Bottom Shelf Beer: Anheuser-Busch's Natty Daddy
The best part of getting paid to write about drinking is every single part of getting paid to write about drinking. So I would never insult those of you with honest jobs by crying a river of mashmallow-vodka tears over the burdens of having too much free booze lying around the house.
But as great as this gig is, I tend not to write about the good stuff, and my liquor storage space is limited by Bottom Shelf research coordinator Emily's need to own many boots and my need to own many mustards. After a year on the cheap beer and booze beat, my fridge and liquor cabinet are overflowing with a few too many bottles of Depressed Donkey Malt Liquor and Creep With a Van Bubblegum Rum.
That's OK. I know my place. I'm not jealous of my fellow SE contributors who get to review beer that goes for triple digits on the black market. I want to stab them in the face and drink their delicious blood, but I'm not jealous. I mean, Moxey probably only got one free bottle of the Samuel Adams Utopias, whereas just last week I was able to expense an entire 12-pack of 7-Eleven's Game Day Ice. OK, I AM JEALOUS DAMMIT LET'S MOVE ON.
As I was saying, every aspect of my job is an unabashed delight, and a part I need to start enjoying more is getting rid of all the crap in my cabinets. I still haven't struck up a friendship with any of the bums in the park, and I'm not comfortable just handing open bottles of Wild BlueGrape Schnapps to strangers, so I have only one outlet: Emily's 21-year-old brother.
Last week he did the other thing he's good for—use his free time and pickup truck to deliver furniture—so I wanted to reward him with beer. I asked Emily what he drinks, and she said, "I dunno. He's 21. He drinks whatever you put in front of him," which is surely every bit as true as it is unhelpful. All was well though, because I correctly guessed that college kids drink PBR these days.
When I was in college, I rarely saw any beer other than Milwaukee's Best, with the occasional dose of Koch's Golden Anniversary. I don't know who drank all the Genny Cream Ale that Central New Yorkers are supposed to love, but I never came across any. A lot of my friends at other schools went heavy on Natural Light, and while that was never my chosen cure, I've had plenty of it, so I felt both professionally and nostalgically obligated to try Anheuser-Busch's new version, the 8% ABV Natty Daddy.
A-B has been supplementing the proud Natural line with the 5.9% ABV Natty Ice for years, and I tried that back in July with pretty good results. It was better than I remembered Natty Light being, and it was on special all around town for about a buck per 24-ounce can. I had to pony up an outrageous $2.75 for my 24 of Natty Daddy, but a quick online search suggests I got ripped off. It seems that in most places you can get this for less than a Jefferson.
At this intersection of price, packaging, and proof, Natty Daddy is positioned to bridge the gap between fruitish-flavored adult malt beverages (Four Loko and the like) and the classic beer-flavored malt liquor traditionally sold by the 40-ounce bottle. The biggest problem with adult malt beverages is that they're not beer; the biggest problem with 40s is that they get warm and flat by the end. A can of Natty Daddy could potentially solve both issues by being beer that's boozy enough to get the job done in a more manageable 24 ounce serving. But is it any good?
Oh heck yes. Natty Daddy is a bright idea if you're looking for something that offers its specific and narrow range of intended services: It's a nice, cheap, beery way to catch a buzz. It turns out that I like the Nattys in ascending order of alcohol content, which I guess means that pure alcohol tastes better than whatever malformed grains A-B deems unfit for Bud Light.
When you pour it in a glass—not that the recreational user ever would—the color is precisely what we all know it is, but the head's better than expected. The heavy carbonation forms a quick and persistent head; the bubbles stop rising after 10 seconds, but a half-inch of proper foam sticks around for a bit. It smells relatively mild, with hints of brown grass and pink gum. The taste is more than adequate. It has a bit of actual character, with both fruity and bitter flavors. Granted, the fruit is sour apple, the bitterness is the bad kind, and they clash rather than complement. Natty Daddy's great strength is its lack of an aftertaste. A bit of sting sticks around, but no stale beer.
Despite its obvious and expected flaws, this is a fine example of the form, and I will be tipping all future college-aged deliverymen in Natty Daddy.