Bottom of the Barrel

March 4, 2009

I’ve sampled a lot of beer in my time and I’ve been lucky to have tried some really awesome brews. Trying that many beers ensures that a person will also sample some really bad-tasting brews as well.

I try not to dwell on the poor quality beers and focus on the tasty ones but I often get asked “What are some the worst beers you’ve ever had?”

So, here is a partial list of some awful beers. You’ll notice that the list is dominated by American-style macrobrews. These are my least favorite beers as they lack originality and are usually made with cheap adjuncts, such as rice, and watered down with copious amounts of….water.

So, without further ado, here are some pretty terrible beers. If at all possible, avoid them like a pair of scratchy underpants:

Iron City – I tried this Pennsylvania brew when I was at a baseball game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park during the summer of 2008. My buddy tried it a couple of years prior and told me it’s a Pittsburgh tradition to drink Iron City before, during, and after sporting events. Well, I tried one and let me tell you: it was terrible! It had a harsh taste of low quality hops combined with a watery, semi-beer like flavor. I’m glad that I tried it, simply for the fact that I’ll never have to drink it again!
Schlitz – This was the weapon of choice for the monetarily-challenged college students I hung around with during my freshman year of undergrad. I was the farthest thing from a beer connoisseur back then but I could still tell that this one was freaking lousy.
Bud Ice

Bud Ice Penguin

Bud Ice Penguin

While this is really a bad beer, it brings back a lot of good memories. I drank a good amount of this one during my sophomore year of undergrad with a good buddy of mine. For some reason, possibly attributable to the truly heroic amounts of beer we drank back then, my memory is hazy as to why we started imbibing this rather foul brew. I have a strong feeling, however, that it is due to the catchy commercial for Bud Ice at the time, which featured a crooning penguin, singing a sanguine soliloquy from the song “Strangers in the Night”. While my thirsty friend and I were downing Bud Ice after Bud Ice, we would make feeble attempts at a 2-part harmony, modeled after the singing penguin of the commercial: “Doo bee, dooby doo!” Needless to say, our pathetic version of ‘singing’ came after downing large amounts of this truly awful beer.
Keystone Light – I took one sip of this once and spat it right back out. Tasted like beer flavored water; I ended up pouring the rest of the beer out.
National Bohemian (popularly known as Natty Boh)

Natty Boh

Natty Boh

This was brewed in Baltimore for over 100 years and its corporate logo, a mustachioed, winking Victorian-era gentleman, is a proud emblem of the gritty, blue collar, working class denizens of Charm City. I spent over 8 years attending college and completing my first masters degree in Baltimore, so I was able to soak up a lot of the colorful local culture. For many Baltimoreans, there is nothing better than kicking back on the Chesapeake Bay with some hot crabcakes and an ice-filled cooler stocked to the brim with plenty of Natty Boh. While I always appreciate a finely-crafted Maryland crabcake, I have been slow to warm to the intricate pleasures of Natty Boh. It is a watery concoction that seems to be missing a little something thebeerdrinker likes to call ‘flavor’. During my halcyon college days, this was long the choice of cash-strapped college kids looking to partake in some liquid social lubricant at an ultra low price. I have to sheepishly admit that I drank Natty Boh, albeit begrudgingly, when my funds were tight and I wanted to take the edge off after a long day (and night!) of studying.
Busch Light – There’s something I’m realizing about the vast majority of beers on this list. I drank most of these while I was in my first few years of undergrad, when I didn’t know squat about beer and I was dead broke. Busch Light is no different. In a similar vein to the rest of the beers on this list, Busch Light reminds me of long nights during my freshman year of college, carousing with my beer drinking buddies in our dorm rooms, watching endless rounds of sports on TV, or entertaining accommodating young college co-eds at college parties. We used to call Busch Light ‘suitcase beer’. Okay, let me set the scene for you: we used to go to the local liquor store and buy as many cases of Busch Light as our meager funds would allow. We would then get to our car and pack it into large suitcases so we could inconspicuously smuggle back into our dorm. Looking back, however, I realize just how ridiculous we must have looked. You see, we had to walk right past the dorm front desk personnel carrying empty, and therefore light suitcases, only to come back about a half hour later, lugging suddenly heavy suitcases, filled up with Busch Light, right past the same personnel. Why they never stopped us and asked “Hey, whatcha got in the suitcases” I’ll never know.


