Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.
The reason for this week’s selection has a lot to do with curiosity.
Earlier this year, I wrote a feature on the latest Budweiser creation from Anheuser-Busch, a lager beer that has been aged in Jim Beam Bourbon barrels. Sure, it sounds a little gimmicky from a monstrous beer manufacturer constantly looking for innovative new efforts, all while continuing to sweat over the abundance of smaller craft breweries in an overly saturated market. But when several people asked me if I had tried it, to get my take, I figured Budweiser Reserve Copper Lager would be perfect for Thirsty Thursday.
Copper Reserve can be found in six-packs, 12-packs, cases or on tap and isn’t much more expensive from the original – this particular six-pack was just under $9. It’s also not difficult to find, as most beer stores are carrying it. The bottle harkens back to the old days, when the majority of beer came in a stubby bottle and, personally, it’s my favorite look. The label is traditional to what you’d expect from Budweiser, with a slightly different color variation and the Jim Beam logo proudly displayed in the bottom center. There’s also a short explanation of what to expect from this 6.2% alcohol by volume beer:
“This is a flavorful American Copper Lager brewed with Two-row Barley and aged on real Jim Beam Bourbon barrel staves for a toasted Oak aroma, a deliciously nutty taste with caramel rye and vanilla notes, and a smooth finish.”
Keep in mind, Anheuser-Busch didn’t reinvent the wheel here. Breweries have been aging beer in bourbon barrels for decades, though it’s recently seen a boom. While typically stouts are the most bourbon barrel-aged, other types can get the treatment. This beer, as the label indicates, is brewed on staves, which is actually just one piece of the barrel.
— BudweiserUSA (@budweiserusa) August 23, 2018
After I twisted off the cap, I gave it the old smell test. Honestly, it had a malty smell, typical of Budweiser, and I found it difficult to get any notes of the Jim Beam influence or that this concoction was a special edition beer. As I poured it, I noticed that the copper color of this beer was almost red, though it had a lackluster head. Sure, I poured it well but I was hoping for a little more of a sexy head. I should mention now that I’m not a prototypical beer snob, I do like the occasional simple, mass-produced beer, so I’m not just nitpicking on this beer because it’s not the typical IPA I enjoy around the firepit.
The taste is great. Copper Reserve is a warm beer, perfect for a brisk fall day like when I cracked it open. It has a sweet taste to it, with a malt -forward taste, a caramel flavor and this awesome little hint of vanilla on the back-end. There’s almost no signs of hops anywhere. It’s slightly watered down, which shouldn’t come as a shock because it’s still a Budweiser. I would be much more inclined to order a bunch of these during a night out or pick up a case for a tailgate than original Budweiser. It’s a fairly complex beer that has a lot of different things going on, as far as flavor is concerned – and it’s very subtle. Not only can you keep drinking it, but it gets better, balancing the line of warm and sweet.
Could Budweiser have done a little bit more with Copper Reserve? Perhaps, yes. But if you’re a beer novice who hasn’t experimented with this type of beer before, it’s a pretty good way to get your feet wet. As far as scoring, that was a little tough. I decided to give it a 7.1 out of 10, which isn’t too far off of the BeerAdvocate score which is 3.49.
Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.