Search Results

Use the fields below to perform an advanced search of The Rice Thresher' archives. This will return articles, images, and multimedia relevant to your query. You can also try a Basic search

33 items found for your search. If no results were found please broaden your search.

Houston’s best late-night bites

(11/04/15 4:20am)

It happened to me once. It was past midnight, I was downtown and I was hungry. After being turned away at multiple bars (I swear, I just wanted some food), I went home and made myself a greasy bag of microwave popcorn. Don’t let it happen to you.Houston has great food, but all too often when it’s late at night and you really want it, the good grub is nowhere to be found. These four spots have excellent food, convenient locations and, if you’re still awake when they close (if they close), you either have an orgo exam tomorrow or some serious insomnia.The Best of Downtown:The Flying Saucer705 Main StreetFor late-night munchies when you’re stuck downtown, The Flying Saucer might just be ideal. Open until 2 a.m. on weekends, the bar has a laid-back vibe and impressive list of satisfying sandwiches, appetizers and drinks. Specialty hot sandwiches like the Sheboygan side-by-side brat and Boar’s Head French dip go especially well with the extensive list of craft beers.Worth the Drive:Moon Tower Inn3004 Canal Street When I said that these places were conveniently located, Moon Tower was the exception. Nestled among a block of warehouses in the Second Ward, you’ll probably never find yourself in the neighborhood. Nevertheless, Moon Tower’s wild game hotdogs and incredible appetizers are among the best bar food in Houston. Open until 3 a.m. on weekends, with a monster wall of 66 beers on tap, Moon Tower is well worth the drive regardless of whether you go to drink, eat or both. Closest to Campus:Mai’s Restaurant3404 Milam Street There’s something almost miraculous about Mai’s. Open until 4 a.m. on weekends, Mai’s boasts an encyclopedic menu of Vietnamese, Thai and other Southeast Asian specialties. Occasionally the food can be badly over-seasoned, but friendly service, late hours and sheer vastness of the menu make it an easy choice if you don’t want to stray far from campus. The Classic Spot:House of Pies3112 Kirby DriveThis Rice student mainstay has earned its reputation. Excellent diner food, anytime breakfast and, of course, pies, are all draws for House of Pies. Open 24/7, the restaurant is a serious upgrade from the Waffle Houses and Whataburgers you might otherwise end up in. 

Hearsay Lounge balances uneven food with creative drinks

(09/09/15 3:25pm)

