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Red, white, and brew! Brooklyn’s American Ale vs. Budweiser’s America

Land of the free, home of the beer: Which of these patriotic beverages should you choose for your Fourth of July barbecue?
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It’s American Ale — because Finland demanded it!

Long before beer behemoth Budweiser rebranded as “America,” the Brooklyn Brewery had produced its own patriotic pale ale — Brooklyn American Ale. But the malty brew only exists because of demand from Scandinavian drinkers, according to the brewery’s founder.

“We sell a lot in Scandinavia, and the Finns were asking for a lighter ale,” said Steven Hindy. “They wanted it to be a serious all-malt beer, but something a bit lighter in body.”

The Brooklyn brewer developed the new beer for the Norse market in 2009, said Hindy, naming it “American Ale.” But the beer only became available in its namesake country in 2015. It was another wildly popular beer, the Brooklyn Summer Ale, that made the brewers realize a lighter beer could work closer to home, said Hindy.

“So we thought — let’s do a year-round beer that’s similar to Summer Ale, but a little darker,” recalled Hindy. “We’ll use that name Brooklyn American Ale because of the success we had in Finland. So we introduced Brooklyn American Ale [to the US market].”

The easy-drinking, malty recipe served here is identical to the Finnish formulation, he said.

At first the star-spangled beer was only available in bottles, but this summer, the brewery began offering American Ale in cans. The change is not only for the convenience of barbecue partiers everywhere, but a sign that the brew is selling well.

“If we’re doing cans, you have to buy a lot of cans,” he said. “We wouldn’t introduce one of our esoteric Belgian-style beers in a can. We thought it would be a pretty good volume.”

But there is another prominent patriotic beverage appearing in beer coolers this summer. Anheuser-Busch has labeled its flagship Budweiser beer as the flag-waving America beer from May until November — a move that Hindy could barely believe when he heard.

“I thought it was a stupid idea. Anheuser-Busch is now owned by a Belgian company that is controlled by three Brazilian billionaires. It seemed kind of crazy,” he said.

But he called Milton Glaser, the graphic designer for the Brooklyn Brewery and designer of the “I Heart NY” logo to ask his opinion of the rebranding effort.

“And he said ‘You know, if Donald Trump can be president of America, then Budweiser can be America.’ ”

Sales of Budweiser have been declining since 1988, the year that Brooklyn Brewery was launched, said Hindy. But he said the move is probably not a desperate attempt to follow his brewery’s lead in red, white, and blue beer production.

“I don’t think that they’re paying attention to what Brooklyn Brewery is doing,” he said.

Reach arts editor Bill Roundy at broundy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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