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The Grapevine | At the Old Bud Game

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Watching the Major League Baseball playoffs for the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned a few things: 1. The New York Yankees are now an officially dysfunctional unit; 2. The Colorado Rockies are the most exciting team in baseball; 3. Philadelphia Phillies fans will continue to suffer; 4. The Boston Red Sox have permanently wiped out The Curse; and 5. Budweiser is the official beer of Major League Baseball.

So I was thinking about what the latter means. Does it mean that A-Rod, Ortiz, Bonds and Maddux only drink Budweiser? I doubt it. I’d venture a guess that ballplayers who imbibe are probably more inclined towards Cristal.

The actual dollar amount that Budweiser’s parent company Anheuser-Busch has to pay to Major League Baseball to be its official beer is a well-guarded secret, I’m inclined to think it ain’t chump change. At any rate, I doubt Major League ballplayers drink Bud regularly, any more than they use Right Guard, watch the Weather Channel, shop at Radio Shack, drive Chevys or eat at Taco Bell—all of which are official sponsors of Major League Baseball. I also doubt that NASCAR drivers switched from Bud to Coors Light when the latter replaced Bud as NASCAR’s official beer. By the way, Budweiser is also the official beer of the 2007 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. That’s no joke.

I learned something else watching the playoffs: Regarding Budweiser served on tap, “No other beer is this fresh.” I was challenged to try it and see if Bud on tap doesn’t become “my favorite beer.”

Well, it didn’t. Bud on tap—or in the bottle or can for that matter—has not become my favorite beer. Not even close, although it does appear to have quite a few fans. After all, Anheuser-Busch claims 48 percent of the worldwide beer market and operates the largest brewing company in the United States. Nevertheless, I can think only of a handful of beers that I’d place lower than Bud in terms of flavor, body, aroma and overall satisfaction. And I’m not the kind of guy who turns up his nose at any beer that wasn’t brewed in Belgium. Why, I’ve even been known to kick back with a Tecate or two in my day.

But what of this “freshness” claim? Is Bud on tap really the freshest beer available? What about freshly brewed beers at places like Red Rock, Bohemian, Hoppers, Squatters, Wasatch and Uinta? Do you mean to tell me that the Bud on tap at Boston’s is fresher than those?

I also wonder why Bud ads always make mention of the “choicest” hops, barley and, of course, water, but never really mention the additional Bud ingredient which would be verboten in German beer: rice. The makers of Bud use cheap rice as a grain adjunct, which essentially ups the sugar content of the beer during fermentation. Don’t want rice in your brew? Then don’t drink cheap American beer.

In fact, according to a Greenpeace report based on independent lab tests, “rice used in Anheuser-Busch’s East Coast U.S. breweries is contaminated with genetically engineered rice varieties outlawed in most of the world.” So far, I haven’t seen that mentioned in any of Budweiser’s baseball-playoff spots.

Correction: In a recent article about La Caille’s terrific wine list, I incorrectly stated the restaurant’s inventory as 2,000 bottles. It’s actually 12,000.

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