There’s something strange about Hearsay Gastro Lounge. Dim decorative light bulbs and a chandelier are the only lighting aside from candles, making for a particularly dark dining experience. By the stairs to the second floor, articles on the building’s historical importance line the walls as if they’re part of the mystique to promote the historic walls of a room you can barely see. The clientele sends a bit of a mixed message as well. There’s no age limit or cover like one might find at a pub, but the customers are almost exclusively affluent 20-somethings hitting the bar, which stays open until 2 a.m. The cocktails do steal the show, but Hearsay maintains a satisfying, if uneven, menu on all fronts. With good food, great drinks and fairly modest pricing, it’s certainly a place to try for students looking for a night out downtown.The eclectic menu offers food from burgers to ceviche but works best when offering simpler American fare to complement the more involved drinks. Tempura lobster tail and Saint Arnold’s battered asparagus both make an excellent case for more upscale deep-frying. The batters are light and neither dish is too oily, letting the earthy asparagus and buttery lobster’s character shine through the crunchy and salty coating. The sweet corn crab chowder is another particularly good appetizer, rounding out the hearty lumps of crabmeat and sweet body of pureed corn with just enough white pepper for a layered and decadent flavor. However, the more exotic selections tend to fall flat. The Peruvian ceviche has a heavy dose of orange juice in its briny marinade that masks the more subtle shredded mint and carrot chips, making for a disappointingly one-dimensional dish.The large plates follow the same pattern. The burgers, quesadillas and sandwiches are all consistently good while more involved plates like the chicken marsala are inconsistent, and at times, plain bad. Though the pan-fried chicken looks impressive served atop a heap of wilted spinach and mashed potatoes, the namesake sauce has a bitter burnt flavor that ruins the juicy chicken and buttery vegetables. Nevertheless, sandwiches like the Byrd, a gargantuan burger stacked with bacon, cheddar, mozzarella, jalapenos, avocado, onions and a fried egg, more than redeem the other entrees’ misfires. The sides of crispy rosemary parmesan fries and four-cheese mac n’ cheese add an extra incentive to play it safe and opt for a sandwich over the more expensive entrees. The cocktails, while a bit pricier, are the soul of the menu. Specials rotate nightly but creative standbys like the applewood bacon Manhattan and Flaming Leah are always available. Showmanship plays a big role in the serving of the drinks as everything from grapefruit peel to rosemary and cinnamon are lightly burned and served as garnishes to add intense aromas to the drinks. The Whiskey and Cigarettes, a scotch drink with a touch of mescal and Benedictine, makes especially good use of a flaming grapefruit garnish to add a breezy citrus aroma to the peaty drink. Though not as dazzling as the mixed drinks, the beer and wine lists are also impressive. The beer list not only offers standouts from St. Arnold’s and Karbach on draft but also has a few foreign selections worth trying like the excellent Trappist Chimay Triple. For wine, a number of interesting by-the-glass options like the fruity South African Chenin Blanc and rich Zuccardi Malbec are uncommonly good alternatives to the usual domestic wines.The small dessert menu looks like a bit of an afterthought in comparison to the food and drink menus. With standard offerings like New York cheesecake and bread pudding, the dishes are generally unremarkable. However, the domino cake, a chocolate cake with alternating layers of vanilla and chocolate mousse, is an exceptionally satisfying way to end a meal.Even if Hearsay’s clubby atmosphere and uneven cooking can be off-putting, the dishes they do best and the cocktails that they’ve made their name on have enough flavor and flair to mostly redeem them. It may not be for everybody, but the laid-back food and creative cocktails make Hearsay Lounge well worth a try for a Saturday night trip downtown.

Revival Market serves dinner with style

(09/01/15 11:01am)

When Revival Market began clearing space earlier this year for a full-service dining room, there were plenty of questions to be answered. The market has long been popular for its sandwiches and baked goods, but many worried that a full-service dinner menu would detract attention and quality from the cheaper, more casual lunch counter.Moreover, owners Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber had opened Coltivare, a brand new restaurant, not five months ago; it seemed that adding yet another dining room to their charge could be a classic sign of overexpansion. Fortunately, Revival Market’s new dinner menu fits quite well into Pera and Weber’s existing enterprises. The food neither overshadows the market’s lunch specials nor simply duplicates the garden-to-table formula of Coltivare. Instead, it relies on Pera and Weber’s knack for creative butchery to expand the kitchen’s offerings into a full-fledged menu of modern American dishes.The duo describes the market’s food as “preservation” cooking. While it is a little unclear what exactly that means, there are plenty of ways the kitchen touts certain kinds of preservation. Preserves themselves figure heavily into the menu, popping up in the form of pickled sweet peppers in the peanut-jalapeño hummus, lemon preserves on the Texas watermelon and housemade kimchi on the enormous slow-cooked short rib. But beyond that, there is a preservation of flavors and ingredients that elsewhere seem to be going out of style. Pork rinds, fried and sprinkled with za’atar alongside a cream cheese dip with pickled cabbage and chives are a particular standout among the appetizers. Lardo, an Italian delicacy of cured pork fat and herbs, is featured in three separate dishes, served with white bean toasts, whipped into a spread and blended with cherries on warm biscuits respectively. Each dish showcases the silky texture and decadent flavor of an ingredient that, for decades, has been relegated to an alternative for Crisco in American kitchens.The entrees, at their best, offer an entirely new level of sophistication from Revival. They reveal both the wide range of influences chef Pera cooks with and his talent for condensing them into creative, eclectic plates. The by-catch manages to juggle flavors from North Africa, the Middle East, El Salvador and the deep South with marvelous results. The fish is rubbed with harissa and served on a bed of braised savoy cabbage with curtido, a pickled cabbage salad and yogurt to the side. caramelized lemon also comes with the plate, and though there’s no obvious answer to how one is supposed to eat it, it goes very well squeezed over the fish or even eaten by itself. The red meat generally gets a more rustic treatment. The hot lamb sausage is served over cheddar grits with sweet peppers and a tomato broth while the pork collar is glazed and served with pole beans, peas and corn fritters. The most notable beef selection is the 44 farms sirloin, which in a similarly straightforward preparation, is served with hand-cut noodles, mushrooms, sour cream and chives. With a healthy touch of cracked pepper, the sour cream becomes a wonderful compliment to the beef and mushrooms, letting the meat’s flavors shine and lending a creamy mouth-feel to the noodles’ comforting chewiness. The small dessert menu is a welcome end to the meal. For the most part, Pera embellishes familiar desserts with exotic garnishes to mixed results. The luxardo gastrique on the peaches and cream buttermilk pie fits perfectly, but the hibiscus bits on the flourless chocolate cake are muted by the cake’s density and, consequently, hard to taste. The lemon panna cotta is among Revival Market’s most memorable dishes, pairing a perfectly textured panna cotta with aromatic lemon, bitter espresso and crunchy cacao nibs, each balancing the other impeccably.Given how much the management has expanded this year, it’s a bit miraculous how consistent Revival Market’s dinner service is. What’s more, the lunch counter with its excellent pastrami and corned beef is still around too, it’s just the warm-up act to an even more impressive main event. In fact, it seems Pera and Weber have found a way to make their “preservation” kitchen work on every level, preserving their old tricks and recombining them to make something new.

