Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: Palo Santo Marron
Style: American Brown Ale | ABV: 12.0% | IBUs: 50
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

There exists deep in the Paraguayan forests, a wood known as palo santo, or "holy wood." It's exceptionally strong, tough, and dense, with an interesting resinous character. When Sam and the gang at Dogfish heard about this stuff, they knew they had to brew up a beer to use with it.

They came up with an incredibly high-gravity brown ale strong enough to stand up to the wood. According to a video distributed with the first packs of Palo Santo Marron, the ingredient list is as follows. Chocolate, Crystal, and Black malt along with a dash of wheat create the backbone. As for hops, we're looking at Warrior, Glacier, and Palisade varieties. Everything is brought to life with a Scottish Ale yeast strain.

To imbue the resulting beer with the palo santo goodness, Dogfish crafted a massive tank built of the wood to ferment it in. This tank sits next to two other oak tanks of the same size. Clocking in at 10,000 gallons each, these tanks are the biggest wood brewing vessels built in America since Prohibition.

I've filed it under the American Brown Ale category, but as big and bad as this baby is, you could make a case for it being an American Strong Ale or even an American Imperial Brown Ale (kidding!).

Here's how Dogfish describe the finished product:
An unfiltered, unfettered, unprecedented Brown Ale. [H]ighly roasty and malty [with] caramel and vanilla complexity unique to this ale.
It's a little off-topic, but this bottle cap is one of best looking I've ever seen. So, there's that. Anyway, let's pry off that beautiful cap and dive in, shall we?

Appearance: A thick, inky black body that only lets a trace amount of red-hued light escape. It’s capped by a finger of rich tan head that leaves a few patches of lacing. Far from brown, this looks more like an Imperial Stout than a Brown Ale.

Aroma: Boozy, woody and malty; this is complex and inviting.

Taste: I’ve never heard of Palo Santo wood before, but from what I can tell it has a similar effect on beer that more plebeian woods do, that is to say it lends the brew vanilla and “woody” notes. There’s also plenty of character coming from the alcohol, but despite the massive percentage, it never dominates the flavor profile. While this is far from a traditional Brown Ale, I can see this family resemblance. I suppose you could call the beer underlying all of the fireworks a Brown Ale on steroids, or in the parlance of our time, an “Imperial Brown.” The aftertaste is a brilliant mix of oaky and boozy notes.

Mouthfeel: A somewhat syrupy, full body with decent carbonation and some good burn coming from the alcohol.

Drinkability: Solidly in sipper territory thanks to the profile and alcohol content, this is a beer that demands your attention.

Verdict: I had high hopes for this beer, and they certainly didn’t go unfulfilled. Palo Santo Marron is a big, bad brew with plenty of complexity and personality coming from the wood and booze. A twelve percent Brown Ale aged on exotic Paraguayan wood is the kind of madness we’ve come to expect from Dogfish, and the result is just as good too. I can’t wait to see how this ages in the cellar.

Grade: A

Budweiser Select 55 Review

Brewery: Anheuser-Busch, Inc. | Beer: Budweiser Select 55
Style: American Adjunct Light Lager | ABV: 2.4% | IBUs: ~7
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Pilsener glass

The lightest beer in the world. Oh, boy.

In what appears to be the last stop in the race to the bottom that is the low-calorie beer war, Bud Select 55 has reigned supreme as the lightest beer in the world since its introduction back in 2009. It clocks in at 55 calories (duh) and 1.9 grams of carbs. Pretty sure I've had water more fattening than that on occasion.

AB doesn't provide any information on the ingredient bill besides mentioning "caramel malts and a blend of imported and domestic hopping." Here's how they describe the profile:
Select 55 has a light golden color and offers aroma notes of toasted malt and subtle hopping.
I'm trying my best not to be condescending here (I swear). I suppose these types of beer serve a purpose. I must keep an open mind.

Alright, let's pop the top on this lightweight and see what it's like to drink a beer with the caloric content of three Cheetos and a stick of gum.