Leinenkugel Brewery Review

March 3, 2009

Yes, the name is hard to pronounce but this Wisconsin-based brewery makes number of very very tasty beers. I’ve had every active beer that they make and am only disappointed by one of them.

In addition to their regular fare, they also make a mind-boggling number of specialty and seasonal beers as well.

Leinenkugel’s Original – Relatively standard fare; a strong taste with a crisp hoppy finish.
Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss – I really enjoyed this one. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it really grabbed my attention. I heartily recommend it.
Leinenkugel’s Red Lager – This one was my first introduction to the brand and it made a deep impression on me. Strong notes of malt combined with a sharp lager flavor made me want to go out and try the entire stable of Leinenkugel beers….which I eventually ended up doing!
Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark – While this is advertised as a ‘dark’ beer, it is not a stout. Rather, it is more of a dark lager. With that out of the way, I enjoyed the roasted malt flavors of this beer, much in the way that I would a thick, malty stout.
Leinenkugel’s Light – I’m not fan of light beers but this one didn’t disappoint. It still had that strong characteristic Leinenkugel flavor, so I really can’t complain about it too much.
Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss – I was unprepared for the amount of fruit flavor in this one. I’m not sure how they managed to pack ‘the taste of Fruity Pebbles’ into this beer (as a friend of mine aptly described it) but it is a delicious combination! If you don’t like fruit beer, avoid this one. If you are on the adventurous side, then give this one a spin. It is quite possibly unlike anything else you’ve ever tasted.
Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat – This one was not very tasty to me. It didn’t live up to my expectations for a wheat beer. It didn’t pack the full flavor profile that I expect from a Leinenkugel beer. The only beer from this brewery that I didn’t enjoy.

Canadian Brew

March 3, 2009

I used to drink a lot of Canadian beer (Molson Ice was my favorite). There is a pretty decent selection and, for the most part, they taste pretty good. On the whole, they are much better than their American macrobrew cousins.

If you are north of the border and are able to get your hands on something better tasting than the run of the mill Canadian beers, then by all means do so.

Otherwise, please familiarize yourself with these tasty offerings from our friends in the Great White North of Canada:

  • Moosehead
Moosehead Lager

Moosehead Lager

  • The Molson Family
    • Molson Golden
    • Molson Ice
    • Molson Canadian
    • Molson Dry (only available in Canada)
    • Molson XXX
  • Labatt Blue
  • Alexander Keith (only available in Canada)
Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale

Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale

  • Unibroue (only available in Canada)
Selection of Unibroue's

Selection of Unibroue's


February 27, 2009

Every good blog makes sufficient use of tags in its posts and, by golly, will be no different!

My series of tags are grouped thusly:

  • Rating System
    • fave
    • very good
    • meh
    • not so good
    • swill
  • Origin
    • Domestic
    • Imported
  • Beer “Nationality”
    • Dutch
    • German
    • Canadian
    • Belgian
    • British
    • Australian
    • Asian
    • South American
    • Italian
    • Irish
    • Mexican
  • US Region of Origin
    • New England
    • Mid Atlantic
    • MidWestern
    • Western
    • Southern
  • Type of Beer
    • Ale
    • Lager
    • Porter
    • Stout
    • Wheat beer (weizen)
    • Fruit beer
    • Bock
    • Oktoberfest (marzen)
  • Brewery Name
    • Sam Adams
    • Shiner
    • Saranac

thebeerdrinker reserves to right to add, modify, or delete tags as I see fit!

Rating System

February 27, 2009

So, after trying hundreds of beers, I often get asked: how do you ‘rank’ the beers that you’ve tried?

Well, I’ve tried to come up with a serviceable and succinct way to convey my beer evaluation process. I’m still fine-tuning it but I think I’ve got a working ranking structure that I’m finally ready to unveil.