Zelko Bistro satisfies with ethically sourced comfort food

(08/27/15 12:24pm)

“Simple, responsible comfort food” is as common a mantra for Houston restaurants as it is rare in reality. Plenty of hip cafes check one or two boxes, serving southern-style comfort food with locally sourced ingredients only to drown out the natural strengths of their dishes by squeezing every trendy flavor possible onto the plate. Likewise, “responsibly sourced” food all-too-often becomes a marketing ploy, with many restaurants doing little more for sustainable farming than talking about how much they do.  Enter Zelko Bistro, a longtime favorite in the Heights known for what chef Jamie Zelko and Manager Dalia Zelko describe as “new American comfort food.” The bistro’s menu stays true to the phrase. Local greens, house-filleted fish and a variety of meats are supported by seasonings that, while never overbearing, stay true to Houston’s eclectic dining scene. The excellent shrimp and grits are typical of Zelko’s style. The usual southern ingredients such as bay shrimp, cheddar grits and bacon all satisfy, but a streak of garlic soy agave sauce around the rim of the plate steals the show. The sauce is sweet and thin with just enough tang to cut through the grits and perfectly complement the sauteed shrimp. The watermelon salad also showcases Zelko’s knack for restrained seasoning. The vibrant chunks of Texas watermelon are good enough to carry any salad, but a dab of honey hibiscus vinaigrette and smoked paprika round the dish into a superb balance of sweet and smoky.When the food falters, it is usually because such details are absent. The chocolate mousse, while plenty rich, seems ordinary in a way that doesn’t quite justify its $9 price tag. The chopped bleu salad also comes off as comparatively dull. The addition of apples, bacon and pecans all help, but none quite redeem the bland bleu cheese or unremarkable romaine that form the core of the salad.Still, many other seemingly ordinary dishes like the Boss Burger and lamb tacos rank among Zelko’s best. Sharp cheddar, hearty bacon and a wonderfully light brioche bun put the boss burger head and shoulders above other local burgers. On the tacos, toasted cumin, raita slaw and a side of candied plantains add nuanced Middle Eastern and South American flare to the tenderly cooked lamb. Zelko’s bar keeps a rotating stock of domestic beer and wines. However, the bistro’s main focus is its signature brunch drinks: the Mimosa Rossa and the Geisha Zing, a Bloody Mary made with sake rather than vodka. Beyond the bar, guests can purchase honey from the Zelko duo’s award-winning Heights Honey Bee Project. Part apiary, part conservation effort, the project relocates bee hives that would otherwise be exterminated in order to harvest their honey and preserve the rapidly vanishing population of honey bees. The project’s honey is used in a number of Zelko’s dishes and has a smooth, fragrant character that pairs especially well with fresh fruit.Between their conservation efforts and locally sourced ingredients, the Zelko duo present an outstanding template. There’s no pretension in their dining room, just sustainable cooking true to its southern roots.Zelko BistroAddress:705 E 11th St, 77008Phone number: (713) 880-8691Price range: $$Website: zelkobistro.comRecommended DishesThe ‘Boss’ Burger, $12Cheddar, lettuce, caramelized onions, bacon, tomato, pickles, dijonaise on brioche with friesLamb tacos, $12Toasted cumin, raita slaw, side of candied plantains

