A Beginner’s Guide to Homebrewing, or Why Homebrewing Should Be Your Newest Hobby

The last decade has seen a surge in the craft beer industry in America, with microbrews rapidly replacing time-honored corporate favorites. In the wake of the somewhat offensive 2015 Budweiser Super Bowl ad, proclaiming that the popular golden suds are “brewed the hard way” in a sneering jab at craft beer aficionados, many microbreweries and independent brewers have stepped up their brewing game in efforts to prove that Anheuser-Busch probably should feel threatened by the burgeoning craft beer industry rather than snubbing it. Far from the niche market it once was, the American craft beer craze is re-shaping the alcohol industry in a totally unprecedented way and paving the road for future generations of beer drinkers to explore beyond the industry standards of Budweiser, Coors, and Miller High Life.

In addition to the surge in craft beer’s popularity, there has also been a considerable increase in the DIY beer market. Homebrewing is rapidly becoming one of the most popular hobbies in the United States, and homebrew supply companies have seen a 26 percent increase in revenue over the past year, according to a study from the American Homebrewers Association. More and more Americans are trying their hand at the delicate and delicious art of brewing at home, and it is revolutionizing the hop-growing business in America as well as creating a wealth of new industry opportunities for the beer-minded and hop-savvy.

But beer is a complex beverage, so homebrewing must be a difficult art to master, right? Wrong — with the right equipment and a little bit of guidance, homebrewing is one of the most rewarding and easy-to-learn hobbies that can be done right in your own kitchen.

The following is a beginner’s guide to homebrewing, extracted from this writer’s personal experience and some logistical information from the American Homebrewers Association. You’ll read about the key ingredients needed to make a basic ale, industry standard brewing equipment, and a step-by-step guide to mixing, brewing, and fermenting.

Ready to brew? Let’s go.

STEP 1: THE KEY INGREDIENTS
The first step to brewing is knowing the basic ingredients integral to beer: water, fermented sugar, hops, and yeast.

Water is the primary ingredient in beer, and its quality is just as important as the water itself. Many homebrewers use distilled or bottled water, but tap water is just as good. However, if you use tap water in your homebrew, boil it first to evaporate any residual chemicals that may interfere with the brewing process and let the water cool before beginning.

Fermented sugar can be purchased from homebrew supply stores in the form of malt syrup or malt extract, as malted barley is the most common ingredient used to fill the sugar quota in beer. Some brewers will substitute a percentage of corn, rice, wheat, or other grains to add a different flavor to the beer, but purchasing a ready-made malt extract ensures that the fermented sugar is prepared in the correct manner and will not affect the brewing process.

Hops lend the bitter flavor to beer and balance out the sweetness of the fermented sugar. They also act as agents to prevent spoiling and keep give the head of the beer (the foamy “top” of a beer when poured) a longer life. Hops come in a variety of styles and flavor compositions including Simcoe, Willamette, Chinook, and Cascadian, the most popular hops in the U.S. They are typically named for the geographic region in which they are grown and commonly used.

Yeast gives beer the majority of its body, or liquid composition. A common mistake many first-time brewers make is using bread yeast in a homebrew. This is problematic because brewer’s yeast is cultivated specifically for brewing, giving it different compositional qualities from bread yeast. The two broad categories of beer yeast are ale yeast and lager yeast: ale yeasts are top-fermenting, meaning they hang around the top of the brewing tub (called a “carboy”) during fermenting and settle to the bottom after the majority of fermentation has happened, and lager yeasts are bottom-fermenting and tend to rest, as their name suggests, at the bottom of the carboy during the majority of the fermentation process. In this writer’s experience, lager yeasts are much trickier to work with because they require a constant fermenting temperature between 55 degrees F and 32 degrees F, which can be difficult to maintain at different times of the year. The yeast is a crucial element to a beer’s taste, but it is by no means the only characteristic to define the beer.

