Finkel says Busch and his fellow mega-brewers want to do to the rest of the world what most American lager brewers have done to America this entire century. They want to make beer drinkers forget how good and how varied the beer drinking experience can be; to make them forget the ales, stouts, porters, iambics, bocks, double bocks and pilsners that are easily available fresh from the tap or supermarket beer cooler.
"Busch talked to 800, and I talked to maybe 40," Finkel says one morning in his offices overlooking Lake Washington in Seattle.
"He's out to sell Bud like Levis, making it an American experience. Imported beers, to give you an example, are about 6% of the domestic market, and most of that is the Canadian and Mexican beers that are hard to tell apart from each other or anything brewed right here by Anheuser-Busch or any of their direct competitors. So the slice I'm talking about of that 6% is all but insignificant on that kind of scale, but nonetheless worthwhile.
"I told this wonderful group of brewers to take pride in the individual nature of their product, the regional nature, the diversity they bring to this grand old tradition, that their product is part of their geography and their history, that a small brewery can succeed in the American market with a quality craft product, and you can make the distinction that beer is not another kind of soft drink, which is how Bud and beers like it are sold."
In a world where the one-beer/one-world vision called globalization is the dominant marketing theme, what's left for anyone who wants to enjoy a beer with flavor, with character? Plenty, according to Finkel.
"This is the best time in history for people who want to drink good beers," Finkel insists. "There is more good beer and more kinds of good beer available to more people today than ever before.
"That was part of my message to the craft brewers in Munich: [There are] people who want to drink a creative product, and it's enough of a market that you can do well. There are more microbreweries in California than anywhere else in the country, and they are making beers in a couple of dozen classic tastes."
We have been taught this century that drinking beer is a brainless exercise; globalization is a natural extension. The drinking of and pleasure to be found in craft beers, however, is quite different. It has a bit of a learning curve. It demands a certain intelligence, a certain attention to detail. It takes some exploring, some adventuring.
"It's up to the people who enjoy beer and who are learning to enjoy beer to understand that there is more to beer than what's sold on TV," Finkel says. "There's a little work involved. You have to do the required tasting, then arrive at an informed opinion about what it is you like and don't like, what it is you feel goes best with one kind of food and what doesn't and then support that beer and brewery in the face of the mega-brewers of the world."
Ingle is a Seattle-based freelance writer.