Welcome to Houston Restaurant Weeks

(08/27/15 12:20pm)

Over 100 restaurants are participating in this year’s Restaurant Weeks. Tasting menus range from $20 lunches to $45 dinners and a part of the proceeds from each meal will go to the Houston Food Bank. The menus will only be served until Sept. 7, so with limited time left to taste, the Thresher has picked the top spots to visit before Restaurant Weeks are over.TrinitiThough Triniti’s sister restaurant, Sanctuari, has been getting more press lately for its wildly inventive cocktail menu, chef Ryan Hildebrandt has quietly put together an excellent $20 prix fixe menu at Triniti. Usually among the most expensive menus in Houston, Triniti’s lunch menu for Restaurant Weeks defies expectations by being soulful, simple and elegant for a fraction of the restaurant’s normal price. Catfish hush puppies with bacon jam and summer corn souffle with blue crab soup are both standouts on the savory half of the menu. However, the biggest draw of all may be pastry chef Samantha Mendoza’s dessert menu. The orange dreamsicle, served with kumquat ice cream, cherry meringue and almonds is an especially refreshing end to the satisfying summer lunch.Location: 2815 South Shepherd DriveDeal: Three-course lunch for $20Kubo'sPerhaps the best deal for students is located in Rice’s own backyard. While other establishments opted for bare bones two- or-three course meals for their $35 prix fixes menus, Kubo’s is offering a decadent four-course tasting menu. The highlights include an exotic seafood ceviche, unagi pie, king crab sashimi salad and yuzu cheesecake, as well as Kubo’s signature nigiri and sashimi.Location: 2414 University BoulevardDeal: Four-course dinner for $35.Brasserie 19Brasserie 19 built its reputation on excellent old -school French cooking and its restaurant weeks menu is no exception. Classic dishes like foie gras torchon, trout almandine, duck confit and creme brulee all appear on the $35 prix fixe. Given the prohibitively expensive nature of the regular menu, the Restaurant Weeks menu is likely the best chance students have to try one of Houston’s top French bistros.Location: 1962 West GrayDeal: Three-course dinner for $35.SpringbolkThe self-described “rugby gastropub” Springbok is a change of pace for both downtown dining and drinking. Chef Seth Greenburg’s bold South African cooking translates well to Springbok’s $35 dinner menu. Restaurant Weeks customers can sample antelope in a South African bread bowl, sous vide hanger steak, chocolate stout cake, strawberry soup and even a flight of South African wines for an extra $15 to $20.Location: 711 Main StreetDeal: Three-course dinner for $35, wine pairings optional for $20 or $30 per couple.El MesonEl Meson’s upscale Spanish cuisine has long been luring in diners from its flashier neighbor Mi Luna. Its Restaurant Weeks menu builds on its tried favorites, including theEl signature paella, and adds a number of offbeat appetizers for good measure. Chipirones, cuttlefish cooked in sepia ink sauce and peppers stuffed with lamb, pine nuts and raisins are among the best reasons to try El Meson’s three-course dinner menu.Location: 2425 University BoulevardDeal: Three-course dinner for $35.Dosi Restaurant & Soju BarThe most alluring spot for adventurous eaters will likely be Dosi Restaurant and Soju Bar. The restaurant specializes in neo-Korean cuisine and house-infused soju, a liquor whose name translates literally as “burn liquor” from Korean. Dosi’s Restaurant Weeks menu pairs year-round favorites like kale tapioca chips, seared scallops with black sesame and candied onions and a 12-oz. ribeye with gochjuang butter with a selection of their house soju. The dessert menu is even expanded, offering strawberry cheesecake dumplings and goat’s milk shaved ice in addition to their signature red bean donuts with salted lime glaze and chai pudding.Location: 2802 South Shepherd DriveDeal: Three-course dinner with drink pairings for $35.