STEP 2: THE EQUIPMENT
Now that you have the basic ingredients, here are the homebrewing equipment basics:
Large boiling pot
— must be made of stainless steel or ceramic-coated steel. The bigger the better, because it must be able to hold at least 3 gallons of liquid with room to spare.
5 gallon carboy — a large glass bottle similar to the industrial-size jugs water is stored in, but made of glass specifically for brewing. They can run a hefty price when purchased new, but can be purchased for a reasonable price second-hand from recycling centers or fellow brewers.
Funnel — you will need a funnel to transfer liquids into the carboy. Any standard frat-party funnel will suffice (but you didn’t hear that from me).
6 gallon plastic “bottling bucket” with lid — must be able to hold at least 5 gallons and be food-grade applicable. These can usually be found cheap (or free!) from restaurants and industrial kitchens if you know the right people.
Siphon hose — six feet of plastic tubing that will be used to transfer beer from the carboy to the bottling bucket, and from the bottling bucket later into bottles.
Racking cane — a piece of hard plastic tubing that connects to the siphon hose for transferring the beer from one container to another.
Fermentation lock (or “air lock”) — this seals the beer from outside contamination while allowing carbon dioxide to escape fermentation, and must fit in a hole in the lid of your carboy.
Long spoon — this is used for stirring; ensure it has a long handle to avoid getting burned.
Bottles — any kind of sealable glass bottle will suffice, but DO NOT use the type with twist-off caps! Beer bottles, old-fashion soda bottles, and even champagne bottles will do nicely.
Bottle capper and bottle caps — this can be purchased from any homebrew supply store; any kind of capper and caps that suit your fancy will do nicely.
Thermometer — floating dairy thermometers or stainless steel dial thermometers can be used, as long as they have a range from 40 degrees F to 150 degrees F.
Household bleach and iodine solution — these are used simply for sanitizing your equipment and ensuring a bacteria-free environment for your homebrew. Make sure all of your equipment has been thoroughly washed, sanitized, and dried before you begin brewing, otherwise you may end up with a tainted fermented mess instead of a delicious beer.

A basic homebrew setup including carboys, bottling bucket, and siphon hoses. Source: foodrepublic.com

A basic homebrew setup including carboys, bottling bucket, and siphon hoses.
Source: foodrepublic.com

STEP 3: THE MAIN INGREDIENTS
After you gather your basic equipment, you’re ready to assemble the basic brewing ingredients:

  • 1.5 gallons water
  • 6 pounds canned light malt syrup
  • 1 ounce hop pellets
  • Ice poured into a water bath (do not use store-bought ice)
  • 3 gallons cool water
  • 2 (7-gram) packets ale yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (about 90 degrees F)
  • 3/4 cup liquid corn syrup (or 4 ounces dry corn syrup)
Basic homebrew ingredients: malt extract, brewers yeast, and hop pellets. Source: monsterbrew.com

Basic homebrew ingredients: malt extract, brewers yeast, and hop pellets.
Source: monsterbrew.com

STEP 4: MAKING THE WORT
Once you have your ingredients and equipment assembled, you’re finally ready to begin!
The first cooking step in homebrewing is to make the wort, a soupy mixture of malt and sugar that is boiled before the fermentation process. This mixture creates the ideal environment for yeast to flourish in, so its proper creation is vital to the brewing process.
To make the wort: after sanitizing your steel pot, bring 1.5 gallons of water to a boil, remove it from the heat source once it is boiling and stir in the malt extract until it dissolves. Do not allow any of the syrup to reach the bottom of the pot as it will burn and stink up your kitchen something awful. Return the mixture to heat and allow to boil for approximately 50 minutes, stirring frequently and keeping a close eye to prevent boiling over. If boiling over becomes a threat, reduce heat and continue boiling for an additional few minutes.

A wort mixture being boiled. Source: monsterbrew.com

A wort mixture being boiled.
Source: monsterbrew.com

After 50 minutes (give or take) have elapsed, stir in the hop pellets. This will create a foam on top of the mixture which may cause boiling over, in which case reduce the heat and/or dampen the froth with a sanitized water bottle. Allow the hops to cook for 10 to 20 minutes.
While the wort is boiling, prepare the brewers yeast by mixing 1 packet of yeast into 1 cup of warm water (about 90 degrees F); stir thoroughly and cover for 10 minutes.
Before the hops are done cooking, prepare an ice bath to rapid-cool the worst. I’ve had success using large sinks and bathtubs for this, but even a small kiddie pool (filled properly with ice) can work nicely for this step.

Ice bath used to quick-cool wort mixture. Source: monsterbrew.com

Ice bath used to quick-cool wort mixture.
Source: monsterbrew.com

Once the wort has finished cooking, float the steel pot in the ice bath being sure not to spill the mixture or burn yourself. Stir the wort while it is cooling to ensure its temperature decreases evenly. If the ice begins to melt, add more to keep it reasonably cold. The mixture should be cooled to about 80 degrees F, taking approximately 20 minutes or so.

