When Anheuser-Busch unleashed its Budweiser American Ale on the market, it caused quite a stir in the craft beer world. Some predicted the end of the microbrewery while some saw it as an opportunity to bring the American light lager drinkers into the fold. Regardless of what it means for the market, it seems that the big boys have decided to come play on our side of the playground and they aren’t likely to leave quietly.

A-B is so committed to the craft market that they have turned Michelob into a craft brand. “Craft beers are a key driver for the growth of the industry, and we feel that Budweiser American Ale and our Michelob craft line will allow consumers to explore beer styles with a name that America trusts,” said Keith Levy, vice president of brand management for A-B.

The big question is can the macro-breweries, which normally make beers with little taste, brew beers which can compete with traditional, full-flavored craft beers? seattlepi.com decided to find out by setting up a blind taste test with several styles of macro-craft beers and traditional craft brews. Here are the results:

Amber ale
Budweiser American Ale: 6/10
Alaskan Amber: 7/10

Pale Ale
Michelob Pale Ale: 5/10
Full Sail Pale Ale: 7/10

Belgian-style wheat ale
Michelob Shock Top Belgian White: 4/10
Blue Moon Belgian White (Molson Coors): 6/10
New Belgium Mothership Wit: 9/10

The testers “included casual beers drinkers who usually reach for a light lager, as well as typical craft-beer drinkers who enjoy a variety of styles from various brewers.” In other words, these were not trained beer judges but average beer drinkers. I assume, then, that they rated the beers based on personal taste and not a set of style guidelines. While this was not a very scientific taste test the results are still interesting.

As I’ve said before, I think the big boys are going to play it safe and make beers that appeal to as many people as possible. They can’t afford not to. The smaller breweries can take a bolder, more experimental approach without fear of alienating a large number of customers.

What do you think? Can the macros compete in the craft market?