Appearance: A perfectly clear golden-straw body capped by about a finger of white head that fizzles out quickly and leaves just a hint of sudsy lacing.

Aroma: A faint and watery mix of sweet grains and a hint of grassy hops.

Taste: A twangy and sweetish rice body accompanied by some weak, almost-implied grassy bitterness. A crisp, clean, and damn-near flavorless aftertaste. Have you ever had Bud Light? How about water? Mix ‘em up and this is pretty much what you get.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied with sharp carbonation.

Drinkability: Besides the fact that it’s bland, industrial beer-water this is a highly drinkable summbitch.

Verdict: If you want a buzz without too many calories, Bud Light already exists. If you don’t like the taste of beer, there are plenty of alternatives out there. If you want to cut the flavor, calorie count, and alcohol content off a Bud Light in half, potable tap water is available in almost all American households. So why the hell does this exist?

Grade: D-

Bell's Two Hearted Ale Review

Brewery: Bell's Brewery, Inc. | Beer: Two Hearted Ale
Style: American India Pale Ale | ABV: 7.0% | IBUs: ~50
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Highly rated beers not available here in Texas are like forbidden fruit for me. I pine for them, add them to a sad little wishlist, and wait patiently for the brewery to start distributing them here. Sometimes though, through various means I won't go into, an unavailable beer sneaks over state lines and I get my grubby little paws on a bottle or two.

That was the case with Bell's Two Hearted Ale. Bell's garner lots of buzz for a host of different beers, including a pair of IPAs: Two Hearted and Hop Slam (a Double IPA). Both have been on my wishlist for years, and a while back, a few bottles of Two Hearted found their way into my possession.

Backing up a bit, let's take a quick look at Bell's themselves. Dating back to 1985 when it was founded by Larry Bell, Bell's is one of the true pioneers of American craft brewing. The company was originally known as the Kalamazoo Brewing Company, named after the city the brewery was founded i, but changed their name to Bell's in 2005 to reflect what consumers called the brewery. They currently brew up a deep portfolio of well over 20 different beers.

Getting back to the beer at hand, it's worth noting Bell's are pretty stingy with the details here. They don't let slip the malt bill, but do note that the only hop used is the Centennial variety, which is employed during brewing, then again for a course of dry-hopping.

Bell's describe the finished product thusly:
Two Hearted Ale is defined by its intense hop aroma and malt balance. [A] remarkably drinkable American-style India Pale Ale.
Well it's been quite a wait, but let's dig into the illicitly totally legitimately sourced beer, shall we?

Appearance: A hazy golden-orange body capped by about two fingers of densely-packed off-white head that fades slowly and leaves brilliant lacing.

Aroma: Lots of juicy, citrusy, and slightly leafy hops over a caramel malt body. It sounds strange, but I get shades or fresh orange juice from time to time.

Taste: Up front, the mildly bitter hops lead the charge and are again juicy, citrusy, and a little leafy. Underneath, there’s a solid biscuity malt body keeping everything grounded. It’s balanced rather nicely, though the focus is (rightly) on the hops. That moderately-high alcohol content is totally masked. Biscuity malt and juicy in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation and a drying finish.

Drinkability: This goes back without any issue whatsoever, and would probably make a great session choice if it wasn’t for the slightly beefy alcohol content.

Verdict: It’s clear why Two Hearted has built such a great reputation; this is just a straightforward, well-crafted, and satisfying American IPA. After this introduction to Bell’s I can’t wait to try another of their beers.

Grade: A+

Anchor Humming Ale Review

Brewery: Anchor Brewing Co. | Beer: Humming Ale
Style: American Pale Ale | ABV: 5.9% | IBUs: 65
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass
Anchor's newest seasonal, Humming Ale hit the package market back in 2010 and slots in as the fall seasonal. Fall beers are usually pumpkin related or malty, so it's always nice to see something that bucks the trend like this American Pale Ale.

Humming is actually a well-established beer term with ancient roots. Instead of a specific style, it refers to a strong, effervescent beer with plenty of character, or just a damn good pint.

