Monday, March 7, 2011

The One In Which We Drink Beer

Welcome to our second ever The Bottle is a Wonderland Taste TestTM. This test is radically different than our previous one, though.   In fact it is almost a complete departure from the spirit of TBIAW because we are testing light beer instead of liquor.  “Spirit”, get it?  I crack myself up.   Anyway, we felt that we hadn’t mixed things up in a while and that this would be a fun way to do it.

We didn’t think that reviewing beer instead of liquor was enough of a change, though, so we added additional twists.  For the first time, we did a review away from the comforts of the Bottle Wonderland Estate.  Instead we tested in a remote mountain location so removed from civilization that there was no Internet connection.  In addition to making me very twitchy and discombobulated, the lack of Internet also meant that Saturday’s post did not go up as planned even though it had already been composed.  This was a disappointment to me and a dozen of our fans.
Where is the Starbucks and the free Wi-Fi?

But wait, there’s more.  We also had two additional reviewers, which doubles our previous record for guest judges.   With the four of us trapped in the mountains with no Internet connection, it was a miracle we could focus on the task at hand, but somehow we managed.  We did get a new appreciation for what those Uruguayan rugby players went through when they were trapped in the Andes and had to eat each other to stay alive, though.  They probably didn’t even have DirecTV like we did, giving them the edge in isolation.

We shall call our guest judges Mr. and Mrs. M.  We have known them for years and hang out with them quite a bit. One night out I had ordered a Smuttynose Imperial Stout and Mr. M ordered a Miller Lite.  We began talking about the beers and the idea came up to test light beer.  Mr. and Mrs. M both drink Miller Lite when they have light beer.  Mrs. Bottle and I tend to drink Bud Light.  They think Bud Light is terrible and we feel the same way about Miller Lite. 

After we had our vodka test we began to wonder if there was really any difference in these popular beers.  We decided to throw in two more top selling light beers and make it a real match.  Between the four of us, we would determine which crap beer would reign supreme.
Four Beers Enter, One Beer Leaves

Let’s meet the contenders:

Bud Light – Bud Light is the best selling beer in America and it weighs in at 110 calories per 12 oz. bottle.   The beer snobs aficionados over at Beer Advocate rate it a D-.  According to their web site it is one of the first light beers in the world, it has all-natural ingredients, and it is one of the freshest beers in the world.  Three things I don’t really care about. Oh yeah, they also say it has a crisp, clean, smooth taste.  It also happens to be the beer that President Obama had at the beer summit a couple of years ago, so it is either All-American or All-Kenyan, depending on if you are Mike Huckabee. In other news, Glenn Beck recently proved that Bud Light is both socialist and fascist.

Coors Light – According to them, Coors Light is The World’s Most Refreshing BeerTM. According to Beer Advocate, it is the world’s most grade D beer.  It has 102 calories beer bottle.   There are a few notable things about the Coors Light web site.  The first is that in addition to the pointless age “verification” that all beer sites have, they ask you for your state. So in addition to knowing you were born on 1/1/1901, they will know you live in Alabama.  At least that’s what they know about anyone who picks the easiest choices on their menus.  The second is that once you are in the web site proper, “Beer” is the fourth item on their menu.   What are they trying to hide? It is behind NASCAR, but ahead of Español. I don’t know if that is a statement on immigration reform.

Michelob Light – “Michelob Light is a full-flavored, rich-tasting light lager with surprisingly low calories and carbohydrate content”.  That must be why it scored a D+ from Beer Advocate. It has 123 calories, by far the most of any of our competitors.   In theory that should give it an edge in flavor.  I think it must. Their web page also says it has hints of spice and citrus, light body, a subtle citrus finish, a round malt character, crispness, spicy malts, tangy hops, and caramel flavors.   That is more flavors than the buffet at Golden Corral.

Miller Lite – Miller Lite’s 96 calories are the fewest calories of any of our contenders.  It also scores highest in creative writing for the spelling of “lite”.  I always hated that “gh” in light so I’m glad someone finally got it rite.  According to their web site, Miller Lite has a three-step brewing process which consists of creating flavor, developing balance, and locking-in taste. It must be good because it makes Miller Lite taste “insanely great”.  I know that is accurate because the D+ from Beer Advocate ties it with Michelob Light for the best score heading into our challenge.

We are finally to the test!  Similar to last time, the testers did not know which beer he or she was sampling.  The four beers were poured into identical cups and lettered A-D.  Each tester then sampled the beers and ranked them from favorite to least favorite.  Once the rankings were complete the beers were revealed.

Ready for testing!
As you can see from the picture, there was not much difference in appearance from beer to beer.  They were all a pale yellow.  Before tasting I tried to determine if there was any noticeable difference in smell but they all pretty much smelled the same.  How did they taste?  Here are the results:

Mrs. M Mr. M Mrs. Bottle Mr. Bottle Average
Bud Light 1 1 2 1 1.25
Michelob Light 2 4 1 3 2.5
Coors Light 3 2 3 4 3
Miller Lite 4 3 4 2 3.25

The winner was Bud Light, and it won convincingly. Three out of the four of us had it ranked number one, and the fourth had it ranked second.  The most interesting aspect was that both Mr. and Mrs. M had Bud Light ranked #1 when both of them thought they hated it prior to the test.    They both had their go-to beer Miller Lite ranked near the bottom which just added insult to injury.

Mrs. Bottle had predicted before the taste test that she would have Michelob Light ranked number one since it had the most calories and she was right.  She felt that Michelob had an unfair advantage and that Michelob Ultra would have been a better comparison.  Perhaps we will test that once we finish all the other beer we don’t want that is sitting in the Bottle Wonderland Fridge.

The truth is that there was not a ton of difference between any of the four. The comment heard most often during testing was “they all taste the same”.  I suppose this shouldn’t really have been a shock.  From my perspective the Bud Light and Miller Lite were so close I had trouble picking a favorite.  I thought Bud Light had the least flavor of any of them, making it the least offensive and therefore the winner.

The Michelob Light definitely had more flavor than any of the others, but to me the flavor was a bit skunky so that made it rate lower.  It says it is ideally served in a pint glass, so maybe that was the problem. I found the Coors Light the worst of the four and I made the helpful note of “Yuck” on my score sheet.  Maybe if I had been drinking it straight from the bottle I would have liked it better.  After all, the label turns blue when it is cold. This is helpful if you have no sense of touch.  Not as helpful as having no sense of taste would be, though.

We all know that none of these are great beers, but they serve a purpose. I find a nice cold Bud Light refreshing on a warm day or if I want something cool without a clashing flavor when enjoying a hot bowl of chili.  We learned that Mr. and Mrs. M like Bud Light the best as well, even though they didn’t know it.  At the conclusion of the test Mrs. Bottle asked them if they were going to switch to Bud Light and they said “no”.  The good news for them is that it hardly matters.

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