This list is ordered from most desired to least desired, with the corresponding italicized blog tag associated with it and an example:
All-Time Favorite (fave). This rating indicates that this beer is at the top of my list and I would go out of my way to drink it. Example – Guinness
6-pack worthy (very good). This rating indicates that I like this beer and would drink it on a regular basis. Example – Heineken Dark
Just Okay (meh). This rating indicates that the beer is just so-so. I’ll drink it but definitely be looking to upgrade to something better if at all possible. Example – St. Pauli Girl
Hangover in a Can (not so good). This means I don’t care for this beer and, if I drink it at all, I probably won’t drink much of it. Example – Coors Light
I’d Rather Drink Water (swill). This exclusive category is reserved for the worst of the worst; the true bottom of the barrel. I don’t plan to review many beers at this end of the taste spectrum as I have come to realize that life is too short to drink crappy beer. Examples – Natural Light Ice, Red Dog, Bud Dry


February 26, 2009

The Spoetzl Brewery in Gambrinus, Texas, produces the fine family of Shiner brand beers. The good people at Spoetzl take great pride in the quality of their product and strive to ensure that each bottle meets a rigorous inspection prior to being shipped to its salivating consumers.

I’ve tried most of the delicious offerings from the Shiner brand; the meticulous brewing standards and inventive flavors have made me an extremely loyal customer. Here is a listing of the beers from Shiner:

Shiner Bock

Shiner Bock

Shiner Bock

– the ‘granddaddy’ of all Shiner beers and their best known offering. It has a beautiful amber color with a very smooth finish that is packed with a lot of flavor. It has earned a place amongst my all-time favorities. It is relatively easy to find across the country. I suggest the next time you are making a beer run to pick up a sixer of this tasty beverage!

Shiner Lighthaven’t had this one yet. I think I’ve only seen it in the DC metro area once, maybe twice and I wasn’t dying to try another light beer at the time. I will definitely pick it up in the near future and give it the proper review it deserves.

Shiner Blonde – I was slightly disappointed with this one. It was a little like Miller Lite to me, which is far from a compliment.

Shiner Hefeweizena strong wheat flavor that will not disappoint fans of a hearty Hefeweizen.

Shiner Bohemian Black Lagersurprisingly tasty. I wasn’t sure what to expect but this one definitely has the standard Shiner taste that I’ve come to expect and love.


Shiner Holiday Cheer

Shiner Holiday Cheer

Shiner Holiday Cheer

this winter ale is, quite simply put, a virtuoso masterpiece of beer making. It is mouth-watering composition of succulent, ripe peaches that blend harmoniously with hints of pecan, all swirled melodiously with a nice balance of hops and malt.

Shiner Spezial Leichtintroduced to the market to compete with low-carb offerings such as Michelob Ultra and other light beers from the big 3 American brands: Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. The Spoetzl Brewery now plans this one as a summer seasonal.

Specialty Brews

(adapted from Wikipedia) In 2005, Shiner began producing a yearly brew in a progressive, anticipatory celebration of its 2009 centennial anniversary. The centennial program began developing and producing one special celebratory beer each year in small batches. The name of each such specialty beer corresponds to the age of the brewery: Shiner 96 was the specialty beer of 2005, Shiner 97 was the specialty beer of 2006, and so forth.

Shiner Anniversary Beers

Shiner Anniversary Beers

Shiner 96 – Marzen Style. – I haven’t been able to find this one; it has probably not been brewed in a while.

Shiner 97 – Bohemian Black Lager. — The demand for this one was so great that they now make this a staple beer, available all year round. See my review of it above.

Shiner 98 – Bavarian Style Amber – This was pretty good, but not on the same level as Shiner Bock. Definitely better than any American macrobrewed swill but nothing to write home about.

Shiner 99 – Munich Style Helles. This was probably my least favorite Shiner beer of all time. It tasted similar to a Budweiser, which is not a favorable comparison. Shiner 99 does score points for a strikingly attractive label, which is rather different from most beer labels on the market.

Shiner 100I was really excited to try this one. Now that I’ve had it, I have to say that it is probably not one of my favorite Shiner beers. It has a really unique taste that I’m struggling to find a suitable comparison to. Again, it is not the best Shiner beer out there but it is definitely worth picking up a six pack.