Afghan Village serves Middle Eastern specials

(04/22/15 7:17am)

With all the good Middle Eastern food around Houston, it seems unlikely that Afghan Village, a small Afghani restaurant in a Gulfton strip mall, could be a standout. The quiet dining room is mostly filled with families and regulars. Larger crowds occasionally appear for the lunch buffet, but for the most part, a unique calm pervades the restaurant. It’s the kind of place where, when the waitress asks, “How did you hear about us?” she seems genuinely curious. But if Afghan Village’s vibes cause any misgivings, the food will come as a pleasant surprise. Serving consistently good mainstays of Middle Eastern cooking, as well as a number of dishes unique to Afghani cuisine, Afghan Village is a hidden gem and a great addition to Houston’s portfolio of Middle Eastern restaurants. The most noticeable difference between Afghan Village’s cuisine and other Middle Eastern restaurants is the Kashmiri influence. Fans of Indian specialties like aloo paratha will appreciate Afghan Village’s bolani, a flatbread “turnover” filled with leeks, potatoes, onions and herbs. Other Indian influences come through in the multiple dishes served with palak, a spiced blend of wilted spinach that looks unappealing but makes a great accompaniment for the rice and flatbread that many dishes come with. The complimentary flatbread also comes with bouranee baunjan, a smoky and tangy mix of eggplant, tomato and yogurt. The small selection of appetizers is consistent and on par with other Middle Eastern restaurants, but Afghani Village’s biggest draw is its entrees. The majority of the entrees are kebabs served with a heaping plate of sweet long-grain rice with raisins and candied peppers. Nearly all the kebabs on the menu are cooked perfectly, trapping in the moisture of the meat to avoid the dry chewy texture that sometimes results from their cooking method. The chicken and shinwary lamb kebabs are especially flavorful. The chicken is basted in an orange tomato-based sauce similar to Indian tandoori chicken. The shinwary lamb chops are marinated in a blend of peppercorns, spices and vinegar and crusted in more pepper before broiling. The pepper crust gives them a straightforward but satisfying flavor and locks in the moisture that makes Afghan Village’s meats so tender. Aside from the kebabs, Afghan Village serves a few specials specific to Afghani cuisine, the best of which is the mantoo. The dish is comprised of onion-and-beef dumplings tossed with housemade yogurt, topped with a chickpea-and-meat sauce and sprinkled with dried mint. The dish is a barrage of tastes but the flavors never clash; the tangy dumplings compliment their spicy beef filling, the mint adds an herb flavor to the yogurt and the chickpeas add an earthy flavor to the meat sauce. The one exception to the entrees’ success is the gosfand lamb kebab. While its flavor is not particularly bad, it is under-seasoned. The dish relies too heavily on the lamb’s flavor, leaving it bland and dried out compared to the other kebab meats. Occasionally, homemade baklava and Afghani green tea can be ordered after the meal, but both depend on availability. Overall, Afghan Village is a quaint and satisfying alternative to more bustling Middle Eastern restaurants like Istanbul Grill and Aladdin. The food’s quality and price are fairly similar to competitors, but the delicious kebabs and unique Afghani dishes endear it to patrons as an understated and overlooked gem of Middle Eastern cuisine.Address: 6413 Hillcroft St. 77018Price range: $$Website: theafghanvillage.comRecommended DishesShinwary Kebab (Broiled lamb ribs crusted with pepper): $13Mantoo (Ground beef dumpling with yogurt and mint sauce): $10

Indian fusion soars at Pondicheri

(04/15/15 9:50am)

