I recently completed a multi-part series on Michelob, introduced as a draught-only luxury brand in 1896. The series mainly dealt with the kind of marketing Anheuser-Busch did over the years, or in other words its characteristic markets.
These included college set, affluent class, German ethnic, beer connoisseur, African American, later young professionals, and hipsters.
I did refer to the fact that until 1961 it was all-malt, and at least in earlier decades, had relied on choice Bohemian Saaz hops for its bouquet and top note.
I reported various taste opinions including of famed author Henry L. Mencken, who considered it second only to imported Bohemian pilsener for quality.
I was aware that Michael Jackson wrote in The Pocket Guide to Beer, first edition, 1982, that both Budweiser and Michelob were 4.8% abv. Jackson added that Michelob was “brewed from a higher original gravity” than Budweiser, and given 32 days’ aging, presumably longer than Budweiser’s aging (three weeks, I believe, even now).
This meant of course Michelob had a higher finishing gravity than Budweiser, was richer. Jackson also wrote Michelob used more malt, 80% vs. 70% for Budweiser, so it had a bigger body all-round, even after the switch in 1961 to an adjunct formula.
I do recall that Michelob being richer than Budweiser, in fact.
Edd Mather in the U.K. was recently provided by an American contact with analyses from 1898-1899 of various U.S. beers. Michelob was included. Edd reported an impressive 1058.5 starting gravity, with 4.7% abv.
As American-based Mike Stein noted in our Twitter exchange, that is 1022 FG, a rich finish indeed.
Edd’s data had Budweiser – one of two similar but not identical assays – at 1054.74, and also 4.7% abv. This would be about 1019 FG. So, just as in 1982, Michelob finished at higher gravity than Budweiser but in 1982 both surely started from gravities lower than in 1898-1899.
I noted back in 2016 that a 1908 American brewing journal reported data for, among other all-malt beers, Dreher Michelob – in other words Michelob imported from the Bohemian brewery run by Anton Dreher’s descendants.
From its table, I calculate 1046 OG, 1012 FG, 4.46% abv.
Christine P. Rhodes, in her The Encyclopedia of Beer of 2014, had a Dreher Michelob in 1896 at 11.3 P/1045 OG, 3.1 P (1012 FG) and 4.3% abv. So, quite similar to what I conclude from the 1908 American table.
From various brewing texts, Ron Pattinson compiled data that has an 1888 Dreher Michelob “Lagerbier”, so not Marzen, at 13.3 P or 1054 OG, 1015 FG, 5.14% abv.
There is also an 1870s “Bohemian” beer from Dreher, presumably from Michelob, served at Dreher Beer Hall, 4.57% abv, 1016.7 FG. That may have been a Marzen. A Schwechat Marzen listed for same period has a similar FG, 1016.9, and the abvs are similar.
The 1898-1899 American Michelob, based on data Edd reported, was rather richer in body than these others. Why this should be I am not sure. Perhaps Adolphus Busch wanted his beer even maltier, or perhaps Dreher at Michelob had one beer in its range of that characteristic.
Per an 1880 German text, Dreher shipped from Michelob Lager-Bier and Marzen beers. The latter was more costly, and probably richer-bodied:
This does not necessarily state all the beers made at Michelob, or in the period Busch decided to emulate the style (1890s).
One 1870s Marzen in Ron’s page, not Dreher’s, was just under 1022 FG. This brewer’s Lager beer was almost 1020. Schellendorf in Vienna brewed them. This pairing of Lagerbier-Marzen mirrors fairly closely the Budweiser-Michelob in Edd’s data: final gravities almost the same, abv lower but not by much.
As Edd’s data has Budweiser at 1019 FG, it makes sense U.S. Michelob was bigger in body, as the super-premium in the brewery. A super-Marzen, possibly, at least then.
See my Part II.