As for construction of this particular brew, Humming is built with Two-Row Pale malt and is hopped and dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops. Nelson Sauvin is a relatively new variety (developed in 2000) out of New Zealand with a fruity profile and can be used for bittering, flavor, and aroma.

Anchor is rather spare with the language when it comes to describing Humming, saying only that it is:

[B]old, frothy, effervescent ale, with hints of citrus.
Perhaps it speaks for itself. Let's get cracking and see if this is is really a humming brew.

Appearance: A golden body capped by two fingers of creamy off-white head that fades slowly and leaves great patchy lacing.

Aroma: Lightly spicy and citrusy hops over a mild biscuity malt body.

Taste: Very similar to what the nosed promised, the profile is composed of juicy, delicately spicy, and moderately bitter hops over a calm biscuity malt backbone. Everything is balanced excellently. Husky grain and lingering bitter hops in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and a little creamy with medium carbonation and a drying finish.

Drinkability: Supremely drinkable, Humming is a great accompaniment to an early fall evening.

Verdict: A new Anchor beer is always something to look forward to, and Humming Ale doesn’t disappoint. It has all of the trademark deceptive simplicity, drinkability, balance, and craftsmanship you’ve come to expect from Fritz and the gang.

Grade: A-

Note: While this review is being published in winter, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in fall.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Anchor Summer Beer Review

Brewery: Anchor Brewing Co. | Beer: Summer Beer
Style: American Pale Wheat Ale | ABV: 4.5% | IBUs: 15
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Weizen glass

First brewed in 1984, Anchor Summer Beer is not only one of the first summer seasonals, as Anchor points out, it's also the first American wheat beer in modern times. Truly, we have a proper American pioneer here. While summer wheat brews are standard fare today, this beer was cutting-edge stuff back in the day.

It's filtered, but there's still plenty of protein left for a big head that the brewery describe as "similar to meringue." The ingredient list calls for two-role pale malt and malted wheat (wheat making up over half of the malt bill) along with Golding and Glacier hops.

Here's how Anchor describe the finished product:
Crisp and cool as a San Francisco summer. The crisp, clean flavors of Anchor Summer Beer are refreshingly light, a thirst-quenching American-style filtered wheat beer.
Well, it's the dead of winter now, but let's think warm thoughts and time travel back to summer when this brew was fresh.

Appearance: A crystal-clear golden body capped by a mountain of densely packed white head that fades slowly and leaves nice, patchy lacing.

Aroma: Mild grassy hops over a pale, slightly sweet, and wheaty malt body with just a touch of honey.

Taste: A mix of weak lemony and grassy hops, golden fruit, and grainy malt. Just a little thin and not quite as interesting as the nose suggested. Apples and husky malt in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with smooth carbonation and a clean finish.

Drinkability: An easy drinker if it holds your interest.

Verdict: Up to this point in my journey, the Anchor beers I’ve tried have always been incredibly solid and have held up remarkably given their age. Unfortunately, Anchor Summer Beer just doesn’t live up to the rest of the line for me in the flavor department. I can see this being the right beer for the market back when it was introduced, but today it just comes off as a little too thin and bland for my tastes.

Grade: C+

Note: While this review is being published in winter, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in summer.

Anchor Porter Review

Brewery: Anchor Brewing Co. | Beer: Porter
Style: American Porter | ABV: 5.6% | IBUs: 40
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Dating back to 1972, Anchor Porter is one of the longest surving dark American beers on the shelf today. Like all of the old-school Anchor brews, this is a beer that helped define the American version of its style. Anchor call this the definitive American Porter, and I have to agree with them.

The ingredient bill calls for Two-Row Pale, Caramel, Black, and Chocolate malt varieties along with Northern Brewer hops (added at what the brewers describe as a high rate). Anchor pride themselves on having crafted a dark beer with that's surprisingly light on the palate and define the finished product as:

With deep black color, a thick, creamy head, rich chocolate, toffee and coffee flavors, and full-bodied smoothness, Anchor Porter is the epitome of a handcrafted dark beer.
It's definitely Porter weather outside, so let's dive in to a classic.

