By Nicole Rogers
The genesis of the blind beer tasting was a simple force of circumstance. One evening, restless and trapped at the house due to adverse weather conditions, the decision was made to walk to the local convenience store for beer. In the absence of a decent beer selection, an idea was born: to have a blind beer tasting of cheap domestic lagers and find out once and for all which was the best and which was the worst. The tasting was hasty and ill conceived, however. And more importantly, one of the judges had already gone to bed by the time it got started. Still, it yielded some interesting results. So one year later the decision was made to repeat the tasting, but to do it right this time. Hence, the Blind Bad Beer Tasting of 2010 was born–bigger, badder, blinder and much better (and yet so much worse) than before.
The logistics of preparing the blind beer tasting was difficult enough, and so we decided to go with the scoring system over at the Beer Advocate instead of inventing our own. The full scoring system can be found at:
Appearance – Note the beer’s color, carbonation, head and its retention. Is it clear or cloudy? Does it look lackluster and dull or alive and inviting?
Smell – Bring the beer to your nose. Note the beer’s aromatic qualities. Malts: sweet, roasty, smoky, toasty, chocolaty, nutty, caramelly, biscuity? Hops: dank / resiny, herbal, perfumy, spicy, leafy, grassy, floral, piney, citrusy? Yeast will also create aromas. You might get fruity or flowery aromas (esters) from ales and very clean aromas from lagers, which will allow the malt and hop subtleties to pull through.
Taste – Take a deep sip of the beer. Note any flavors, or interpretations of flavors, that you might discover. The descriptions will be similar to what you smell. Is the beer built-well? Is there a balance between the ingredients? Was the beer brewed with a specific dominance of character in mind? How does it fit the style?
Mouthfeel – Take another sip and let it wander. Note how the beer feels on the palate, as well as its body. Light, heavy, chewy, thin / watery, smooth or coarse? Was the beer flat, or over-carbonated?
Drinkability – The beer’s overall ease of consumption and your overall impression of the beer. Would you have another?
All beers were tasted blind and the results were revealed by matching the letters to a key when the tasting was finished.
The tasting started on an inauspicious note–it was definitely one of the worst beers we tasted.
“It’s the color of urinalysis.”
“Like Water Gone Stale.”
“I don’t understand how it manages to be both bitter and sour.”
“This is not a promising start.”
Overall Score: 43
Reveal: Milwaukee’s Best
The second beer was a big step up from the first. Mainly, it mainly just tasted like water and with these beers, that’s a good thing. One of the judges actually claimed to taste a hint of citrus here; the rest of us just laughed.
“There’s a steady head here, like frothy urine instead of just urine.”
“Really? Because I don’t see any bubbles.”
“I smell metal.”
“This is a lot lighter in taste than the 1st one, more watery, like, no taste.”
“I wouldn’t want to drink this, but I could do a power hour with this.”
“We should use this as a palate cleanser instead of the corn chips.”
Overall Score: 64.5
Reveal: Natural Light
We knew right off the bat that this one was going to be especially bad since there was coughing as we tried to smell the beer. This was also the first time (but unfortunately not the last) that someone insisted that the beer must be skunked because it couldn’t intentionally taste that bad.
“Wow, there are foul notes here.”
“I know this smell; it smells like a port-a-john.”
“Tastes like phlegm.”
“There’s something seriously wrong with this one. It’s like you try to drink it, but your gag reflex automatically coughs it back up.”
“I feel like I’m tasting garbage.”
“That beer mouth raped me.”
“No, seriously, what the hell is this?”
Overall Score: 37
Spirits were very low after the last beer sample. We were discouraged and worried about the insurmountable task ahead of us. Bravely, we soldiered on. Though there was much laughter after I said: “This color is actually ok. I think it’s going to be full flavored, you know, not a light beer.” But besides that we didn’t really have all that much to say. Perhaps because it was so bad, but indistinctly so.
“The Smell is? Rice?”
“The mouthfeel makes it worse. If you guzzle it down really, really quickly, it probably wouldn’t be so bad.”
Reveal: Busch Light
Though there was coughing as this one was tasted, relatively speaking, it didn’t end up being that bad. There was also an extended debate about whether or not this one tasted like cinnamon or if we just felt that way because one of the judges insisted repeatedly.
“It looks good. Remember that’s all some of the beers are going to be able to do.”
“There are spices in this smell. Cinnamon?”
“It looks good, but tastes terrible.”
“It tastes like soapy cinnamon and expands in the mouth. There’s too much carbonation or something.”
“This taste lingers unfortunately, Like I burped up soap suds.”
“I don’t think I could finish more than 4 of these.”
There was at least a minute of silence after we tasted this beer until someone finally ventured, “taste?” A minute or so of laughter followed. It was at this point that we seriously started to question the wisdom of this tasting.
“Less head. Smells like rye and a little bit of sugar.”
“Smells like there’s some ingredients in this one!”
“I taste chemicals.”
“This is a real party ender; this comes out and people go home.”
“My burp tastes bad.”
This next beer was unremarkable. That’s meant as a compliment.
