“I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer.”
That’s what Homer Simpson whispered to himself at a Tupperware party hosted by his hateful sisters-in-law, Patty and Selma. Normally, Homer would have survived such an occasion by drowning himself in Duff, but this particular party took place right after he failed a breathalyzer test and swore to Marge not to drink for a month. And so, he was forced to sit throughout the party entirely sober, which almost pushed him to the brink.
But what, exactly, was Homer depriving himself of?
To be fair the The Simpsons version of Budweiser, I always felt like Duff was some kind of crappy, low-alcohol beer – barely enough to justify such desperation. Besides, all cartoon beers – like king of the hillis Alamo and family guy‘s Pawtucket Patriot – struck me as lame dad beers, as opposed to the more interesting craft beers I’m a fan of.
Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe there’s more to Duff and Alamo than meets the eye. So, in an effort to understand the most iconic cartoon beers a little better, I enlisted a master brewer to rank them by their ABV. First, the Duff beer itself…
Type: blond beer
Estimated ABV: 5 percent
Cartoon: The simpsons
Brewing analysis: To determine Duff’s ABV, I thought it might be helpful to look at real Duff beer, which is a real thing in the Springfield USA areas of Universal Studios theme parks. So I turned to David Butler, founder of Florida Beer Blog, who reviewed Duff when he arrived at Universal Studios, Florida. Butler tells me that the Duff he had at Universal Studios was “an American Pale Ale that was lightly hoppy, with an ABV of 4.8 percent.” While it looks good to me, it doesn’t quite look like the Duff we know and love. The simpsons.
Its Wikipedia page describes it as “a stereotypical mass-market parody of American lager: cheap, shoddy, and heavily marketed everywhere.” The name “Duff” even has that one-syllable sound like “Bud,” and the mascot “Duffman” is a direct parody of the old school Budweiser Bud Man mascot.
Brewer Matt Wiley – who holds a degree in fermentation development from Brewlab in the UK – also notes that Duff looks like Budweiser too. “Unlike smaller breweries, which would probably only use malt in their beer, many of these domestic light lagers, like Budweiser, use a high percentage of corn and rice, both of which are light in color.” That’s why beers like Bud have that light, amber hue, which is usually how Duff is portrayed in The simpsons (although the color may vary from episode to episode).
Given all of this, Wiley feels it makes more sense to give Duff the same ABV as Budweiser, at five percent.
2) Pawtucket Patriot Ale
Type: blond beer
Estimated ABV: 5 percent
Cartoon: family guy
Brewing analysis: If Duff is Budweiser, family guyPawtucket Patriot Ale should be Sam Adams’ Boston Lager. Not only does the Colonial-looking guy on the bottle look like Sam Adams, but the beer also has a slightly foggier look, much like the Boston Lager. Some online have claimed that due to the color, Pawtucket Patriot is an English bitter ale, but Wiley disagrees, saying Pawtucket Patriot is “far too light to be bitter”.
But Boston Lager is a, well, lager, while Pawtucket Patriot Ale has “ale” in the title, and there is, indeed, a difference between the two. “Ales and lagers are made with two different types of yeast,” says Wiley. “Lager beers are made with yeast that works well in cool temperatures, while the yeast in ales works best in warmer temperatures.” When it comes to flavor, Wiley says yeast in lagers “creates less volatile tastes” while yeast in ales can impart a wider range of flavors. None of this matters because despite its name, Pawtucket Patriot Ale is do not a beer at all – it’s a lager and we know that because of a historical episode of family guy.
In season 13, the Griffins visit Springfield in a crossover with The simpsons. In the episode, it is discovered that Pawtucket Patriot Ale is actually just Duff beer with a different label stuck on the front. It’s meant to be kind of a metaphor for how family guy copied many elements from The simpsons, but the episode’s events are indeed “canon”, as it does not take place in a dream or an alternate reality. Basically, Pawtucket Patriot Ale is just Duff, making it another lager with a 5% ABV.
Type: blond beer
Estimated ABV: 4.72 percent
Cartoon: king of the hill
Brewing analysis: There’s an actual Alamo Brewery, but unlike Duff Beer at Universal, it’s not a licensed property based on the TV show. “I trademarked the name ‘Alamo’ in 1994, but it took until about 1997 for my first product,” Alamo Brewery founder Eugene Simor tells me. “I first realized king of the hill when I was watching the Super Bowl in 1997 and, during a commercial, there was Hank Hill buying a six-pack of Alamo beers. I thought, ‘Oh shit, I hope all my brand stuff is in there.’ Later my lawyer told me I was fine. So I didn’t worry anymore after that.
In fact, these days, Simor embraces comparison with king of the hill, sharing that he is a fan of the series. The description of the Alamo’s “Golden Ale” even mentions mowing the grass, Hank Hill’s favorite pastime.
That said, the Alamo beer in king of the hill is very much based on Lone Star beer, which is called “The National Beer of Texas”. Not only is Alamo Texan in the same way, but Alamo and Lone Star beer cans look alike. More convincingly though, Lone Star was originally brewed by the original Alamo Brewing Company dates back to 1884, a decade before Anheuser-Busch bought them in 1895.
Since Alamo is supposed to be Lone Star, Wiley says it makes sense to just use the attributes of Lone Star, which is a lager with an ABV of 4.72%.
4) Bender Brau
Estimated ABV: 4 percent
Brewing analysis: In the 59th episode of Futurama, Leela and Fry decide to brew beer inside Bender. Throughout the episode, Bender acts like he’s pregnant, and when it comes to naming the beer, he says, “I was thinking BendërBrau if it’s a beer, Botweiser if it’s a lager .” At the end of the episode, Fry shouts “It’s a beer!” when Bender gives birth to the brew.
The difficulty in determining the ABV of this beer is that it doesn’t have a mainstream equivalent like Duff or Alamo. Also, he only appears in one episode of Futurama, so there is not much to do. Wiley says the label here is the most telling evidence, as it reads: “Cold Fusion Steam Beer.” Historically, vape beer was beer made with lager yeast but at beer temperatures, so it’s considered a hybrid between the two, but it’s, technically, just a lager. There’s also a modern company called Anchor Brewing that makes a beer called Steam Beer, but that’s also a blond beer. Still, because we know BendërBrau is a beer, I’m going to say “Cold Fusion Steam Beer” is just bullshit that Fry and Bender put on the label.
To determine the ABV of BendërBrau, I turned to a New Zealand brewer named Simon Jansen who, in 2007, actually built a full-size Bender. More precisely to brew beer. Constructed from steel, copper pipes, pool noodles and many other things, Jansen’s Bender replica was flawless and once that was done, he brewed beer inside Bender’s torso, just like in the show.
Jansen’s beer was also brewed warm, which means it was indeed a beer. From the pictures, it also looks quite dark, which is also true to the beer in the cartoon. For these reasons, I’m going to use Jansen’s ABV, which he reports to be around four percent.
Unfortunately, Jansen tells me that he no longer owns his beautiful Bender creation, having thrown it away a few years ago. Unfortunately, this is just one of many disappointments with this deep dive. Not only is the fermenting Bender no more, but the three most famous cartoon beers are nothing more than boring, mass-produced, mainstream lagers.
Sorry Hank, Homer and Peter, but I’ll stick to my everyday craft beers on Alamo, Duff and Pawtucket Patriot (or should I say Duff?).