Recession Time Drinks

6 02 2010

Back in December, in our very first Friday Open Comments, long-time friend and co-host of Power Forge Radio, Neil suggested a segment on cheap beers to drink for those of us who are young and do not have a lot of disposable income to be spending on beer. This is the result of that suggestion (We take your comments very seriously here).

While the economists have decided that a technical recession is over, unemployment is way up! A lot of Americans are unemployed, under-employed, under-paid, or they may just be feeling insecure about their financial future. When disposable income decreases, many aspects of a person’s quality of life have to be sacrificed. This includes beer. I know that I, for one, was underemployed this past summer. I stopped going to the bars and I went from purchasing craft and imported beer to purchasing American Macrobrews.

To honor those who are sacrificing their beer quality for the sake of their pocket books, I set up a tasting of five dirt cheap American Macrobrews. All the beers had to be less than $5 for a sixpack and they were all light American lagers. I then invited five friends over to have a blind taste testing of the beers. Judges were asked to comment on appearance, aroma, taste and mouthfeel. They were then asked to rate the beer on a traditional A-F scale. Where A is Outstanding and F is Fail. I recorded their reactions and will post the results below. Beers were revealed after all the samples were complete.

First, the judges.

Audrey is a bartender here in Washington, DC. Her favorite beer right now is the Spaten Dunkel. Her favorite beer when feeling broke is Abita Purple Haze because she knows where to get it for free. She loves eating french fries with her beer. And she hates drinking while working.

Benton is a 23 year old blogger. His favorite beer right now is the Schneider Aventinus. Like the true native Texan he is, his favorite party beer is Shiner Bock and he loves Lone Star when he feels broke. He loves eating cheese flavored crackers with his beer. And enjoys drinking beer in the shower.

Peggy K. Wong is a 22 year old employee at the Department of Justice. She is currently planning a blog on food and food culture called Pegs in a Blanket. Her favorite beer right now is Blue Moon. And she likes drinking Pyramid at parties. Her favorite broke-time beer is Miller. And she loves pizza with her beer. Her ideal spot for pizza and beer is outside on a sunny day. Her least favorite beer is Steel Reserve.

Rachel Lord is 26 and is one half of the masterminds behind the folk-rock band Ugly Purple Sweater. Rachel’s favorite beer right now is Magic Hat #9 and enjoys drinking Yuengling lager when she feels broke. Much like Peggy, Rachel likes eating pizza withe her beer and also enjoys drinking beer outside. Her least favorite beer is Bud Lite and she does not like to drink in the morning.

Sam McCormally is 25 and is the other half of Ugly Purple Sweater. His favorite beer right now is Goose Island Oatmeal Stout. He enjoys Anchor Steam at parties. And likes Modelo Especial when feeling broke. Sam rounds out the majority vote by agreeing that pizza is the best food with beer. And he likes to drink on a boat. His least favorite beer is New Belgium Fat Tire. He does not like to drink when it is too hot.

The Challengers after the Jump

Challenger One: National Bohemian. “From the Land of Pleasant Living.” Originally brewed in Baltimore, MD in 1885, this beer is now brewed by Miller. The Mascot, Mr. Boh, has a monocle and the best mustache any mascot could ever have. “Natty Bo” as it is affectionately called has not actually been brewed in Maryland since 2006. But it will always be the Official Beer of Baltimore.

Challenger Two: Pabst Blue Ribbon. The Official Beer of Hipsters (in 2008)! First brewed in Milwaukee, WI in 1893, the Blue Ribbon refers to an award it won in the late 19th century. However, many think that story is apocryphal. It is true that this beer is popular with the hipster community however it has begun falling out of favor lately for Schlitz and Utica Club.

Challenger Three: Miller High Life. “The Champagne of Beers!” High Life was first brewed in Milwaukee, WI in 1903. The slogan, “Champagne of Beers” refers to the large amount of carbonation in the beer. And Miller’s clear glass, low shouldered bottles are quite distinctive.