Appearance: A dark brown, essentially black body with laser beam ruby-red highlights. Up top, there’s about two fingers of creamy tan-tinged head that feature great retention and lacing.

Aroma: Sweet toasty malt accompanied by mild notes of chocolate, dark fruit, and creamy lactose.

Taste: A sturdy roasted malt backbone with notes of chocolate, coffee, mild spice, and dark fruit. Bitter coffee-ish notes and a good dash of lactic notes cut the malt nicely. Roasted malt and dark fruit in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: A smooth and creamy medium body with good carbonation. The finish dries just a little.

Drinkability: This is a smooth drinker and a brilliant session choice.

Verdict: Anchor Porter is tasty, highly drinkable, and a perfect example of the American Porter style. While it may not be absolutely bursting with flavor, it’s solid and expertly crafted, like every other Anchor beer.

Grade: A-

Anchor Liberty Ale Review

Brewery: Anchor Brewing Co. | Beer: Liberty Ale
Style: American Pale Ale | ABV: 5.9% | IBUs: ~45
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Originally brewed in 1975 to commemorate the bicentennial of Paul Revere's ride, Anchor's Liberty Ale is one of the American beer landscape's most important forefathers. Looking at a beer shelf today it might be hard to imagine, but back when Fritz and company first brewed up Liberty, there were simply no hoppy beers on the American market. This was it.

Not only was it the first hoppy American beer since prohibition, it was also the first single-hop beer and the first dry-hopped beer since the dark days as well. Truly revolutionary stuff here.

Anchor call Liberty an IPA, and it may well have been back when it was new, the market has moved on a little since the mid-70's. Therefore, I'm listing it as an American Pale Ale. I'm not alone in this, as its listed as an APA on virtually every beer site out there.

The ingredient list is about as stripped down and simple as possible, with Anchor only claiming Two-Row Pale malt and fresh whole-cone Cascade hops. Certainly can't get much more pure than that.

Here's how they describe the finished product:
The champagne-like bubbles, distinctive hop bouquet, and balanced character of Liberty Ale revives centuries-old ale brewing traditions that are now more relevant than ever.
So, how will the first hoppy modern American beer hold up now that hops are more prevalent than ever? Let's find out.

Appearance: A slightly hazy golden-amber body capped by two fingers of creamy whitish head that feature terrific retention and lacing.

Aroma: Bright, fresh, citrusy, and floral hops over a slightly grainy caramel malt body—I can already tell this is going to be solid.

Taste: Up front, a wave of brassy and somewhat juicy citric hops lead the way. Underneath, there’s an understated biscuity malt backbone keeping everything in check. The end result is a well balanced English-style Pale Ale with some extra American-style bite. Leafy bitterness and biscuity grain in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and slightly creamy with smooth carbonation and a drying finish.

Drinkability: A perfect session choice, this is a beer that aches for repetition.

Verdict: Back in the dark days, I’m sure it took a pretty exceptional beer to get people back into drinking the hoppy stuff. Liberty obviously fit the bill back then, and is still a mighty tasty brew today. Despite the massive changes this beer has seen in it's 35+ years, it holds up beautifully. Respect your elders.

Grade: A

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Adjunction Junction: The Ultimate American Adjunct Lager Smackdown

I'm finally through with the backlog of reviews from the "apartment days," and it's time to start posting new reviews. To kick things off, I wanted to do something a little special.

Please excuse my intentionally AWESOME graphic
A couple years back, I posted a roundup of Light Lagers as part of The Session #25. It was all a lot of fun, so I wanted to give it a whirl again with their "non-light" counterparts as the first batch of reviews at the new digs. This time though, I wanted to go all out.