What I’m Drinking – 02.25.09

February 25, 2009

After all (or at least most) blog entries, I’ll be detailing what is the most recent beer that I’ve tried. It may be something hard to find or exotic but then again, it might just be something relatively standard that I picked up from the liquor store on the way home.

As always, please feel free to comment or suggest something new for me to try!

Lately, I’ve been trying to sample beers from obscure places across the globe. Here are a couple of beers I’ve had from different foreign countries:

  • Quillmes (Argentina)
  • San Miguel (Phillipines)
  • Cerveza Suprema (El Salvador)
  • McSorley’s Dark Irish Ale (New York City) – McSorley’s is a world famous Irish Bar in Manhattan. They brew and bottle their own beer; it just started being distributed in the DC metro area.


February 25, 2009

The Matt Brewing Company, located in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, brews a delicious family of beers called Saranac. An easy way to try a lot of different Saranac offerings is to take advantage of their seasonal sampler packs. They have quite a few, such as the ‘Trail Mix’ sampler, the Summer Sampler, and a Winter Sampler.

Vanilla Stouta surprisingly tasty stout. Not quite on the level of a standby like Guinness but has a nice smooth flavor. Only available in the 12 Beers of Winter Sampler Pack.

Adirondack Lagera mediocre German amber lager. Quite standard fare; nothing to write home about.

Black and Tanone of Saranac’s more famous offerings. A nice balance of bitter and smooth stout and lager flavors.

Pale AleA solid offering but it ‘pales’ in comparison to the India Pale Ale.

India Pale Alesimply a delicious beer. I don’t particularly care for IPA’s, as a rule, but this one is much smoother than most that I have tried.

Black Forestthis dark lager left me rather disappointed. I’m not sure what I was expecting but something is missing from this beer’s taste profile.

Belgian Whitehaven’t tried it yet.

Lager haven’t tried it yet.

Pomegranate WheatI was suspect about trying this one. The taste is slightly odd; the marriage of pomegranate and wheat should have been annulled during the taste testing process at the Saranac Brewery. I will give them kudos, however, for thinking outside of the box while creating this one.

India Brown Alea deliciously flavored brown ale with subtle malty notes. Only available in the 12 Beers of Winter Sampler Pack.

Extra Special Bitterdidn’t care for this one. The entire flavor profile seems a bit muddled.

Season’s BestI believe this was Saranac’s attempt at a winter ale. This beer is a synthesis of a valiant effort combined with a poor execution. Definitely not one of my favorites.

Bohemian PilsnerThis was decent if not a little ‘Budweiser-y’ for me. It’s hard to create an original-tasting pilsner and Saranac didn’t hit the nail on the head. Only available in the 12 Beers of Winter Sampler Pack.

Sam Adams

February 25, 2009

The Sam Adams Stable

Sam Adams is world renowned for their wide variety of beer offerings. Basically, whatever type of beer you like, they brew it!

By my modest count, there are 21 regularly available Sam Adams beers. I’ve sampled 18 of them:

Boston Lager – the standard Sam Adams beer. Crisply hopped, good flavor; available pretty much everywhere.

Sam Adams Light – I was wary and hesitant to try this one at first but I was pleasantly surprised. It tastes a great deal like the regular Boston Lager.

Boston Ale – a solid domestic ale with a hoppy finish.

Cherry Wheat – I would be hesitant to label this as a ‘wheat beer’ but the Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams, are known for their marketing prowess. I used to drink a lot of this; it is very tasty due to a cherry flavor that is delicate and not overpowering.

Cream Stout – a delicious stout that competes with industry stalwarts like Guinness.

Hefeweizen – a true wheat beer. Nothing special but probably a good introduction to wheat beers for the newcomer.

Black Lager – pleasantly surprising. I enjoyed it.

Honey Porter – Decent but slightly disappointing. Didn’t have a robust porter flavor.

Irish Red – Not one of my favorites. Reminded me of Killian’s.

White Ale – Didn’t enjoy it. Not on par with Blue Moon and other American-produced Belgian Style beers.

Double Bock – this heavy hitter weighs in at over 8.5% ABV. Drink a few of these bad boys real quick and the room will start spinning! The alcohol content, however, doesn’t overpower a delectable flavor.