“Is it me or do all these beers look the same?”
“I smell rice.”
“It’s like sour bread; not sourdough bread, like bread that’s been spoiled.”
“Tastes like an eraser.”
“Well, it’s not the worst thing I’ve had tonight.”
“I don’t feel strongly about this and that’s probably a good thing.”
As we smelled the next sample, one judge described the aroma as piney and floral. After we finally stopped laughing, the aroma was also described as creamy, black, and a little coarse.
“There’s lots of bubbles.”
“Inoffensive taste! It’s not bad! It doesn’t fight back!”
“I’m actually enjoying this, especially compared to everything else.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“So far it’s my light beer of choice.”
Beer: Bud Light
The score of this one ended up being surprisingly high. Especially when compared to the comments.
“Tastes like rye. It’s a familiar taste.”
“It takes about 4 sips to realize exactly how undrinkable this is.”
“It gets worse the more you drink it.”
“I gave it a high mouthfeel score because I don’t want to swallow it.”
“I think… it just sucks.”
Again we questioned whether this beer skunked or just really bad.
“Appearance… looks like another 2!”
“I think I smell garbage again.”
“I taste steel; it’s metallic for sure.”
“My tongue hurts.”
“The mouthfeel is not what’s offensive about this beer… it’s the taste.”
“It’s gonna be rater higher than it should be because the more I’ve drank the more generous I’ve become.”
“I could drink this, but I wouldn’t want to.”
Reveal: Miller Lite
This one was seriously awful, even comparatively. One of the judges started gagging, and there was much groaning that followed. It was very difficult to continue after this… spirits were low indeed.
“Looks exactly like all the others.”
“I know what this is from the smell.”
“It’s a different kind of bad; it’s worse.”
“The layers of badness that come out over time are incredible.”
“Again, I instinctively want to throw this up. The gag reflex continues all the way down and I have to consciously override it.”
“It’s like a funeral in my mouth.”
Reveal: Ginny Lite
Most of the comments here were positive, which was surprising. It got my pick for the best beer of the night, though the high scores were later debate as being due to novelty, since none of us had ever had this beer before.
“Smells like paint thinner and green apples.”
“It tastes a little fruity! I totally taste the apples.”
“It’s the yeast.”
“You guys are messed up.”
“I like this one. I would buy this and serve it at a wedding.”
Reveal: Keystone Light
Since the last one was actually palatable, we were ready for a letdown. Honestly it could have been a lot worse.
“Sour. Not a very good taste.”
“This is a big letdown after the last one that tasted like delicious, delicious apples.”
Before we get to the comments here, I’d like to make a note that this score were seriously inflated since we all guessed what it was due to the color and one judge gave it 5s across the board. This will be known as the Great Controversy from here on out.
“Actually looks like beer.”
“Smells like sweet, wet bread.”
“I taste alcohol. Not a lot, but there seems to be some in this one.”
“Oh! God!” (not good)
“God damn!” (also not good)
“I don’t think I have the words to describe how this offends me differently than the others.”
“Like working on Christmas.”
Score: 72.5 **58.75 adjusted score
Renewed after the pep speech, we soldiered on.
“I can read your shirt through this beer.”
“I smell nothing; I taste nothing.”
“I also taste nothing.”
“I taste fizz.”
“I taste carbonation”
“Eh, like water.”
Reveal: Michelob Ultra
The only thing that cheered us at this point was that there were only a couple samples left to go.
“It’s getting worse the more I drink of it.”
“I can’t give it a low score.”
“I think I’ve been poured Natural Light like 9 times.”
“Indistinct (that’s a compliment).”
Reveal: Miller High Life
Unfortunately for us, we saved the worst beer by far for last.
“There is zero head on this.”
“Appearance = crappy.”
“This is gonna be bad; that’s a bad smell.”
“It feels like a rake in my mouth.”
“It’s definitely a low score.” *shudders*
“Yet another one where I have to override my gag reflex.”
Reveal: Coors Light
|5||Miller High Life||62.5|
|10 (tie)||Miller Lite||51.5|
|13||Milwaukee’s Best Premium||43|
We take a moment to pose with our personal favorites. Understandably, one of the judges was unable to make a clear decision, since there were so many contenders. And honestly, why choose just one?
So what did we learn from this little experience?
First and foremost that Judge Henderson is a dirty, dirty cheater. It was an unethical move to throw the results just because someone is under the impression that Yuengling is not a horrifying beer. With Henderson’s score taken out and the other four averaged, the total came out to 58.75 which places Yuengling squarely in the middle of the pack at 8th, a much more realistic result.
Second, it was no surprise to this judge that Coors Light came in last. I’ve maintained for years that it’s the absolute worst beer available, and that has nothing to do with the fact that it was the only beer on tap at the pub in college—well, almost nothing.
Third, while we were all surprised that Bud Light came out on top, there were no real winners here.
Finally we learned that we never, ever want to do this again… at least in 2010. See you next year!
**Nicole is a guest contributor and the co-owner of Better Tours of Asheville a local tour company which offers several different tours, including pub crawls.