STEP 5: FERMENTATION
Once your wort is fully cooled, you’re read to transfer it to the carboy. Pour 3 gallons of cool water (either distilled or boiled tap water once it has cooled) into the carboy, and use the funnel to transfer the cooled wart from the steel pot into the carboy, taking care not to spill any. Once the wort has been combined with the water, add the prepared yeast into the carboy and cover the mouth with plastic wrap and cap it with a lid. Holding the lid tightly in place, shake the carboy vigorously to distribute the yeast (having a friend around to assist in this process can be extremely helpful for first-time brewers). Once the yeast is fully mixed with the liquid, remove the plastic wrap from the mouth of the carboy, wipe away any excess wort and attach the fermentation lock. Make sure the lock is securely attached, because a loose seal will result in the risk of contamination by bacteria. Store the carboy in a cool, (about 60 to 75 degrees F) safe place away from direct sunlight. Protip: place a towel or other fabric you are unattached to under the carboy to catch any foam that may escape during fermentation, making cleanup much easier. Pantries, basements, and even closets can be suitable fermentation areas as long as they are not in direct sunlight. Your beer will begin to ferment within 24 hours; a sure sign that fermentation has begin is the production of foam and air bubbles in the fermentation lock. Allow the beer to ferment for approximately 14 days after the fermentation process has begun.

Pouring the cooled wort into the carboy. Source: foodrepublic.com

Pouring the cooled wort into the carboy.
Source: foodrepublic.com

STEP 6: POST-FERMENTATION AND BOTTLING
Once your beer has fermented for about two weeks, prepare your bottles by soaking them in a sanitizing solution for approximately one hour, rinsing them with boiling water afterwards. Also sanitize the bottling bucket, siphon, and racking cane, as well as a small cooking pot for the next step. Allow all materials to air-dry before beginning the bottling process.
In the small cooking pot, combine the corn syrup and 1 cup of water and let boil for 10 minutes. Pour this mixture into the bottling bucket, but be very careful not to add too much corn syrup to the bucket because this will cause the beer to over-carbonate and will result in the bottles exploding (which is not good for anyone involved). Place the carboy on an elevated surface such as a kitchen counter with the bottling bucket on the ground below it.
Attach the racking cane to the siphon and attach one end of the siphon to the mouth of the carboy, and the other into the bottling bucket. The beer should not splash into the bottling bucket, as this will compromise the final steps of the brewing process, so monitor its gradual transfer by pinching and releasing the siphon with your fingers or a specialty clamp. Once all of the beer has been transferred to the bucket, cover it with the lid and allot 30 minutes for sediment to settle at the bottom of the bucket.
Once enough time for settling has elapsed, place the bottling bucket on a counter with the siphon attached and run the other end of the siphon into the mouth of a beer bottle. Fill each of the bottles with beer to about 3/4 capacity, and cap each bottle with the capper. To be sure this has been done correctly, double-check the caps to make sure they are secure. The bottles can be aged for up to two months, but at least a minimum of two weeks to ensure proper settling and the tail end of the fermentation process. After at least two weeks, your beer is ready to sample!

Siphon and racking cane being inserted into bottling bucket. Source: themanual.com

Siphon and racking cane being inserted into bottling bucket.
Source: themanual.com

Siphon running from carboy into bottling bucket. Source: tristans-beer.blogspot.com

Siphon running from carboy into bottling bucket.
Source: tristans-beer.blogspot.com

Bottle capper being used to ensure tightly capped beer. Source: seriouseats.com

Bottle capper being used to ensure tightly capped beer.
Source: seriouseats.com

STEP 7: SIGNS OF INFECTION
Believe it or not, beer can develop infections if not properly cared for during fermentation. Keep an eye on the carboy during fermentation for signs of “slime” or milky residue on top of the beer, as well as clumps of residue clinging to the inside of the bottleneck. If the beer appears to have milky “strands” floating around in it, it most likely has developed a bacterial infection and should be discarded immediately, less it continue to ferment and become unhealthy. A milky layer on top of the beer is also a sign of infection and should be discarded as well. While there is no shame in a batch of beer developing bacterial issues (it happens even to master brewers on occasion!) it should none the less be gotten rid of promptly, less it begin to stink up your house and raise suspicion from your housemates/spouse/neighbors/etc. Bad beer is never a good time, so keep a close eye on your brew to ensure it remains healthy.

