OcultoCraft beer is currently in something of a golden era. While almost all of these primarily small breweries were snuffed out with the dawn of Prohibition in the United States, the industry has made a healthy rebound and popularity and interest have spiked since the turn of the century. Couple that with the great beers that have never skipped a beat since as far back as medieval times in other countries, and one could argue that craft beer has never been stronger.

But craft beer isn’t so much a product as it is a philosophy. Craft beer is about refusing to skimp on ingredients, always pushing the creative envelope, and, above all, putting a brew out there that you are proud to put your name behind.

But some in the beer industry just don’t get that.

Enter Oculto, a beer that advertises itself as a lager blended with beer aged on tequila barrel staves. Why are you blending beer with other beer? Why wouldn’t you just age all your lagered beer on the staves? Who knows.

But craft beer, in the philosophy of pushing that aforementioned creative envelope, is about trying new techniques and doing something that hasn’t been done before. So I, for one, was game to give it a try.

Oculto 3And therein lays the problem.

I don’t feel that I am exaggerating when I say Oculto is quite possibly the worst beer I’ve ever tasted. I purchased a six pack, expecting to consume all on Cinco de Mayo, and five bottles remain in my fridge (half of one was willingly poured down the drain last night).

The aroma itself – before you’ve even had a sip – is displeasing. I’ve smelled wonderful things on the noses of beers before. Chocolate, coffee, fruit, oak, and numerous spices just to name a few. But Oculto smells of stale tequila. Like the bar counter the morning after an epic party. Perhaps warning you of the horrible decisions your about to make.

And then there’s the taste. Oh, that wretched taste. The beer itself has no soul; no life to it. Virtually flavorless. You’d think then you’d look forward to the finish, bringing about a merciful ending, but there’s no such thing insight. Instead, finally and unfortunately, that tequila aging presents itself, but not in a pleasing way. The beer gives you one last jab, the same sort of jab a shot of tequila gives you as it goes down your gullet.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say Oculto is Spanish for regret.

So the real question becomes how did this unfortunate brew get to market? There’s no shame in swinging and missing when it comes to craft brewing, but those misses generally find themselves poured down a drain somewhere, not on sale at 7-Eleven.

Well, if you’ve never heard of Broken Barrel Brewing Co., the supposed brewery behind Oculto, it’s not your fault. They don’t exist.

Sure, they may exist on financial documents and on the cardboard construction you carry that sad six pack home in, but they don’t exist in spirit. Why? Because Broken Barrel Brewing Co. is actually Anheuser-Busch.

This is a game that Anheuser likes to play. They understand that those looking for a craft beer are going to shy away from the big guys. So what do they do? They create subsidiary brands to make you think they’re something else entirely.

But while the name may change, the approach does not. Where true craft brewing is about making delicious beer, Anheuser-Busch (and other big brewers like MillerCoors for that matter) are and always will be about the bottom line.

Oculto2So if you’re wondering how someone could put their name behind such a god-awful beer, that’s how. For one, Broken Barrel Brewing isn’t a real name. And two, Anheuser-Busch’s reputation can’t really be anymore tarnished in the eyes of true craft beer enthusiasts.

It’s with this understanding that the pieces fall together. Everything starts to make sense. That’s why Oculto tastes like someone poured Bud Light into a glass that had tequila in it but no one washed it out. Because, regretfully, someone probably did.

But what Oculto really is, more than anything else, is an indictment of the big brewers. Not only is Anheuser-Busch not a craft brewery, but they are physically incapable of behaving like one. They simply just don’t get it.

They don’t get the passion that goes into craft brewing. They don’t understand that philosophy. To them, making a delicious beer that may end up costing twice that of a diet beer is a fool’s errand.

But it’s not.

The same sweat and capital Anheuser-Busch puts into marketing and promotions, craft breweries put into their beer. Their superior product is their marketing. Word of mouth is their promotions.

So why get all worked up over one bad beer, you ask? Why get on a soap box? Well, the answer is a two-parter.

One, it is insulting a craft beer fan’s intelligence to pass off their stale tequila water as anything else. They create shell companies and distance themselves from the Anheuser branding because they want to dupe you. No real craft brewery would waste any time on such a venture.

But second and more importantly, this sort of behavior actually harms craft breweries. Oculto sells itself as a lager with flavor that comes from being aged on tequila barrel staves. So, when you taste it and inevitably have a lackluster experience, you’re not going to want to try it again. So if a craft brewery does try to make something along the lines of Oculto without cutting corners and saving money and actually puts a product out there that is worth trying, your mind is already made up.

And that’s the real shame here.