With that in mind, I assembled a super team—not dissimilar to the A-Team—of American Adjunct Lagers. Of course, the big three of BMC got the invite this time, sending the first-stringers Budweiser, Coors Banquet, and Miller Genuine Draft. And I had to invite back the regional favorite too, so Lone Star is in. To make things a little more interesting, I wanted to include some classics, so Miller High Life, Schlitz, and Pabst Blue Ribbon all got the call.
No expense spared, like Jurassic Park
All together, that makes seven different American Adjunct Lagers, a team representing the most popular beers in the style. You may think I'm crazy for embarking on this journey, but remember I do it all for you, loyal readers. I do it for you.

Buying them all was a lot of fun. I was able to buy two single 16 ounce cans each of Bud, High Life, and Lone Star, but had to resort to six-packs of Schlitz and PBR. Despite visiting many "beer caves" at liquor stores, grocery stores, and gas stations in the Houston area, I was unable to find big cans of Coors or MGD, eventually settling on twelve-packs of 12 ounce cans. If you're keeping score, that's 42 cans (or four and a half gallons) of American Adjunct Lager that were acquired for this shootout.

Just a quick note on methodology. Reviewing seven different beers at once is never an easy task, especially seven different beers in the same style (double especially if it's such a bland style). Also, I find it hard to write anything that even comes close to making sense after seven beers. With all of that in mind, I took photos, wrote tasting notes, and assigned a grade to each beer separately over the course of a couple weeks. Once all of the beers were done, I sat down with a sample of each beer to compare them against each other to further tweak the notes and verify the relative ranks. Truly, the best of both worlds!

I don't really have a clever hypothesis, question, or even point here, this is just for shits and giggles. Let's dig in!

Budweiser is the best selling version of this style, making it the perfect place to get started. Supposedly the king of beers, Budweiser has virtually become shorthand for American beer all across the world. Unfortunately, it's watery, sweet, and about as bland as a slice of American cheese, making it a rather dreadful ambassador. You can read my full Budweiser review here.

Second up to bat is Miller Genuine Draft (MGD). Originally conceived as a way of emulating draft High Life at home, MGD is not pasteurized, but rapidly chilled and then cold-filtered. MGD has become the flagship for Miller, despite only existing for a scant quarter of a century. For the style, it actually has a pretty robust malt profile, but it still doesn't measure up to the original High Life for me. You can read my full MGD review here.

Representing the last of the big three is Coors Banquet. The beer that launched the Coors empire back in 1873, Coors is a Rocky Mountain original that still leans heavily on the region for its image. It's a well-balanced beer, but ultimately pretty boring. Rather surprising, as it's little brother Coors Light won my light lager challenge. You can read my full Coors Banquet review here.

Representing the local contingent is Lone Star Beer. Lone Star, founded by Adolphus Busch, was the first modern brewery in the state. Today though, the beers are brewed by contract. Like Budweiser, the "National Beer of Texas" is a poor ambassador for its region. It's maltier than most of the beers here, but rather faceless and forgettable. You can read my full Lone Star review here.

Kicking off the retro brews is Schlitz. Not just fun to say, Schlitz used to be one of the dominant names in brewing. There's a 60's formulation version available now, but this is the budget beer version that's kept the brand limping along over the last few decades. It's rather standard for the style, with a nasty metallic twang. You can read my full Schlitz review here.

Next up for the old-schoolers is Miller High Life. Know as "the champagne of beers," High Life dates back to 1903 and was one of the first premium beers in America. These days, it's not quite at the top of the market, but I still quite like it. There's a good mix of grainy malt and lemony hops making it crisp and refreshing without the crushing boringness found in many of the beers here. You can read my full Miller High Life review here.

Wrapping things up for the throw-backs the hipster favorite Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). Pabst is another fallen juggernaut that's been rescued with the new interest in old beers. The flavor profile is malt-heavy, with a slight metallic taste that doesn't ruin the party. The hipsters may be on to something, as PBR brings more character than the big guns. You can read my full PBR review here.