A fully fermented beer that has developed a nasty bacterial infection; any homebrew resembling this image should be discarded immediately. Source: monsterbrew.com

A fully fermented beer that has developed a nasty bacterial infection; any homebrew resembling this image should be discarded immediately.
Source: monsterbrew.com

STEP 8: ENJOY THE FRUITS OF YOUR LABOR!
Speaking from person experience, there are few things as satisfying as sampling the final product of a homebrew venture. As a self-described “beer geek” this writer has experimented with a bevy of brewing styles and (through an extensive process of trial and error) has developed a certain system of brewing that has resulted in many delicious successes. At the risk of sounding cliche, the joy of homebrewing can be easily adapted to and toyed with to make for some interesting (and delicious) beverages, and one or two good stories to tell your friends about that time you spilled warm wort all over your kitchen and accidentally dumped milky brewer’s yeast onto your roommate’s cat (both true stories).

There are a plethora of resources available for the aspiring homebrewer, from Drinkcraftbeer.com to Instructables to a list of homebrew supply resources available from the American Homebrewers Association. With this quick-start guide (and a little help from your local homebrewing friend and the Internet), you’re ready to whet your whistle in the wild and wonderful world of homebrewing (and, apparently, cheesy alliterations).

Happy brewing!

What It Actually Means to “Drink Like a Lady,” and Why You Shouldn’t Actually Care

It’s no secret that the expectations for women in modern society are bordering on the absurd. Between the demands of physical appearance and the requirements of social graces, it’s a small wonder that women aren’t being mass produced like Stepford Wives to fulfill these highly calculated conditions (proposed almost exclusively by men).

Social expectations of women have evolved somewhat over the last century, but the prolonged need to regulate and control women’s behavior in order to make “ladies” of them continues to permeate the cultural sphere. Though the definition of a “lady” has gone through many permutations since the 1950’s, there still exists an unattainable pinnacle of “ladylike-ness” that women are expected, nee demanded, to adhere to in all areas of life.

The stipulations of “ladylike” behavior even extend into the realm of consumption, where something as innocuous as a drink order serves as an instantaneous personality barometer for any curious onlooker. With the advent of such linguistic gems as “White Girl Wasted” and the burgeoning popularity of alcohol brands like SkinnyGirl cocktails, the question that has lingered in the stale air of dive bars and dance clubs since time immemorial has once again reared its booze-addled head: what does it actually mean to “drink like a girl?”

According to ludicrous “girly-girl” magazines such as Glamour, women only drink in public because they crave male attention and tailor their drink choice to how they want to be perceived. According to press releases for SkinnyGirl cocktails, a line of “guilt-free” vodkas and wines created by former housewife and media gadfly Bethenny Frankel, “drinking like a lady” means narrowing your booze scope to little more than margaritas and/or cosmopolitans with only low-calorie additives (because heaven forbid your waistline should ever expand). And according to moronic “culture” blogs such as ShakeStir, the act of “drinking like a woman” is a depraved mating ritual of sorts geared only at enticing men.

The phrase “drink like a lady” seems to get tossed around like a bad Sex & the City joke any time a female steps outside the accepted norm of what she should drink, which is often limited to the fringes of weak martinis and whatever fruit juice vodka can be mixed with. Despite evidence that women are now the fastest-growing contingent of whiskey drinkers in the United States, there still exists a stigma that women who drink bourbon or beer are “masculine and unattractive.” Much of this can be contributed to gender bias in alcohol advertising, which views women as an entirely separate market demographic assumes that females are “…fluffy, little, girly, delicate creatures who need to be treated as a special case,” according to Jane Peyton in an article for Beer West Magazine.

In a 2014 article for Punch, an online magazine dedicated to wine and cocktail culture (and independently run by two women) Shanna Farrell sheds light on the unfounded stereotype that women have “dainty palates” and are thus uninterested in the flavor intricacies of stronger, more “masculine” drinks. Pervasive as this notion might be, it is entirely untrue — in fact, most women have more tastebuds than men, which gives them a considerable edge in terms of savoring the aromas and complexities of craft beer or small-batch bourbon (and why breweries are now scrambling to win favor with the ladies).

Kevin Fitzpatrick, a blogger for Huffington Post, disagrees with the narrative that women should “drink delicately” and instead encourages readers to follow in the footsteps of Dorothy Parker. Parker, an American poet and critic best known for her acerbic wit and dalliances with gin and gentlemen, pioneered the notion of a hard-drinking, wise-cracking woman as nothing less than desirable as early as the 1930’s. Of the myriad of her quotes that buzz around the internet, perhaps none is so famous as: “I love a martini — /But two at the most./Three I’m under the table;/Four I’m under the host!”

