“Remember this?” Budweiser asks, in a new commercial promoting covid-19 vaccines. What follows are a series of snapshots of the before times, when we swigged at the barbeque, sloshed around at the bar, flung beer all over each other at the frat. Jimmy Durante croons, with nostalgic record cracking, the World War II-era hit “I’ll Be Seeing You.” It lands on an indisputably good message: “Good times are coming. Now we have a shot.”
What is Budweiser playing at?
I want people to get vaccines. I want good times. But Budweiser can not wash down a year of sad beer. At-home alcohol consumption rose by 14%, and according to the New York Times, store beer sales increased by 13.4% during the pandemic.
Budweiser is concocting a memory filtration scheme, and I, for one, will not have it.
We drank. We drank salad dressing because we were hungry. We drank three-day-old water from a Camelback. We drank olive juice to test hangover cures because we tested things. “We” is me (I can’t know what you guys have been doing with your shame!), but the point is that I hate beer, yet if it were in the house, sure. Who can be bothered, I might have thought, quitting a search for affordable wine, because the bodega’s right there and it doesn’t sell wine.
For some, beer was a public utility. The viral Pennsylvania nonagenarian holding the “I NEED MORE BEER!!” sign while she was on her “last twelve cans.” Virtual chug sessions. Beer bread, Corona sunrises. Literally anything transformative involving available liquids, which was apparently beer.
We don’t need good times to drink, as we did not throughout our nation’s bleakest hours. During the Great Depression, the number of bartenders rose slightly from 125,122 in 1930 to 128,342 in 1940.
There’s Budweiser’s big problem—the absence of group drinking. CNBC has attributed Budweiser’s 6.8% revenue drop in the first nine months of 2020 to the closure of bars and arenas, cutting off lucrative revenue streams from more socially acceptable beer hats, which don’t count because slowly getting hammered together doesn’t count as drinking but celebrating an American pastime. Budweiser decided to divert funds from a Superbowl ad toward vaccine access and awareness.
That’s great! But lazy, disgusting beer captured the indelible essence of quarantine culture. The cheap stuff, the kind of trash you mindlessly pound with unbuttoned pants to make room for your belly, subconsciously waiting for the call to go out that will not come. We will remember. Or not. Budweiser knows.