So, how do they shake out? After much deliberation, I present to you my ultimate American Adjunct Lager ranking:
  • In seventh place, Budweiser.
  • In sixth place, Coors Banquet.
  • In fifth place, Schlitz.
  • In fourth place, Miller Genuine Draft (MGD).
  • In third place, Lone Star Beer.
  • In second place, Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR).
  • In first place, Miller High Life.
To be honest though, I can't help but feel like the label on the cans might have influenced my ratings just a little bit. I'm sure my subconscious wanted to like High Life more than MGD, Schlitz more than Lone Star, etc. and I fear that might have had an effect on the ratings. Perhaps I'll have to organize another smackdown like this in the future, but with blind taste testings. Maybe with a few craft lagers thrown in just to throw me off. Hmm, this is sounding like fun...

Anyway, so what have we learned today? Well, nothing really, I suppose. None of these beers are particularly "good," but hey, at least the world now finally knows my preference in American Adjunct Lagers. I know that's been bugging you, world.

You want to know a secret? Sometimes I buy a sixer of High Life. Not only is it handy to have around for guests, but sometimes it's just what I'm in the mood for. Sometimes I just want something crisp and refreshing when I get home from work or when I'm grilling up some burgers. I know a lot of us in the beer world get snobby about these beers, but they have their place.

Coors Banquet Review

Brewery: Coors Brewing Co. | Beer: Coors Banquet
Style: American Adjunct Lager | ABV: 5.0% | IBUs: ~12
Serving Method: 12 oz. can poured into Pilsener glass

First brewed in 1873, Coors Banquet (or Coors Original), is the oldest brand in the Coors stable. Originally brewed by Adolph Coors in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, this is the beer that launched the Coors empire. It's also the beer the Bandit was hauling in the American film classic Smokey and the Bandit. So there's that.

As with the other big brewers flagships, Coors Banquet has been vastly outpaced market-share wise by it's Light counterpart. However, while Budweiser and MGD are still well-known brands, Coors Banquet has slipped somewhat into obscurity. In the last few years, though, Coors has been shaping Banquet into a nostalgia brand in the likes of High Life and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The only ingredient Coors like to push is the water (never a great sign), and they maintain that the 100% Rocky Mountain aqua used gives Banquet it's unique smooth character.

Shall we dive into the Mile High taste?

Appearance: A crystal-clear straw-colored body capped by two fingers of fluffy white head that burn out quickly and leaves no lace.

Aroma: Sweet and grainy malt along with lemony hops that keep everything balanced nicely.

Taste: As the nose promised, the flavor profile is composed of lemony and somewhat grassy hops over a sweet, grainy malt backbone. There’s a bare hint of something buttery in here, but it doesn’t linger long enough for proper identification. It’s about average for the style in intensity (that is to say, weak). A little bit of husky malt in the mostly clean finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with sharp carbonation and a crisp finish.

Drinkability: Same old same old for the style: imminently drinkable for fans of the flavor profile.

Verdict: While Coors Banquet suffers from the same problems as the other beers in the style, it’s balanced better than much of its competition. Balance alone, however, is not enough to win the day.

Grade: D

Budweiser Review

Brewery: Anheuser-Busch, Inc. | Beer: Budweiser
Style: American Adjunct Lager | ABV: 5.0% | IBUs: ~12
Serving Method: 16 oz. can poured into Pilsener glass

Budweiser
Known as the "King of Beers," Budweiser is the most iconic brew in the world and, for many, represents the "default" beer. It's been around for 135 years and serves the flagship product for the biggest brewer in the US. Put succinctly, this beer is a juggernaut.

Budweiser was born out of a trip Adolphus Busch took to Bohemia in 1876, where he got acquainted with the lagers of the area. With the beer's release later that year and it's subsequent success, Budweiser helped change American taste in beer from darker ales to lighter lagers.

These days, the king has been supplanted by the prince, as light beers have taken control of the market, pushing Bud Light into the role of the real breadwinner of the family. Old man Budweiser is still the flagship brew though, and the heritage machine is in working order, churning out all of the Clydesdales and beech-wood chip images it can.

As for what's actually in the can, the malt bill calls for two and six-row barley, verdant rice (up to 30%), an unnamed blend of ten hop varieties, and yeast that dates back to that used by Adolphus himself. The beer is aged on beech-wood chips, which are used for their ability to gather sediment (along with marketing), rather than for imparting any wood flavors into the beer.

