I Had Some Very Bad Beer
Have you ever seen a commercial for something and found yourself half appalled at the item being sold and half curious about whether or not it’s any good? The first time I saw an ad for Budweiser Platinum, I felt that way. “Gross,” I thought, followed quickly by, “But what if it’s actually really good?”
So I saw that ad. I watched my idol Stephen Colbert repeatedly swig Bud Light with Lime on his show. And I read an article in “Consumer Reports” in which Big Flats — yes, the $2.99-a-six-pack beer from Walgreens — scored pretty well on a blind taste test. And I had a great idea (or a horrible idea, depending on how you look at it). I told David and our friends that we should have a crappy beer taste test, like X-E did with the Jones Soda Holiday Packs in ’04 and ’05. We’d sample the beers anonymously and determine if any of them are any good.
Everyone was enthusiastic about this idea — even more so once David proposed we get some Doritos Tacos Locos tacos, as none of us had tried them. And since we’d be holding the party shortly after the Fourth of July, I decided to make the famous America Cake seen on Regretsy and 17 and Baking.
I wanted to have about 10 people sampling the wares so we could have a broad spectrum of opinions; but stuff came up at the last minute (OR SO EVERYONE SAID) (just kidding; I love you guys), so it ended up being just me, David, and two members of our powerhouse trivia team, C and W. They brought over some craptastic snacks to use as prizes for whoever accurately guessed the crappy beers being served. They included, but were not limited to:
- Slim Jims.
- Pork rinds.
- Baconnaise. (Spoiler alert: I think this is going to end up someone’s white elephant Christmas gift.)
They also brought avocados, and W made this amazing dish that involved avocado slices and numerous spices. I could’ve eaten a ton of them. Actually, I think I did.
In the interest of fairness, we divided up the crappy beer taste testing into 3 categories:
- Light beers. This included Keystone Light, Bud Light, Natural “Natty” Light, Miller Light, and Coors Light.
- Regular beers. This included Coors, Pabst Blue Ribbon, a mystery beer (it was Fireman’s 4), Bud Platinum, and Big Flats.
- Weird beers. No need for blind taste-testing on these, as it was pretty obvious which one was Budweiser with Clamato and which one was Bud Light with Lime.
I kept the Rounds 1 and 2 beers in the garage fridge. I’d fill up a pitcher with one or two cans, then would go back into the house and serve everyone from the comfort of the kitchen / dining area. That way, people had no idea what they were drinking (well, except me). And as the night wore on and I started spilling more beer on the floor while pouring it, it didn’t matter, because it was just the concrete floor in the garage.
Here’s how it all went down, Charlie Brown.
First up was Keystone Light. David described it as “vaguely beer-like.” Others thought it sweet, almost green apple-like. It was guessed to be both Natty Light and Miller Light. I thought it tasted really close to water. (I don’t remember what W said and I can’t find her comment card, but I think we should all take another moment to virtually appreciate that amazing avocado thing she made.)
I served Bud Light next, noting to myself that it was a darker color than Keystone Light. David, who guessed it right, called it “not bad” and “slightly better than the last one.” C (who I should mention is a champion homebrewer and a serious beer expert) thought it had no flavor and was also slightly sweet. He guessed it was Natty Light.
Natty Light was next. This was one of the first beers I’d ever drank; a friend (who shall remain nameless because of his stellar law career) purchased it at a convenience store close to Harvard that never checked IDs. David noted how heavily carbonated it was; I pointed out that I’d poured it really fast, but C assured me that wouldn’t affect the carbonation amount. David also said he thought it was “a reasonable approximation of beer,” and guessed it was Miller Light. C thought it had some mouthfeel and that it was Coors Light.
Up next was Miller Light. By this point, I was stuffing my mouth with America Cake, and the 3 cans of cream cheese frosting on it were biasing my taste buds. David thought this beer was nothing special, noting it had more color than the last one. C wrote, accurately, “Tastes like all the others.” Both of them thought it was Keystone Light.