For those of us ladies who are more partial to beer and whiskey than anything involving the words “fuzzy” or “navel” (myself included), forget everything you’ve heard about how “unattractive” drinking beer makes you seem. For all the chauvinistic drivel about women who prefer strong drinks being “undesirable,” there is a growing sect of female-oriented brewing and blogging and an even faster-growing contingent of men who are bewitched by women who drink whiskey. So please, for the sake of hard-drinking women everywhere, stop denying yourself that Sierra Nevada and go for that second whiskey sour if you want it. Anyone, man or woman, who looks down their nose at you for it should probably adjust their bonnet and mind their own boozy business.

Cyanide and Happiness/Explosm.net

Cyanide and Happiness/Explosm.net

“Responsible Drinking” Campaigns Promote More Debauchery Than Restraint

In the myriad of alcohol advertisements that have graced our culture over the last few decades, there is always a commonality: the reminder to “drink responsibly.” As ambiguous as it is pervasive, this message permeates the alcohol industry as a marketing tactic aimed not at advocating sensible imbibing, but at eliciting consumer loyalty to brands associated with such slogans. Despite the superficial sheen of promoting safer drinking habits, no amount of feigned urging towards responsibility can camouflage the flagrant hypocrisy the alcohol industry is guilty of in its advertising.

Nebulous and ill-defined, the ubiquitous “drink responsibly” directive fails to clarify what responsible drinking is and neglects to address its relevance. Instead, consumers are left with a vague impression of what it means to engage in reasonable drinking practices, and often that impression is geared much more towards establishing brand loyalty than promoting public health.

There is a staggering level of deception employed in the advertising of alcohol. The responsibility paradigm belies the economic objective of the alcohol industry, which is centered solely on profit. Conscientious drinking habits involve moderation and avoiding the excessive, which would mean a significant plummet in product sales were the concept of “responsible drinking” to actually be imposed. Despite what their advertisements proclaim, the likes of Anheuser-Busch and Skyy Vodka don’t actually want you to drink responsibly because that would mean you are buying less of their product.

The phrase “drink responsibly” began appearing in advertisements in the early 1980s, after President Reagan established the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving (PCDD) in response to the epidemic of drunk driving incidents. The commission sought to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and promote healthier attitudes towards alcohol consumption, and eventually resulted in the passing of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, which officially raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. In the wake of this massive cultural shift, alcohol advertisers began inserting the phrase “drink responsibly” into their digital and print advertisements in hopes of saving face in the public opinion. For over 30 years now the vast majority of alcohol ads have been accompanied by the phrase “drink responsibly,” but its prevalence is not necessarily reflective of success.

Booze advertisements notoriously promote images of a “good time,” most often featuring aesthetically pleasing people (women, specifically) engaging in booze-addled revelry in the most fabricated of idealistic settings. The format implies that merrymaking is exponentially increased with the presence of alcohol, and that the consumption of specific brands will surely result in the consumer’s attainment of the implied glamour created by the ads. This marketing strategy creates these false narratives of the symbiotic relationship between alcohol and enjoyment, which utterly contradicts the proposed logic in moderate drinking. The bulk of capitalist advertising follows a trend of “more, more, more,” thus rendering the promotion of restraint in a consumer-driven market entirely fallacious.

In a 2012 study from Alcohol Justice, an organization aimed at exposing and regulating the flaws in alcohol commerce, researchers asserted that industry pretenses of responsible drinking are counterproductive because they serve to “…increase intent to use the product instead of decreasing alcohol-related harm.” As a result of these findings, the organization advocates for stricter regulations of the alcohol industry (one of the largest American industries that remains self-regulated) in hopes of raising awareness of the true implications of alcohol use.

Perhaps the best analysis of the hypocrisy of alcohol advertisements can be attributed to animated sitcom South Park. Already a veritable steamroller of pop culture skewering, this mock-up of alcohol ads from the 2014 episode “Freemium Isn’t Free” highlights the absurdity of sexually saturated and socially unrealistic ads, all in the space of 26 seconds:

Though the ad is intended to be a parody, it is disturbingly accurate in its satirization of alcohol advertisements: glorifying booze-addled decadence while reminding consumers to “be responsible” in their hedonism. Because that logic is just flawless.

And until alcohol advertisers can curb their heinous hypocrisy, the mainstream will continue to be flooded with conflicting images of inebriation as we strive to become a “nation of responsible drinkers” (or at least that’s what Anheuser-Busch wants you to think it’s up to).