Let's see if the king's crown is warranted, shall we?

Appearance: A crystal-clear, effervescent, and golden-straw body capped by two fingers of fluffy white head that burn out quickly, leaving only the barest patches of lacing on the way down.

Aroma: Floral and lemony hops over sweet grain; rather faint overall.

Taste: Up front, a hint of grassy and lemony hops. Underneath, a thoroughly sweet grainy malt backbone. It’s all just thin and bland, a real snooze-fest. Light grain in the mostly clean finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with sharp carbonation and a clean finish.

Drinkability: As expected, this goes back with the greatest of ease. All that could stand in your way is stomach volume and sheer banality.

Verdict: Not surprisingly, I’m not going to be ready to bow down to this “king” any time soon. Watery, boring, thin, and too sweet, Budweiser is just what you’d expect it to be.

Grade: D

Miller Genuine Draft (MGD) Review

Brewery: Miller Brewing Co. | Beer: Miller Genuine Draft
Style: American Adjunct Lager | ABV: 4.7% | IBUs: ~12
Serving Method: 12 oz. can poured into Pilsener glass

Miller Genuine Draft
Originally branded as Miller High Life Genuine Draft, MGD was introduced in 1985 as the home version of draft High Life. It features the same recipe as High Life, but with a different production process designed to emulate draft beer in a can or bottle.

After brewing, the beer is crashed down to 35 degrees, instead of undergoing the usual heat pasteurization. Once cooled, it is then cold-filtered four times, with the last filtration coming courtesy of ceramic filters.

Despite it's relatively young age, Miller Genuine Draft has become the standard-bearer for the company, with the sales-leading Miller Lite as the light offering and Miller High Life as the budget heritage offering.

Who doesn't like draft beer? Let's tap this bad boy and see if we can get the real straight from the tap flavor right here at home.

Appearance: A crystal-clear straw-colored body capped by two fingers of bubbly, white head that feature decent retention and lacing.

Aroma: Sweet and grainy pale malt with mild, lemony hops for balance.

Taste: Surprisingly, there is a relatively substantial malt backbone here. While it’s hardly a lush base of caramel malt, it does feature some biscuity notes along with the usual grainy and husky character. That said, there’s little hop character here, just a splash of lemon. The finish is clean, with just a suggestion of slightly biscuity grain in the finish.

Mouthfeel: A somewhat watery body with sharp carbonation and crisp finish.

Drinkability: As usual with these beers, if you’re into the flavor profile there’s nothing holding you back.

Verdict: While it’s still bland and thin compared to the rest of the beer world, MGD actually has a decent wedge of malty character for this style. Still, given a choice between this and its cousin High Life, I’d choose the latter every time.

Grade: D+

Lone Star Beer Review

Brewery: Pabst Brewing Co. | Beer: Lone Star Beer
Style: American Adjunct Lager | ABV: 4.7% | IBUs: ~12
Serving Method: 16 oz. can poured into Pilsener glass

Lone Star Beer
Founded in 1884 by brewing baron Adolphus Busch, Lone Star Brewing Company was the first large-scale mechanized brewery in Texas. The brewery was located in San Antonio, but production was stopped in 2000 and the brand new belongs to Pabst, and production of Lone Star beers is contracted.

Lone Star Beer, marketed as "The National Beer of Texas" is the company's flagship brew and dates back to 1940. Pitched as a budget brand, Lone Star is a local Texas favorite that is now available across the country.

As for ingredients, Lone Star only lets slip that "malted barley and corn extract from the Central and Northern Plains" along with "the choicest hops from the Pacific Northwest." Well, it's more information than you usually get with these kind of beers.

Well y'all, I suppose it's fixin' to be 'bout time to crack this summbitch open, ain't ya' think?

Appearance: A crystal-clear golden body capped by two fingers of fluffy white head that burns off quickly and leaves no lacing.