Last was Coors Light. It was my favorite; I reported that it has a “nice, beery taste.” C thought it tasted sulfury. He guessed it was Bud Light, but David — who just wrote “?” on his comment card — guessed it correct.
David, who got two out of five, won the round for most accurate guesses. He won a Twinkie.
Good old Coors was up first. Earlier in the day, David had told me that President Ford had Coors shipped to the White House by the truckload because it was that good, and because it wasn’t available on the east coast. So I expected people to begrudgingly rave about it. Nope. While I thought it had a good flavor and reminded me of Bisquick beer biscuits (a staple of my childhood), C thought it was too sweet and David scribbled down “Malt – adjuncts!”, whatever that means. David guessed it right, but C thought it was Bud Platinum. How wrong he was.
I served PBR next. David thought it was Big Flats; he was not impressed by it. C could taste hops in it — a flavor none of the other crappy beers contained. He thought it was Coors.
Next up was the mystery beer. David wanted to throw in something he loved as a palate cleanser, but Fireman’s 4 is too hoppy for me. C took one sip, looked up, and said, “Is this Fireman’s 4?” Amazing.
I gave everyone Bud Platinum next. None of us were really expecting what we got. I thought it smelled perfumey. C noted it tasted a bit like cider; I agreed. He wrote on his comment card, underlined, “Do not like.” David wrote, “Bad. Very bad.” He guessed it correctly, while C thought it was Big Flats.
The final offender was the much-maligned Walgreens offering (and partial inspiration for the whole night), Big Flats. David thought it was PBR. “Worst,” he wrote. C, who also thought it was PBR, noted it too smelled sulfury. I agreed. Also a popular consensus about Big Flats: that it tasted how farts smell. A cool refreshing can of Big Farts, anyone?
I refused to try the Budweiser with Clamato because that just sounded foul. After David took a swig and ran to the sink to spit it out, I knew I hadn’t missed anything.
Surely, I thought, Bud Light with Lime couldn’t be too terrible. But that was a weird one. The lime flavor was strong and chemical. You know how refreshing it tastes when you squeeze a slice of lime into a beer? This was the opposite of that. W noted that it tasted like some margarita beer her friends liked. David wondered who the hell would buy this; my vote was with fraternities and other massive consumers of crappy alcohol who wanted to get something “for the chicks.”
We took a moment to look back and survey our accomplishments that night — all the empty beer cans and bottles, the crumpled Doritos Tacos Locos wrappers, bits of America Cake here and there on the counter. Then we doused ourselves in Off and played croquet in the backyard until the sun disappeared (and until the mosquitoes attacked us anyway).
Oh, David also guessed the most number of beers in this round (though, to be fair, he also knew what the mystery beer was). He won some pork rinds. But really, we all had some pork rinds, so we all won.
Going into the crappy beer taste test, it was easy to assume that all light mass-market beers are pretty interchangeable. But by the end of the test, well, I still assumed the same thing. Some of them are more watery than others, but they’re all mild and inoffensive — unless you’re offended by mildness. C told us a story about some guy in Spec’s swearing to him that PBR is really good once you add some water to it. WHAT.
As for the “regular” beers, the worst offender (Bud Platinum) was something we’d never buy normally. I don’t understand why it has to taste so strange, though. Did market research indicate that people who wanted more alcohol in their mass-market beers wanted a perfumey, cider-esque taste as well? Or was it just cheaper to make it taste that way?
I’m also kind of stunned about how well Big Flats ranked on the “Consumer Reports” taste test. Maybe we just got an especially sulfury six-pack. Not like I’m going to try it again and find out, though.
All in all, I’d say the party — small and foul-tasting as it was — was a great success. While it wasn’t cheap, David and I found several of the beers available in large single cans at a nearby convenience store, so each flavor was about a $2 investment. We had some laughs with some good friends, we played croquet, we made a wizard’s staff out of the beer cans (pictures not currently available), and David had his first Funyun. Yes, we also found out that Doritos Tacos Locos tacos are actually really good, which is a little scary. But that might’ve just been in comparison to the crappy beer.
Copyright 2012, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.