Ask many brewers what the best beer in the world is and they’ll tell you Budweiser.
Why? Because it’s incredibly well made. Like Coca-Cola, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you buy a Budweiser it’s going to taste the same.
This is an incredible feat of brewing, it’s modern mass-production perfected. This can’t be underestimated no matter what your opinion is on the taste of the beer.
But is it really “good beer”? No. It’s bland, flavourless swill.
There’s very little of interest and while it’s never flawed, it’s never good.
Good Beer Vs Well-Made Beer
And that’s where the important distinction is. A beer being well-made and a beer being good are two different things.
Of course, a truly good beer is both of these things. It’s good in the sense of providing excitement to the senses but also in terms of being brewed to a high standard.
With examples such as Budweiser (and to be fair, a variety of other beers too), they may be incredibly well-made but they lack the character and flavour to be considered a truly good beer.
Equally, when a beer purports to be good, because it’s “craft” and has “flavour”, but is flawed or lacks balance, it too fails in what can be considered a “good” beer.
What Makes A Great Beer
While I’ll endlessly advocate for the growth of quality, independent beer, I have to concede that mass-produced lager will always have a place.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying a Budweiser or two. If that’s what does it for you, go for your life. As long as you’re happy.
But if we want to think more expansively about beer, about the role it plays in our lives and about the pleasure it can bring in a variety of settings, then we should surely be looking for something more.
We should be looking for something that tastes and feels sensational on the palate. Something that reflects local brewing culture rather than beige ubiquity. Something that reflects who we are as a community.
When a beer encapsulates all these sensory, social and cultural components, then it’s not just a good beer, it’s a great beer.
Drink Better Beer
While I don’t really agree with it, that oft-repeated saying “the best beer is the one in your hand” is the way many drinkers measure the quality of beer.
But I can’t think of any situation where the experience wouldn’t be improved by drinking a better tasting beer.