A recent Wall Street Journal has an excellent article about the challenges facing Anheuser Busch in its quest for a beer made for "everyman.($$$). Like Dr. Evil, AB officials have cryogenically frozen beers to compare their tastes.
The five Budweiser cans in front of Mr. Busch, dating from 1982, 1988, 1993, 1998 and 2003, were pulled off the production line shortly after they were brewed. They were cooled to minus-321 degrees Fahrenheit over 16 hours and stored at that temperature in a secret laboratory in the company's headquarters.
I try to do that at home, but all I get is a messy freezer.
The sample cans demonstrate how "creep" works. The difference in taste between two beers brewed five years apart is indistinguishable. Yet, the difference between the 1982 beer and the 2003 beer is distinct. "The bones are the same. It is the same structure," says Mr. Muhleman. Overall, however, "the beers have gotten a little less bitter."
...Bud's ever-increasing lightness worked for years. But lately, consumers have started cooling on mass brands in favor of smaller, often unknown rivals. The proliferation of new media gave consumers more information about niche products. Their tastes grew more sophisticated and aspirational, spurred by an increase in overseas travel.
...Or drink the strongest beer. From 1950 to 2004, the amount of malt used to brew a barrel of beer in the U.S. declined by nearly 27%, and the amount of hops in a barrel of beer declined by more than half, according to Brewers Almanac. Part of that decrease is due to improvements in how brewers extract flavor from hops. Nonetheless, beer's taste became steadily lighter. (Flowers of the common hop plant, Humulus lupulus, are used as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, helping create its characteristic bitter taste and aroma.)
The beer industry measures bitterness using a scale called International Bitterness Units. The higher number of IBU's, the greater the bitterness. Over the past twenty years the IBU's of most American-style lagers has dramatically declined, from roughly 15-20 IBU's to fewer than 10 today, according to the Siebel Institute, a Chicago laboratory and brewing school that tests beer.
My Powersister, the Eldest, first turned me on to Guiness after she had spent some time in Europe. As I recall, she said that after spending time there, she couldn't stand to drink light American lagers. My first thought after initially sipping the Guiness was "Dude, what did you do with my oil?" But, over time, I acquired a taste for the heavier beers. Now, I prefer India Pale Ales and Extra Special Bitters. I also like a good, true Pilsner.
I still buy light American lagers. For fun, I'll buy Hamms and other such beers when available and when I'm feeling saucy. I rarely buy Miller or AB products but will not turn one down when offered. I may be a beer snob, but I'm not that snobby. Mostly, I'll buy such beers in which to boil meatballs or Italian sausage which then go in my spaghetti sauce, but I don't do this often because of the cost.