Brew Biz: Werts and All

Topic for this edition of Brew Biz: Worst Beer Ever

Written by Ken Carman

So many bad beers. So much wasted time. So many times my taste buds have been offended.

Oh, sure, there have been a small number of beers I’ve judged that might wiggle their way into this category, though amazingly few. Plus I believe it’s unprofessional and wrong to include them. Homebrewers who enter their beer spend a lot of money and time brewing and entering beer. They deserve respect. They do it to get feedback, not slammed in public in front of who knows how many people. Also, in any good competition, I don’t know whose beer I am judging, and if I find out I shouldn’t judge it. And such brewers are not in the same category as those who mass market beer, especially the major brewers.

Probably the worst beer I’ve ever had from a craft brewery was out of Lafayette, Louisiana. I’ll be polite and respect the dead… brewery, and not mention their name. It was infected and a few brewpub brewers like Todd Hicks and Steve Fried told me they had an ongoing problem with sanitation and shipping their beer.

But this isn’t about infected beer. This is about beer that, while technically what it is supposed to be, is just bad.

The worst beer I’ve ever had was Zima. A malt-based wine cooler-like product it combined the worst of all alcoholic beverages: cloying to the point of wanting to jackhammer it out of my mouth, slick… I think I spit it out on first taste. Made by Coors, then Miller/Coors, Wiki says it was marketed, not as beer, but “alcopop.” Though if we were to add a musical spin to it I would call it, “alcobubblegum.”

I can hear the song now…

“Yummy, yummy, yummy, I’ve got… barf.”

Regrettably, I was in two out of three test markets: visiting relatives while touring through the Utica/Syracuse area for my shows, and Nashville during the late 80s and the early 90s.

I don’t care how they classify it or claim they market it. I know for a fact this when this vile creature flooded the market: at parties, at bars; everywhere the fix was in. In my opinion it was an all too obvious of an attempt to get beer drinkers to not fight, wuss out and switch.

Didn’t work all that well, did it?

So, to write this edition of Brew Biz, I pulled out my beer boogie board and surfed the tasteless foam of beers mentioned by other sites/topic boards as “the worst.” Probably the most mentioned beer was Michelob Ultra.

So nice to find that others would include this tasteless fizzy fizzle of a… beer? I don’t have it as my number one simply because to be “worst,” in my opinion, I have be able to make some kind of comments about taste. I can’t: like I also can’t with most low carb beers.

I feel the same way about Bud Select. They probably should have called it “Un-Select” because they decided to select as little malt and hops as possible. And where did they find a yeast so neutral even that it manages to add nada, to nada, to nada? I seem to remember thinking even thinner in nature than Ultra. With Ultra I thought I sensed some malt way in the background, or something of that nature. Maybe a roach that managed to wiggle its way into what some dare call a “mash?”

It’s been a while, and I refuse to buy more just to offer the kind of comments I already know I’m going to make. I haven’t tried the Select 55 yet. I can’t imagine it’s better.

There are some beers I could include here, but I won’t. Billy Beer? Well, unfortunately for all you Billy Beer haters out there, Billy Beer was brewed by several breweries and the one who brewed what I sampled back then made a pretty good beer. It was F.X. Matt, in Utica and I’m guessing some liberties were taken with the recipe, if there really was one. FX’s version was actually fairly hoppy for the time, unlike the tasteless swill I’m told others tasted.

Many Miller products top my list. Miller likes to use corn as an adjunct. “Vegetal” is not one of my favorite defects, even though in the style Miller brews it may not be considered a defect; depending on how much of the cornfield you the brewer has shoved into your glass. Sometimes I wonder if they even bother doing a double mash helpful with such adjuncts, or if they just throw raw unpeeled corn on the cob into the fermenter while saying, “Aw… shucks.” (Or would that be, “Aw, un-shucks?”)

As with all things beer, it is a matter of taste regardless of what beer judges, the AHA, the BJCP, brewers, Siebel, or anyone else says. If you like it: enough people like it, then it should be sold, or at least homebrewed. So this is all a matter of opinion. But I was surprised how many posters on the net agreed with me regarding Mich and Bud.

Here are just a few quotes with links embedded into them from one site…


“It had no flavor at ALL.”-HogieWan

“If I was blindfolded and someone handed me a Mich Ultra, I honestly believe I would misidentify it as club soda.”-Payson

“…far beyond any of them in its complete lack of flavor, and the lightning-like speed with which the head disappeared immediately…” -Wit Memo Jeff


(All from realbeer.com)

I also found this list at ratebeer.com where they did a survey. Generally, I agree with a lot of their choices. A lot of malt liquors I’ve had are astringent and take that lager/sulfur-ish zing to a new level of yuck, and then yack.

But… remember, tis a matter of taste.

And while surfing I discovered what I thought was good news…

On October 20, 2008, MillerCoors LLC announced that it had discontinued production of Zima…

Only to be brought down by the rest of the sentence…

…choosing instead to focus on other “malternative” beverages.

“Malternative?” Oh, boy. Keep me in suspense. I mean, really, please keep me in suspense. Forever. I can wait. Really, I can. And while you wait forever can you, excuse me? I’m going to go cleanse my palette with something from Ommegang, North Coast, or maybe a nice Anchor Foghorn.

No, “Yummy, yummy, yummy… barf,” there. Just…

“Yum!”

-30-

Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to review, discuss and comment on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”