America the beer: I’m not buying this gawdy patriotism

by DGO Web Administrator

Something funny happened when I walked in to Star to get my Fourth of July weekend beer supplies. I took an unexpected pass on America.

It’s a rare occasion, me looking to buy corporate, industrial beer in lieu of my usually craft, usually Colorado beer purchases. With a glimmer of irony in my eye, I was going to pick up some Budweiser for America Day, our most patriotic holiday. I wanted to join the rest of America – Middle America, rural America, conservative America, America America – setting aside my snobby preference for quality ingredients and sharp, distinct flavors and my desire to support local and regional brewers. Nearly saluting, I thought, “We might be a country full of diversity and differences, but on this day, let’s all drink the same beer.”

And then, after opening the beer case, I was reminded that a couple months back, Budweiser had changed its name on the cans to America. It seemed like I would have been the perfect target, but something twisted my stomach a little and I couldn’t do it.

You may remember, back in May it was announced that, through the November elections, Budweiser, would be calling itself, simply, America. They’ve also crowded the labels with patriotic words and phrases from the Pledge of Allegiance and lyrics from “The Star Spangled Banner.” You know, just in case America was too subtle.

“We are embarking on what should be the most patriotic summer that this generation has ever seen,” Budweiser Vice President Ricardo Marques said in a press release at the time, referring to the Summer Olympics and other international sporting events that are supposed to make us proud to have been born in our respective countries.

The irony hasn’t been lost on anyone that Budweiser’s parent company AB InBev resides in Belgium. And it’d be easy to say that such a bald marketing attempt to co-opt the identity of an entire nation in the name of corporate profit is rather un-American. My problem with it all is that it is so incredibly American. And it’s not the America I want to live in.

So what is the America this America stands for? This is a beer that cloaks itself in the colors of the flag, is all-but-flavorless, because who needs flavor when you’re swillin’ Bud with a fishing pole in your other hand. This America is cheap because of the massive scale of production, seizing every opportunity to make an ounce more profit, lobbying for favorable laws and crushing little guys to make itself even more powerful? This America is the Wal-Mart of beers, and what’s more American than Wal-Mart?

Further, who gave Budweiser the right? Can it just do that? (And what’s keeping, say, Ska from changing its name to America for the summer?) The move is over the top. It’s gawdy, pushy, rude, brash. How America is that? It’s white sneakers, black socks and fanny packs. It’s corn dogs and cotton candy. It’s preferring the Hard Rock Café in Paris over a local café in Paris. It’s throngs of tubby Americans abroad, thinking everyone else in the world should learn English already.

It’s grotesque, the clear co-opting that takes words and images that are supposed to define our country’s spirit and history, all to sell a few more cans of flimsy beer. It’s exaggerated promises, bloated pride, slogans without substance, marketing without conviction. It’s using a label to hide the fact that the inside is mediocre. It’s saying anything you have to say to gain power. Of course! It’s the Donald Trump of beers.

Ultimately, I opted for Coors Original. Not much better, but at least those are Colorado clichés it uses to push its average American-style lager.

Turns out that on America Day, America was just too America for me.

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