I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, but less than 24 hours after it was over several of my friends emailed me the link to a Budweiser commercial that aired during the game. The advertisement is a cocky and desperate attempt to take on the increasing popularity of craft beer, wherein Bud seeks to promote its own mediocre product by way of hurling childish, immature accusations at the craft beer industry. 

Edited to a song that I assume is called “Macho Song!”, the commercial alternates between shots of Bud Light and craft beer, while flashes of bold text help to draw a comparison between Bud drinkers and craft drinkers—which, in Bud’s evaluation, is the difference between true beer drinkers and pompous snobs. “Budweiser: it’s not brewed to be fussed over,” the ad proclaims. “It’s brewed for a crisp, smooth finish.”

Conspicuously absent from the commercial is a final shot of Budweiser’s top executives pointing at the camera and yelling, “You need some ice for that burn?”

Now, excuse me while I “fuss over” this advertisement.

What is most fascinating to me about this ad is that it identifies the culture of craft beer as a major threat to macro-brewed beer—not the beer itself. 

Notably, the ad mocks and demeans the kinds of ritual and behavior associated with drinking craft beer: smelling, sipping and discussing the flavor of the brew— what Budweiser terms the “dissecting” of a beer. 

Aggressively, but not perhaps not surprisingly, Budweiser points a finger at hipsters for starting all the fuss. The ad introduces craft beer with a shot of a guy with chunky glasses dipping his bushy moustache into a foamy stout. 

Because, as all know, hipsters are judgmental snobs who start pointless fads in order to make you feel bad about yourself. Hipsters, and therefore, craft beer drinkers, are the worst, and certainly nothing like the honest and unaffected folks who drink Bud. 

“The people who drink our beer are the people who like to drink beer,” says the ad. Those other losers are drinking the hipster Kool-Aid.

While the cheap finger-pointing and macho appeals to the (male) consumer’s ego are obnoxious and, frankly, a little bit sad, Budweiser (and other macro-breweries) is not entirely off-base. The Atlantic published an article last November that attempted to explain the popularity of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) over Budweiser. PBR has an enormous appeal among hipsters, despite the fact that, like Bud, it is a cheap (and cheap-tasting) macro-brewed lager. 

The article goes on to quote a Quartz report that discovered the following: “After observing [PBR’s] unexpected popularity in Portland, Oregon” ”—hipster mecca—“back in 2001, the company concluded that people were buying the beer because it wasn’t aggressively being pitched to them.”

“For a brand as large as Budweiser,” The Atlantic article goes on, “not advertising at all probably won’t cut it as a strategy. But cynically pandering to Millennials…isn’t going to cut it, either.”

In the context of these findings, Budweiser’s claim that it is “proudly a macro-beer” is less of a rallying cry, and more of a defensive, embittered whine. But what other options do they have? What’s going to cut it?

Another way that macro-breweries have attempted to combat the rise of craft beer is not by advertising, but by infiltrating the craft beer market with actual beer. The two major examples of this phenomenon are Blue Moon and ShockTop. 

These beers are brewed by macro-breweries—MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, respectively. The idea is to brew a different style of beer (Blue Moon and ShockTop are both wheat beers, not lagers) that is slightly higher quality, and market it like a craft beer. In this sense, Blue Moon and ShockTop are less like breweries and more like sub-brands of larger companies who are trying to appeal to diverse markets.

MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch have met relative success in convincing the lay consumer that their decoys are craft. For one, you can’t find any obvious sign of their parent corporations on the packaging. And, I have to admit, they do taste better—at least enough to notice a difference over a cheap, watery lager.

But their plan backfired. While the idea was to reclaim the market by introducing a better tasting beer, Blue Moon and ShockTop became gateway beers into the craft market. The difference consumers detected in the improved “crafty beers” (as Blue Moon and ShockTop are now called) led consumers to seek out real craft beer—which, unsurprisingly, tastes even better. It seems as though the people who like to drink beer—because they like the taste of beer—are drinking craft.

So while the process of dissecting craft beer is a little geeky and a little goofy—my friend recently noted that her Berliner Weisse had a pleasant “urine taste”—it’s ultimately in the effort of seeking a more challenging relationship with something we love and enjoy. 

To use a literary analogy, Budweiser’s logic that its beer’s euphemistic “crispness” is preferable because it lacks complexity and goes down easy is equivalent to condemning the stylistic experimentalism in Finnegan’s Wake in favor of the clarity of the prose in Twilight.

When I first saw Bud’s Super Bowl ad, I tweeted it with the caption: “This is the greatest commercial I have ever seen.” Perhaps it was to fight hyperbole with hyperbole, or mockery with more mockery. 

But mostly, it’s because in one infuriating minute the ad ironically defies itself by depicting the complex reality of beer in America today—the marketing, the production, the perceptions, the rivalries—proving that these days, in America, nobody, not even Budweiser, can help but to fuss over beer.