Brew Biz: Werts and All

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.


The Topic: Worst Beer in the World?

There has been a lot of noise on the net about Olde English 800 3.2 being the worst beer in the world. Why am I suspicious? The full 800 is merely a mediocre’ malt liquor: a style that was marketed at first in an attempt to encourage young Blacks to show their manhood by becoming alcoholics in the 70s. For some odd reason this pissed off the African American community. Go figure. Some smaller brewers got burnt by that campaign despite the fact they offered sans the racist marketing, simply because major brewers, who weren’t sensitive enough to promo without racist assumptions, screwed it up for the other brewers. Go figure again.

The term “malt beverage,” just so you know, is not the same. It’s all gotten very legal where malt beverage is a term brewers must use for various reasons that go far beyond the focus of this edition of Brew Biz. Malt liquors from those days, and those still around like 800, tend to use cheap ways to pump up the abv. Corn. Rice. Squeezed kidneys from diabetics that just ate a whole box of donuts.

Kidding.

They tend to be a bit harsh and not a lot of complexity. Kind of like very weak Ice Bocks without quality ingredients: essentially instead of brewing quality, freezing, removing water, you just put it up with sugary crap.

A 3.2 Malt Liquor is an oxymoron.

But I also can’t imagine it is “the worst beer.” The worst beers are the ones the customers usually don’t get: seriously infected, or like the Experimental dirty diaper beer I mentioned last edition. Luckily customers get little of this these days because shipping methods and distribution has improved. Except in some of the craft beer industry not pasteurizing is the norm. But craft beer brewers are usually fanatics about rotation and freshness for beers that require a sell by date. And with some high alcs it might not matter as much depending on how well the product is racked and stored: better with age.

And then you have a few of the super low carb, very low cal beer. “Worst” because they’re not brewing beer, they’re selling fizzy water that’s often far less palatable than beer.

And before 800 3.2, in second place, I would put beers that brewers screw up on. This is a tough category because taste buds vary. There are fans of Sam’s Triple Bock, the 30 weight, 100,000 drained motor oil I mentioned. Some might consider many Belgian beers in this category, but actually their brewing skills have managed to create a niche’ for beer brewed with yeast many brewers once considered infected. Still: not to many folk’s tastes. Saranac does a great job with various styles, but to me their Caramel Porter might as well be liquid Worthington Drop. I don’t mean to knock an otherwise great brewer dedicated to brewing more styles than Yuegling brewers can imagine. That’s not a fair. More styles than AB which attempts to brew… many of which are brewed poorly compared to either Yueg or Matt’s Saranac. But it’s AB, now know as InBev. What did you expect?

But that’s all a matter of taste, just like a specialty 3.2 800 would be. Bad? Obviously. But “worst?” Nah, not really.

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Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting 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.”

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