being right and potential intoxication. Ask your doctor if getting HopBacked is right for you.)

But Gentleman Cowboy Glenn wasn't done with the Imperial IPAs just yet as next on deck was the Ballast Point Brewing (San Diego) Manta Ray Double IPA. Now before we get started, let's be clear as there is some confusion. It was not a Manta Ray that killed Australian "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. It was a Stingray. Different beast. It's like that old saying... "Manta Rays are friends to all but Stingrays dislike Australians." I know, I know... that's an old cliche but cliches become cliches because they're usually true. And they do have the word "sting" right in their name. But let's talk about the Manta Ray Double IPA because of... something, something, they're not Stingray reasons.
While our friends at Green Flash Brewing call this a "Wheat
Ale," up here in the Great White North, it is likely to remind
you of a Berliner Weisse beer. Same tanginess, same tartness,
same tasty-ass treat. This one was their Passion Fruit version!

What can I say? Gentleman Cowboy Glenn is dealing nothing but Aces with Jacks with this bunch. Brewed for the first time at the beginning of 2017, this 8.5%, 70 IBU ale was barely even out before it won a Euro Beer Star Gold Medal. (Yeah, no idea what that is but it sounds pretty impressive.) Tons of orange and melon on the nose, it has a beautiful pine and resin finish. Picking a winner in this new stable of Imperial IPAs is gonna be a tricky bit of business that I will no doubt somehow wiggle out of with a modicum of effort.

Which brings us to the big gun that is called Stone Brewing's 21st Anniversary Hail To The Hop Thief Double IPA. Is this a big beer? Hellz, yeah, even my oversized Muskoka Brewing goblet could barely contain it. Granted at 22 ounces (650-ml), that is a big beastie. Sorry, was. All gone now. What makes this one so tasty? Well, for starters, it's brewed with Magnum, Mosaic, Pekko and Hopsteiner Experimental 06300 hops. I mean, if the first three didn't clinch it, that last one certainly did. (All Hail Hopsteiner Experimental 06300.)
Gentleman Cowboy Glenn and I don't have a lot
of rules. Drink beer. Have fun. Generic stuff like
that. But he does NOT return to Canada from
Niagara Falls, N.Y. without a Stone Ruination
2.0 Double IPA for me. It's the Unwritten Rule...
Okay, tons of peach with a bit of spice on the nose, this 9.8%, 80 IBU bastard is dirty pine and grapefruit on the tongue. I should have taken a picture when it was done because the lacing on this was phenomenal. Actually, that was true of the others but on this one, it's like it refused to let go. Another Stone beer, another "wow."

Finally, Glenn surprised me by slipping an American Wheat Ale into the mix with all these heavy-duty IPAs and to be frank, it may have been my favourite of the day. Not just because it was a change of pace - I could drink Double IPAs pretty much forever - but because it was an excellent example of the style - Wheat Ale or what we call Berliner Weisses up here. In essence, it's a spin on the classic German wheat ale (which are the best wheat ales) but given a North American twist by infusing a crap-ton of fruit flavours into the mix. My homeys at Nickle Brook Brewing in Burlington are the local pros at this game. But Green Flash Brewing out of San Diego, probably best known for their palate-shattering IPAs, has stepped into the game with their Passion Fruit Kicker and damn, it was good!

Exactly like the Berliner Weisses here in Canada, this 5.5%, 5 IBU ale was brewed with wheat malts, as well as 2-Row malted barley, making it tart and tangy with a beautiful fruit and Sweet Tart smell followed by a mouth-puckering pluckiness and more intense fruit on the tongue. Geez, I loved this one!!
"You're the Crocodile Hunter," I told him. "Just stick
to the damn Crocs!" But noooo, Steve Irwin decided
it'd be fun to poke at a stingray. Gawdammit, Steve!

Okay, at this point, you're probably thinking, "Hey, how can I make Gentleman Cowboy Glenn my buddy so we brings me all sorts of sick beers like these ones?" That's actually simple. Rent a Time Machine, go back to the 1980s and go through Journalism School with him. That's what I did. Well, okay, without the Time Machine. I did it old school. As in "We're old and went to school together." But Glenn, one of your finest hauls ever. Good job!

Time to shut this one down but before I go, it's back to Bud for a moment. From one of the silliest but memorable ad campaigns ever, I take you back to 1999. An ad company is scrambling to think of a new Bud campaign. Suddenly, the top exec introduces newbie Brad into the boardroom. They say, "Hello, Brad." Brad responses cheerfully with "Wasssuuup?" Three senior execs get wide-eyed. And that's how it started. (What? Were YOU in the room? No? Then prove me wrong.) But here's the real Corb Lund commercial that caused such a fuss called: This Bud's For... WHO? But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...