Odds are, the name of your first beer ended in something like “light” or “ice” and it tasted like the inside of the can. You can sit there sipping your Duvel or your Chimay Rouge, buddy, but are you really going to pretend you never snuck Schlitz and Old Milwaukee out of the fridge in your parents’ garage? We assembled five stubborn craft beer fans to do a blind tasting to rank seven common inexpensive beers. The results were surprising.
Setting the mood
Smooth jazz was spinning on the record player. Tasting glasses from Harpoon and Sam Adams were set out on Jack’s Abby coasters. If the beer wasn’t fancy, at least we were. Each taster was told to grade the beers on a scale from 1 – 5. Because they all said that they wouldn’t normally order cheap beers anyway, we leveled the playing field for the ranking system by agreeing on a scale where a “1” represented “ew, no,” a “3” stood for indifference, and a “5” meant they’d actually choose to drink it in a situation where budget or selection circumstances made cheap beers the only option. This was far from scientific, but science wasn’t quite the point. Results at bottom. Links to goofy old commercials throughout. Yes, these were all real slogans.
The Taste Test
Pabst Blue Ribbon, 4.74% abv
Chosen slogan: “Pabst — a lot to look forward to.”
Selected tasting notes: “Very, very, very slight … hoppiness.” “The aftertaste makes me want to keep drinking, to wash out the aftertaste.” “Like Honeycomb cereal that had water poured over it instead of milk.”
Miller Lite, 4.17% abv
Chosen slogan: “Everything you always wanted in a beer. And less.”
Selected tasting notes: “Not great, but not terrible.” “Worst smell. Very … pee.” “Romantic nights. Hearty laughs. Dense beards. Would recommend to a friend.”
Budweiser, 5% abv
Chosen slogan: “When you say Budweiser, you’ve said it all.”
Selected tasting notes: “Well, it’s … pretty cold.” “This reminds me of the smell of my apartment, post-college parties. Budweiser?” “Reminds me of the pizza window at Punters. Also, the color is terrifying.”
Heineken, 5% abv
Chosen slogan: “Buy a pint of Heineken, or we’ll keep running this commercial.”
Selected tasting notes: “It tastes like … a metal flower.” “Leaves the longest and most unpleasant aftertaste so far.” “Chrome-plated plant flavors.”
Busch Light, 4.10% abv
Chosen slogan: “Head for the mountains of Busch.”
Selected tasting notes: “It’s a GET DRUNK beer. Really just tastes like nothing.” “Goes down my throat so unnoticed that I thought it was safe to breathe while drinking it.” “Stale aftertaste.”
Natural Ice, 5.9% abv
Chosen slogan: “The difference is what we put in. And don’t put in.”
Selected tasting notes: “I don’t hate this. Actually rather crisp.” “One of the better tasting.” “I think this is groundwater mixed with seafoam for aesthetics.”
Coors Light, 4.2% abv
Chosen slogan: “It’s no downstream beer. It’s no city beer. It’s Coors.”
Selected tasting notes: “Please don’t make me drink this again.” “Skunky. Horrible aftertaste. Burnt hair.” “It’s like you baked a loaf of bread in my mouth.”
1. Miller Lite (3.22); 2. Natural Ice (3.1); 3. Busch Light (2.98); 4. Pabst Blue Ribbon (2.64); 5. Budweiser (2.18); 6. Heineken (1.54); 7. Coors Light (1.26)
Needless to say, everyone was pretty embarrassed at how much they liked Natty Ice. Of course, nobody present changed their feelings on cheap beer — for these craft enthusiasts, it still remains a last resort (though this Irish band actually likes last place Coors Light). But one thing they all agreed on was that these brews brought back memories. Stories were swapped of first tastes of beer, college bashes and beiruit tournaments gone by, and cleaning up record numbers of empties after parties.
What did these beers taste like? Water. Metal. Piss. Nostalgia.
Let’s never forget where we came from, fellow beer geeks.
Bonus: Here’s Lando Calrissian trying to get you to drink Colt 45. “It works every time,” eh?