Parts of Pondicheri’s menu seem like they could only be a breakthrough hit or a disaster. Replace the fried dough wafers in a papdi chaat with semolina crackers and you get either a healthier, hipper version of the original, or a mealy multigrain imposter.  Adding a pumpkin bun to the black garbanzo bean veggie burger could be a stroke of genius or a mark of overzealous experimentation. Luckily, the chefs at Pondicheri are serious about their fusion cooking. With influences from French bakeries to South America’s produce, Pondicheri is all about laid-back twists on Indian favorites. Though the curries and other classics can be underwhelming, the attention paid to innovations like the masala burgers and Madras chicken wings make Pondicheri well worth a visit. Known as a great breakfast spot around River Oaks, Pondicheri keeps many of its best dishes off the dinner menu. The green dosas, omelets and aloo paratha with house-made jam are all great alternatives to the diner food and breakfast tacos that form the usual Houstonian breakfast. The bake lab offers the best of Pondicheri’s French influence in its pastries. The chocolate brioche bun rolled in orange saffron sugar and the gulab jamun donut spiced with mace, cinnamon and cardamom and soaked in a cardamom-rosewater syrup highlight what may be one of the most inventive bakery menus in Houston.The lunch and dinner menus are just as inventive, but a bit uneven. Pondicheri’s strength lies in their fusion dishes. The semolina papdi chaat is as refreshing as the Indian original, and the addition of tamarind lends a sweet and spicy element to the traditionally tangy dish. The lamb mint burger, quite possibly the best item on the menu, is a delicious blend of Indian, American and French conventions. The lamb patty is served with an Indian version of pub cheese atop a brioche bun with cilantro chutney and onion masala spread. Throughout the fusion dishes, Pondicheri’s broad influences and love of casual Indian harmonize into a peculiar and wonderful homage to Indian street food. In the more traditional curries, however, some dishes miss out on Pondicheri’s anything-goes attitude. The lamb curry, served with an overabundance of parsley and drab chunks of carrot and potato, seems especially plain compared to the rest of the menu. Still, other curries like the goat kofta, which pairs spicy goat meatballs with ginger, papaya and almonds, have all the exotic allure of Pondicheri’s best cooking.An added feature of Pondicheri’s lunch and dinner experience is the smart and concise drink menu. Sangrias and shandies are served with a number of unexpected ingredients ranging from hibiscus and lavender in the sparkling rosé Whist to the ghost peppers and black salt in the Hot Stuff shandy. The Lovely Leech is a particularly elegant blend of Chardonnay, lychee, pear and apple juice available by the glass or pitcher. The eclectic wine list focuses on unoaked whites and fruity reds that pair well with the spice and earthiness of Indian cooking. The Ernest Loosen Gewurztraminer, with exotic notes of rose and lychee, and the clean and crisp Merry Edward’s Sauvignon Blanc, are both exceptional wines that pair well with a number of Pondicheri’s lighter offerings. The non-alcoholic drink menu is equally extensive and interesting. Hibiscus soda, mint lemonade, lassis and teas are all made in house and complement the food nicely.With such a comprehensive and ambitious menu, dining at Pondicheri feels far more like an experience than meals at Houston’s other causal fusion restaurants. But while it does aim higher than many of its peers, Pondicheri never feels overly formal or frustratingly hip. Instead, it is the best of both worlds: a relaxed vibe, a moderate price and food that’s fun, exciting and, above all, tasty. 

Fantastic Wines and Where to Find Them

(04/08/15 5:13am)

Tired of beer? Freaked out by Franzia? According to a class-action lawsuit filed last Thursday, student favorites Franzia and Charles Shaw may have up to five times the amount of arsenic the EPA allows in drinking water. So given the alternatives, now seems like a better time than ever to highlight some of top low-cost bottles available at the local Spec’s, HEB and even Target.

Khun Kay offers affordable vegetarian-friendly fare

(03/25/15 5:20am)

Supartra Yooto and Kay Soodjai have experience when it comes to serving Asian food in the Houston area. The Thai sisters-in-law opened their first restaurant, a popular Chinese spot called the Golden Room, on Montrose in 1982. When it came time to renovate in 2008, they simply tore it down and returned to their roots with the “fast casual” Thai restaurant Khun Kay. The website claims the restaurant offers “most of the Golden Room’s menu with the same superb quality, but with reduced prices.” With pad thai as cheap as $7 a plate and a plate of excellent curry for only $8, reduced prices are certainly a plus. But beyond the low prices, Khun Kay’s extensive vegetarian menu and rotating list of specialties set it far above other counter-service Asian eateries. 

