Last year Budweiser started a new venture to get more people to drink Budweiser and expand their brand. This adventure was called Project 12. The idea is simple and cool. All the head brewers from all the Budweiser plants get to make a beer however they want… as long as they use the same yeast. This is very important and will be discussed more later. The yeast they were given is the same yeast they always use for all their beers, “the signature yeast first used by Adolphus Busch in 1876, creating brews that show Budweiser’s clean and crisp flavor.”
You may not have heard of Project 12 before but what you did hear about, unless you missed Super Bowl XLVI, is Budweiser Black Crown. Black Crown won the Project 12 competition last year and got released as a major nationwide roll out featuring far too many confusing commercials during last years Super Bowl. So it’s a pretty exciting honor for these head brewers and I’m not sure but I hope that whoever wins get’s a nice fat bonus at the end of the year.
Before we get into my thoughts on these beers, which I’m keeping shorter than usual, Budweiser designates all these beers by the zip code of the brewery that made them. Everyone else calls them by their names. I put their names above each section then below that is the blurb Budweiser sent me including the batch # (aka zip code) and the city it was made in. First off is the beer from just up the road from us in Columbus!
Batch 43229 (Columbus, Ohio): Brewed with chocolate and caramel malts for a rich auburn appearance and finished on Beechwood chips for a crisp, clean taste, this deep amber lager is 6 percent ABV.
Crystal clear ruddy brown shade with a touch of off-white head that faded fast. Super malty aroma with lots of caramel and a touch of chocolate though no hops what so ever. I’m wondering if caramel was a core ingredient in this beer, it sure tastes that way. Sadly the sweetness becomes cloying as it warms. Curiously light-medium body with loads of carbonation, a thing Budweiser does amazing at and keeps up here, like the cloying sweetness that develops there is also a strange slickness on the palette about half way through.
North Pacific Lager
Batch 94534 (Fairfield, Calif.): Brewed with a unique blend of North Pacific hop varieties, including Cascade and Palisade, this bold, hoppy lager is 5.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) and offers a distinct taste of the American Northwest.
Bright and beautifully clear golden color with a nice light topping of pure white head that fades down fast. It’s got nice pine and citrus hop aromas but these are incredibly light. Taste is weird, I think it’s the combo of the clean lager yeast, the grains, and the hops. Calling it weird may have been unfair, it is highly atypical and it provides evidence of why there aren’t many really hoppy lagers. Very light, crisp, and clean body. I’m wondering if someone just dry hopped a Budweiser?
Vanilla Bourbon Cask
Batch 23185 (Williamsburg, Va.): Aged on a bed of bourbon barrel staves and vanilla beans, this light amber lager indulges the sweet side and features a 5.5 percent ABV.
Definitely lives up its to its name on the vanilla and bourbon fronts and slightly over does those flavors. Outside of those two dynamics this is just your basic Budweiser. I’m wondering if they just through some bourbon soaked oak chips or staves into a vat of Budweiser then dumped in a couple of gallons of vanilla flavoring? It’s not horrible by any means and was
my favorite the most enjoyable of the three. I think the head brewer who planned this could have great things ahead of him if he were at a company that allowed freedom and creativity to truly flourish.
Importance of Yeast
What all these beers truly showcase is the importance of yeast in beer. A quick background, yeast is a microorganism that east sugar and turns it into alcohol and CO2. Brewers don’t make beer, they make wort, add yeast, and yeast makes beer. This contest at Budweiser restricted the brewers to use 1 yeast, the same standard yeast used in all Budweiser beers. I went to my local homebrew store and counted the number of yeasts available to homebrewers from just 1 company, there were 65 different yeast strains available. 65! And these Budweiser brewers could only use 1.
Now all 65 of those yeast strains at Osborn Brewing aren’t going to make 65 different styles. There are a couple of strains for Belgians to give off nice fruity esters, and a few for lagers with no fruity esters and a nice clean taste, and a lot for other ales of all varieties. I want to stress this again, home brewers can use 65+ yeasts, craft brewers I’ve talked to will maintain 5 – 10 (Stone or New Belgium probably have a few hundred), in the Lambic region of Belgium they use whatever floats on by, and the brewers in this competition got 1 yeast to use.
FULL DISCLOSURE: This beer was sent to me for free by a Budwesier PR firm. To our readers, and any breweries interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 1 way. That way is that I WILL review the beer and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free beer does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it or anything like that.