Ruined By Success: Why We Shouldn’t Feel Bad For Jim Koch

Boston Beer Company, sire of Sam Adams, is the ultimate embodiment of the American Dream. Launched in co-founder Jim Koch’s kitchen in 1984, the company has since become one of the largest American-owned breweries and raked in over $830 million in sales last year. Having recently celebrated its 30th birthday and a slot at number 21 on Forbes’ Best American Companies list, the Boston Beer Company is at the top of its business game.

But Jim Koch, once referred to as “the Steve Jobs of beer,” is resentful because he thinks you’ve abandoned him.

In a recent article for Boston Magazine, writer Andy Crouch asserts that the burgeoning craft beer movement in the United States has deserted Boston Beer Co. in its pursuit of the microbrew, despite the company’s instrumental role in establishing craft brewing as an enterprise. While Sam Adams is still billed as a “craft beer,” grumblings in the brewing community have called into question whether a brewery that brings in over $600 million in revenue can still be defined as a “craft brewery.”

Once a niche industry, craft beer has become a serious contender in the American alcohol market and boasted upwards of $14 billion in sales in 2014. According to the Brewers Association,

When Sam Adams Boston Lager was introduced in 1985 it was one of the only “craft beers” on the market, making it stand out from contenders like Budweiser and Miller that monopolized the industry. To his credit, Koch’s DIY-style marketing strategy of going bar-to-bar to push his product was an impressive display of devotion, and the company no doubt owes its prowess to Koch’s relentless peddling in its infancy. Now a $2.9 billion company, Boston Beer Co. paved the way for other American craft breweries to make an entrance into the industry by legitimizing the advantages of small batch beer brewing.

Dubious Ethics: Sexism in Alcohol Advertising

American author Tom Robbins once said “The more advertising I see, the less I want to buy.”

Advertising as a business practice has seen a massive evolution over the last century. Between the establishment of brand identities and the advent of social media as a means of product communication, the selling of a product is no longer just about the product. In the modern age businesses are selling images, mindsets, and identities along with their goods and services. Buying a new hair dryer is just as much about what the brand you choose says about you as it is about the necessity for a hair dryer.

Perhaps more than any other major industry, alcohol advertisers have regularly come under fire for both their influence on underage drinkers and history of sexist representations. Since the early 1920’s there has been a deep vein of chauvinism in all manner of alcohol advertising that reflects demeaning attitudes towards women, often reducing them to mere sexual objects. Ads of this ilk serve to exacerbate gender normative expectations for women and create false narratives of female sexuality.

According to May Wilkerson, “If one thing has remained constant in alcohol ads over the last hundred years, it’s the promise that booze can satisfy both your thirst and your sexual desires—just as long as you’re a heterosexual man.” From the gentle misogyny of 1950’s print advertisements to the salacious and scantily clad Super Bowl ads of the last decade, advertisers have frequently employed exploitation of female sex appeal to generate sales. The vast majority of these representations of female sexuality are hyperbolic and unrealistic, generating absurd facsimiles of what it means to be female.

In this image from a 1954 Martini & Rossi advertisement, we see a woman filling her male friends’ glasses but taking none for herself. According to Jean Kilbourne, “She doesn’t have her own glass, but her mouth is open anyway…She is not consuming, bur rather being consumed.”

Image: substance.com

Kilbourne goes on to say that “The emphasis on girls and women is always on being desirable, not experiencing desire.” Though this advertisement is somewhat outdated, images of girls and women placed on a pedestal of desirability is a pervasive theme in advertising. Depictions of alcohol consumption as being “unladylike” were common in the 1950s and 60s, and the modern iteration of that theme is the notion that excessive alcohol consumption or drinking anything that isn’t white wine is distinctly unrefined for a lady. The consequence of these contrived notions is that they create unfair social expectations for women, serving to exacerbate outdated concepts of expected gender roles.

Described by ad critic Bob Garfield as “arguably the most sexist beer commercial ever produced,” the Heineken “draught keg” commercial from 2007 is a cringe-worthy excursion into how Heineken execs view the modern woman:

The ad features a sallow female robot whose uterus magically expands into a miniature keg of Heineken. The ladybot then multiples, either through mitosis or robot tomfoolery, into a troupe of three dancing “iron maidens” all equipped with a keg in utero. Disregarding the veiled allusion to The Stepford Wives, there is something inherently revolting about the notion of a robotic woman whose primary function is to provide you, the consumer, with beer. The suggestion that the ladybot’s only purpose is to serve beer harkens back to the Martini & Rossi ad wherein the woman is permitted to serve but not to consume, and these impressions of restriction contribute to false notions of women’s social functions as obedient and decorative. By reducing a woman to the baseline of a beer-dispensing robot, this advertisement illustrates the motif of “mechanizing women” to serve specific objectives, an expressly dehumanizing notion.