Summer Ale – very light and imminently drinkable. Not one of my favorites; the taste is a little disappointing.

Octoberfest – my all time favorite Sam Adams beer. Rich, complex flavor that perfectly fuses hearty malts and smooth hops. When it comes out in the fall, I advise that you stock up with a twelve pack…or 2!

Winter Lager – a decent winter ale that is tasty, yet pales in comparison to other more flavorful and robust winter ales on the market.

Old Fezziwig Ale – simply a terrible beer. One of my least favorite Sam Adams products. Only available in the Sam Adams Winter Sampler.

Cranberry Lambic – another one of my all time favorite Sam Adams. While not a true Lambic, this has a savory maltiness with a delicate yet tasty undercurrent of bittersweet cranberries. Worth buying the Sam Adams Winter Sampler just for this one!

Holiday Porter – another disappointment courtesy of the Sam Adams Winter Sampler. Possibly mislabed as a porter; it tastes more like a watery dark lager.

Imperial Pilsner – one of the newest Sam Adams offerings, this brew is by far the hoppiest beer I’ve ever tasted in my life. The marketing geniuses at the Boston Beer Company tell us that this one has 4 times as many hops as a ‘normal’ beer. Not being terribly fond of hoppy beers, I couldn’t even drink all 12 ounces of this slogfest. Needless to say, I plan to never drink this one again.

Some of My Favorite Beers

February 25, 2009

After trying several hundred beers (and counting), several of them stand out. For easy reading, I’ve group them into categories such as Light (Ale/Lager), Dark (Stout/Porter), Seasonal, and Fruit-Enhanced.



A tasty Smithwicks beer!

A tasty Smithwicks beer!

an extremely delicious Irish red. It’s a perfect balance of roasted barley and hops with a beautiful ruby red hue. I’ve heard it frequently pronounced as “Smiddicks”. This has a strong malty flavor that is pleasing to the palate, along with subtle notes of noble hops.

Chimay Blue Labelworth the exorbitant price. Easy drinking like a light beer yet packed with Old World Flavor. Chimay also comes in a White Label and a Red Label.

Anchor Liberty AleI’m not usually a fan of Anchor Steam beers but this is my favorite one.

Shiner Bockvery smooth and packed with a lot of flavor. I’ve had a lot of the Shiner beers; they rarely disappoint me.



A freshly poured pint

A freshly poured pint

the epitome of what a stout should be. Smooth, creamy, yet slightly bitter. This tasty concoction is available everywhere; it is especially delicious from a tap. When buying at a liquor store, the tallboy can with the ‘widget’ inside is a much better choice than the bottles. The tallboys fully capture the creaminess of the Guinness because the widget releases nitrogen into the liquid when the top of the can is opened.


Shiner Holiday Cheerthis winter ale is, quite simply put, a virtuoso masterpiece of beer making. It is brewed with a mouth-watering recipe utilizing ripe, succulent peaches that blend harmoniously with hints of pecan, all swirled melodiously with a nice balance of hops and malt.

Samuel Adams Oktoberfest – a delicious mixture of smooth malt and crisp hops. It has a lovely amber color and intriguing mouthfeel. Probably my favorite Sam Adams offering.

Flying Dog OktoberfestI’ve never cared much for Flying Dog products but this is by far my all time favorite. Tasty, well-balanced, and easy to drink.


Pyramid Apricot Weizen

Pyramid Apricot Weizen

Pyramid Apricot Weizen

I was skeptical about this one before I tried it but it is a rather impressive beer. Sweetly flavored with harmonious notes of apricot and wheat that combine well with a mild balance of hop and malt.

Wachusetts Blueberry Ale

Wachusett Blueberry Ale

Wachusett Blueberry Ale

I discovered this tasty New England regional beer while attending grad school in Cambridge, Massachusetts but was wary of trying it as I don’t particularly care for blueberries. This quirky quaffable quickly established itself as one of my favorite beers as it embodies a mildly sweet blueberry flavor and is packed with lots of solid, balanced flavors.

I’d like to drink a lot more of it but I can’t find it in the Mid-Atlantic area. I’ll have to stock up on this tasty beverage during my next trip through New England.