Collina's fails to deliver high-quality Italian cuisine

(03/18/15 5:25am)

Nestled in a strip mall on Richmond Avenue, Collina’s Italian Cafe looks as inviting as any Italian restaurant. Families and couples chatter over bottles of wine, cooks stir enormous pots of pasta and waiters bustle between the indoor seating and the tables outside on the patio. The affable service, homey red-checkered tablecloths and BYOB policy all add to Collina’s laid-back, neighborhood-Italian-joint atmosphere. It would be all too perfect if Collina’s cooks turned out food that matched their idyllic atmosphere. Unfortunately, Collina’s pastas are far from the heavenly spaghettis and linguinis of superior trattorias; the rustic chicken dishes miss out on the buttery charm that pervades quality Italian cooking. Even the pizzas, the centerpiece of Collina’s menu, seem bland in comparison to the bold and fresh flavors other pizzerias draw from their pies.

Brewed the hard way: Budweiser's beef with craft beer

(02/11/15 4:08am)

Among ads of cute puppies, human Pac-Man games and stampeding Clydesdales, Budweiser aired a new commercial during the Super Bowl proudly titled “Brewed the Hard Way.” The ad heralds Budweiser as “proudly a macro beer … not to be fussed over.” Bud drinkers are juxtaposed with glasses-wearing mustachioed men, who represent Budweiser’s take on microbrewed beer’s finicky hipster crowd. The ad continues by stating that Bud is “brewed for drinking, not dissecting,” and shows yet more hipsters before finally proclaiming, “Let them drink their pumpkin peach ale, we’ll be brewing us some golden suds.”The ad is a direct smear on microbrewing and craft beer’s surging popularity, and it doesn’t come from a struggling brewer desperate for sales, but from the producer of America’s most popular light and regular beer. So why pick on the little guys? It doesn’t take an analyst to see how the craft beer revolution has transformed our country’s markets. Just like California put American wine on the map, microbrews have completely changed the perception of American beer. Once loathed for its cold fermentation and use of corn to add alcohol content without flavor, American beers are now every bit as lauded as the historic beers from Germany, Holland and Belgium, and not without reason. American brewers have pioneered the malting and fermenting techniques that created some of the world’s toastiest porters, creamiest milk stouts and most aromatic pale ales. Other beer giants like Samuel Adams have used the craft beer trend to their advantage. A 2014 commercial for their beer asks people off the street how many styles of beer Sam Adams brews in a year. The people in the ad, one of whom is also a mustachioed, glasses-wearing hipster, reliably named four or five beers before exhibiting shock at the 60 different brews that Sam Adams makes in a year. It’s a commercial that celebrates the ability of serious American brewers and the diversity of their beers. It sends a message that Sam Adams supports them, even if its main source profit is its “macro” Boston lager. Instead, Budweiser offers its viewers a message that there can be only one way of making good beer, and if they don’t agree, they must be pretentious. Perhaps the oddest factor in Budweiser’s choice to run a $9 million Super Bowl ad slamming craft beer is that, in many ways, Budweiser also supports craft beers and microbrews. Anheuser-Bush, the owner of Budweiser and all its breweries, also owns 10 different small craft beer breweries. Widmer Brothers, which merged with Redhook Brewing as part of the Budweiser-owned Craft Beer Alliance in 2012, has released over 65 types of beer, most of which are limited-release microbrews. Elysian Brewing Company, acquired by Budweiser in January 2015, ironically makes a pecan peach pumpkin ale of the exact sort that Budweiser’s ad claims is fundamentally incompatible with the type of people who like Budweiser.So Budweiser: Why the posturing? As a company that already has the largest share of its U.S. market and is managing to profit off the craft beer boom anyway, isn’t slamming the hard work and popularity of talented microbrewers kind of biting the hand that feeds? Budweiser has always run ads that play to its strengths as a straightforward everyman’s beer. But stabs like “[Budweiser] is brewed for drinking, not dissecting. The people who drink our beer are people who like to drink beer brewed the hard way” don’t seem to sell anything. They make Budweiser seem tasteless, people who care about taste snobbish and beers that aim for a more complex flavor tedious. It’s fine if Budweiser doesn’t want to invest in brewing lines of more flavorful complex beers like Sam Adams, but it could at least leave those who do care about improving taste well enough alone.