Skyy Vodka is perpetually guilty of reducing women to sexual objects in their advertising. A quick Google search of the company’s print ads reveals a plethora of sex-saturated images, most commonly featuring a scantily clad woman in a provocative pose. Other ads feature heterosexual couples in suggestive entanglements, most often with the male in a visual position of power. There is an emphasis on the women’s lips and legs in these advertisements, proverbially disembodying them and reducing them to their “most attractive” parts.

This image is arguably the most sexist advertisement in Skyy’s repertoire:

Image: lindseyomelon.wordpress.com

The “position of power” occupied by the man holding the vodka and glasses implies that he is the dominant partner; the woman’s supine position below him implies that she is the submissive and thus obedient to her male counterpart. Disregarding the inflated plastic look of the woman’s breasts (seriously, you should probably see a doctor about that), the ad implies that control of women is the ultimate expression of manliness, and the best way to control women is to physically dominate them with vodka.

Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad Too “Macro” For Its Britches

In the wake of the surge of American microbreweries over the last decade, Budweiser’s 2015 Super Bowl ad targets the low-hanging fruit of mocking craft beer aficionados to bolster its image as the classic American beer.

It’s no secret that America has fallen out of love with Budweiser. Once the number one selling beer in the United States, Budweiser’s popularity has diminished as craft beer has become more in vogue with the boozing gentry and the nationwide push towards supporting independent businesses has driven consumers away from the powerhouse that is Anheuser-Busch. Whether this is a result of cultural revolution or consumers longing for something more appetizing than Bud’s watery swill is uncertain, but Budweiser is nonetheless feeling the ripples of the market shift and apparently getting very, very nervous.

In November the Wall Street Journal published the article “Bud Crowded Out by Craft Beer Craze” detailing the steady decline of Budweiser’s popularity among 21-to-27-year-olds and reporting that only 44 percent of drinkers in that age bracket had ever sipped on a Budweiser. When an ambitious marketing scheme geared towards those fresh young drinkers who so vehemently shun the “King of Beers” failed to pan out, so Budweiser opted for the next best thing: a pretentious, swaggering testimony of their pride as a “macro beer” that ultimately rendered them more jester-like than regal.

Budweiser aired two commercials during the 2015 Super Bowl: one featuring the notorious Clydesdales in a saccharine anecdote about a lost puppy that made America want to weep its collective eyes out, and the other a brash flex of corporate muscle that scoffs at the burgeoning craft beer community as snobbish and aloof.

The ad features cheesy stock footage of Budweiser drinkers engaging in beer-drenched revelry juxtaposed with shots of several men preening in caricatures of hip beer snobs, noses buried to the hilt in their snifter glasses. Bold white block letters onscreen parade such derogatory quips as “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale, we’ll be brewing us some golden suds,” and “It’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting.” To anyone who actually drinks beer the ad is as ludicrous as it is insulting, and even non-drinkers may find themselves questioning the integrity of a massive corporation that seemingly has no qualms about decimating the proverbial “little guy” in the business.

The underlying social issue with this ad is that it creates false narratives of Budweiser drinkers and craft beer geeks as an “us vs. them” paradigm — Bud drinkers are the progenitors of the hard-working American dream, whereas microbrew fans are pretentious hipsters who fawn over their beer like it’s a scientific anomaly. The overly boisterous tone of the ad comes off as a desperate assertion that the company is not at all concerned about their place in an ever-evolving craft beer market.

Anheuser-Busch shelled out approximately $9 million for the 60-second ad, but the irony is that rather than bolstering their profits the ad weakened their credibility among even dedicated drinkers and has spurred a massive backlash in the craft beer community that chortles at Budweiser’s attempted bullying tactic.

Since the release of the commercial, sizable craft breweries like Dogfish Head and South Bend Brew Werks have retaliated against the distasteful ad by jokingly responding that a “pumpkin peach ale” sounds appetizing enough to brew and cheekily thanking Budweiser for the inspiration. Perhaps the best response came from Louisiana-based Abita Brewing Company, who released a 20-second spoof of the original ad to reflect their own mission statement:

The sheer audacity of the phrase “Yeah, we made a pumpkin peach beer, and it was good…damn good,” proves that craft breweries are more amused than threatened by Budweiser’s delusions of grandeur. Despite their self-righteous claims of superiority, the majority of the suffering in the aftermath of the great 2015 Budweiser Super Bowl Fiasco will be done by the Anheuser-Busch ad executives, who by now are surely weeping into pint glasses of their beloved “macro” beer.