Challenger Four: Busch Beer. “Cold as a Mountain Stream. As Smooth as its Name.” Originally brewed as Busch’s Bavarian Beer in 1955, the first new beer for Anhueser-Busch since prohibition. Playing off the rising success of Coors beer, the beer was relaunched in 1979 as Busch Beer the beer for active, outdoorsy, types. Their website features hunting tips, NASCAR results, and tips for hiking and camping.

Challenger Five: Icehouse. “Ice Brewed Below Freezing!” Icehouse is the first commercially brewed icebeer, where the beer is frozen in order to remove water and concentrate alcohol levels. This is about the cheapest of the cheap beers, where I got 48 oz. for a $1.50. Ratebeer gave it a score of “1”.

The Tasting!

The Results!

National Bohemian- All agreed it was pale and clear. Rachel noticed the good head retention. Audrey noted “color of canola oil.” While most agreed that the aroma was subtle. Both Rachel and Audrey noticed a slight, fruity note. And Audrey even got a hint of yeast to it. The taste is crisp and thin. With Audrey noticing a bit of citrus. All agreed it is not very hoppy. Benton likened it to licking the bottom of a keg (we are not really sure how he knows that-nor do we want to know). All agreed that the mouthfeel was crisp, dry and refreshing.

PBR: All agreed that it was a darker, more golden shade of yellow as compared to the Natty Bo. Rachel noticed there was less head but larger bubbles. All agreed that this beer has little to no aroma. Audrey noticed a faint whiff of hops. Overall, people found this beer light on flavor but better than the Natty Bo. Every one found the mouthfeel a bit bigger and creamier with a linger.

Miller High Life: Every one noticed a dark golden color. Sam described as “piss”. But Rachel noted one would be pretty dehydrated to piss that dark. Rachel also noticed a big, bloomy head to it. Sam and Rachel both smelled sour apples. While Audrey smelled dirt. Benton could not smell anything from it. And Peggy called it “Nice.” Peggy said the taste was “light” but enjoyed it. That was the best that could be said for this beer. Sam remarked “Blah” and Audrey noted “gross”. Benton remarked that the mouthfeel was “smooth” while Peggy said it was “bubbly.”

Busch Beer– All agreed that it was very pale with very large bubbles and good head retention. No one really could find much of an aroma. Although Peggy found some hops after looking pretty hard. Benton wondered if his palate was off since he could not taste a difference. But Sam said it was so “bland it is kind of refreshing.” Audrey liked it a lot at first. But found it “turns shittier as it progresses.” All were in agreement that mouthfeel is flat, shallow and watery. Peggy summed it all up with “meh.”

Icehouse- All agreed this was the darkest of all the beers. It was described as “orange” and “pale gold.” Some noted that it was “murkier” than the others. And that the bubbles were numerous but not distracting. Peggy got no aroma. While Audrey got a hint of bready toast. And Rachel notice that it was “super fruity.” Peggy said that had a nice, lingering taste. While Audrey said it was well balanced. Sam believed it was the most flavorful of the whole bunch. Peggy noted a “round” and “refreshing” mouthfeel. While noticed a “cooling” and “coating” effect.

The Final Tally!

Each judge scored the beers for overall impression on a tradtional A-F scale. In the chart below, each judge’s lowest score is bolded in black. While the highest score is bolded in red. And now, with no further ado….The final tally.As one can clearly see from the chart above, Icehouse was the surprise, upset victory! Heads and shoulders above the rest, our judges preferred Icehouse over all the other beers. And at 5.5% ABV and $1.50 for 48oz. It is also the best bargain. So, drink up you recessionistas! And enjoy an Icehouse with confidence!




One response

15 02 2010

Thanks for the post Alex! In my friends group the cheap beers of choice are PBR and Low Life so this test was a great match up for us. None of us had ever tried Ice House before so after reading this we all tried it and now it’s taken over. It’s cheapness, High ABV and more filling taste has made it our “go to” cheapie. Thanks again!

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