Budweiser: King of Beer and Weird Super Bowl Ads

From the cooler to the commercials, the annual spectacle of American debauchery that is the Super Bowl is no stranger to beer. According to Mashable, consumption statistics have estimated that about 325 millions gallons of beer will be swilled on game day, and the pop culture blogosphere has all but erupted with articles on the best beers for Super Bowl parties and how politicized your snack choice is. Amid the bacchanalia of chicken wings and Bud Light bottles there’s also some football, and a slew of costly advertisements desperately fumbling towards originality or absurdity.

Anheuser-Busch, the largest brewing company in the U.S. and the parent brand of Budweiser and the endless parade of its Light and Silver siblings, is a powerhouse for Super Bowl advertising. The company’s commercial for the 1986 Super Bowl (XX for you football fans) gave birth to the Budweiser Clydesdales, the colloquial mascots for which the brand that have made appearances in their Super Bowl ads for almost 30 years. With a game day advertising budget that has exceeded $90 million since 2010 according to Business Insider, Anheuser-Busch takes the Super Bowl, and its commercials, more seriously than die-hard Patriots fans have taken the 2015 Deflate-gate scandal.

The trend in advertising in the post-Reagan era is towards the absurd, and Anheuser-Busch’s Super Bowl commercial game has gotten pretty bizarre over the years. The 2015 Super Bowl will mark the 10 year anniversary of the “Streaker” ad, premiered during Super Bowl XL:

No doubt paying homage to the notorious 2004 Super Bowl streaker, the ad features a freshly shorn sheep showboating for a lineup of Clydesdales in a mock-up of the starting line, causing the other animals to laugh uncontrollably. While it’s certainly a cutesy allusion to the nude antics of football fans, there’s something kind of creepy about the sheep’s ass-shaking towards the end — maybe I’m not as up on sheep physiology as I thought, but I didn’t know they could twerk. Go figure.

And as always, Budweiser reminds you to “drink responsibly,” so that you don’t end up shearing off all your wool and twerking for a bunch of ranch animals. Because some of us need that extra reminder.

One of Budweiser’s most famous commercials, the “Frogs” ad premiered in Super Bowl XXIX in 1995:

Fun fact: this ad was directed by Gore Verbinski of Pirates of the Carribean fame. To this day the “Budweiser frogs” ad is among the most internationally well-known marketing campaigns, so Verbinski was doing something right long before he graced us with the plastered pariah of Jack Sparrow.

As a kid I distinctly remember being terrified of this ad and having an aversion to frogs for many years after, convinced that every toad and spring peeper I came across would no doubt try to peer pressure me into giving them beer, or my soul. By this logic it’s probably no coincidence that I now avoid Budweiser like the plague, and I’m still not terribly fond of frogs. Anheuser-Busch will be getting a bill for my extensive therapy somewhere down the road.

And of course, there’s the Spuds MacKenzie debacle:

Spuds Mackenzie skateboarded his way into our hearts during the 1987 Super Bowl as the new mascot for Bud Light, a watery low-calorie alternative to classic Budweiser. The adorable Bull Terrier was merchandised beyond even Disney’s wildest dreams and mass produced in the form of t-shirts, plush toys, and key chain bottle openers, giving and unlikely credibility to a “light” beer. However, beloved Spuds stirred up some controversy with groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who claimed the canine mascot’s “party lifestyle” aesthetic would encourage underage drinking. Even though an investigation by the FCC revealed no such devious findings, Anheuser-Busch still pulled the pup from its main advertising ring to be used only in special promotions.

Spuds also made headlines when it was discovered that the alpha male “party dog” used in the commercials was, in fact, a female. But despite this shocking revelation, Spuds remained as popular as ever until she was officially “retired” from advertising in 1999. Since then Anheuser-Busch has been wary of using hard-partying animals in its advertisements (Clydesdales are notoriously responsible drinkers), but there was a time when drinking Bud Light made you as cool as a Hawaiian-shirt clad dog on a skateboard. Oh, nostalgia.

In the wake of decades of bizarre and disconcerting Super Bowl advertisements, Budweiser certainly has a warm place in the hearts (and stomachs) of football fans nationwide. Here’s to hoping this year’s advertisements keep in step with themes of animal husbandry and streaking, because there is never enough of that on primetime television.

And if your Super Bowl party ends in you getting naked and twerking for a bunch of cattle, you should probably seek professional help.