Aroma: Lemony hops over a relatively rich grainy malt body. Somewhat promising so far.

Taste: Up front, a dash of spicy and lemony hops. Underneath, a relatively rich cereal-grainy backbone. It’s much maltier (well, grainier) than it is hoppier, but doesn’t feel unbalanced. Just a little sweet grain in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation and a clean finish.

Drinkability: Like every beer in this category, drinkability is there in spades for those that enjoy the flavor.

Verdict: I’m sad to say it, but Lone Star is a piss-poor representation of Texas beer. It’s has a bit more malt bite than most of it’s competition, but at the end of the day it’s just another in a sea of faceless beers in this style.

Grade: D+

Schlitz Review

Brewery: Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. | Beer: Schlitz
Style: American Adjunct Lager | ABV: 4.6% | IBUs: ~12
Serving Method: 16 oz. can poured into Pilsener glass

Schlitz
The Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company dates back to 1856 when Joseph Schlitz took over the small brewery he worked at after the death of the original owner. Schlitz, eventually known as "The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous," would become one of the most dominant brands of beer, and the Schlitz company was the largest producer of beer in the world at various points throughout the first half of the 20th century.

After its peak in the 70's, however, Schlitz faded into near-obscurity, becoming a shadow of it's former self and serving as a budget beer. However, with the revival of throw-back heritage brands over the last few years, Schlitz is on the rise again. In addition to the budget formulation of Schlitz being reviewed here, there is also a version based on the 60's formulation in circulation now.

 Let's hop in the wayback machine and see what made Milwaukee so "famous," shall we?

Appearance: A crystal-clear golden body capped by two fingers of fluffy white head that feature good retention and patchy lacing. Looking good so far.

Aroma: Faint grains and equally faint lemony hops. Rather standard.

Taste: The flavor profile is a balance of sweet, grainy malt and lemony and grassy hops. There’s also a metallic flavor lurking around the edges. It’s balanced well, but still rather weak. Just a bare whiff of husky grains in the clean finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium-high carbonation and a crisp finish.

Drinkability: Average for the style. That is to say, for fans of the flavor, this is an exceedingly easy drinker.

Verdict: While I held some hope that perhaps Schlitz was something more than the offerings of the big three (and that hope seemed vindicated upon seeing the beer in the glass), alas, it’s just the same old crap. Still, I hold lots of hope for the 60’s formula version that's available now.

Grade: D+

Miller High Life Review

Brewery: Miller Brewing Co. | Beer: Miller High Life
Style: American Adjunct Lager | ABV: 4.7% | IBUs: ~12
Serving Method: 16 oz. can poured into Pilsener glass

Miller High Life
Miller High Life is the oldest beer in the Miller Brewing Company lineup by far, having been around since 1903. Known as "the champagne of bottled beer," it was originally sold in tiny champagne bottles and occupied space in the fledgling premium American beer market.

Over time though, the market evolved and High Life became a near-forgotten budget brand, taking a back seat to Miller's flagships MGD and Miller Lite. During the past few years though, High Life has made a bit of a comeback. It's now positioned as an earnest, no-nonsense throw-back low-cost beer, thanks to plenty of clever marketing.

Let's pop the cork on this everyman's champagne and take a taste of the high life, shall we?

Appearance: A crystal-clear straw body capped by two fingers of bubbly white head that feature surprisingly good retention and decent patchy lacing.

Aroma: Husky and grainy pale malt with lemony hops. It’s thin and very clean, but not offensive.

Taste: Just as promised, the flavor profile is composed of grainy and husky malt with a twist of lemony hops. It’s pretty bland in general, but not bad for the style. The aftertaste is clean, with just a hint of husk and grassy hops remaining.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with crisp medium-high carbonation and a hint of dryness in the finish.

Drinkability: As always with this style, drinkability is the aim, and they’ve hit their mark here. Sure, it’s a little plain, but it gets the job done.

Verdict: Miller High Life is one of the best examples of this perpetually weak style out there (please excuse the backhanded compliment). If I had to pick one American Adjunct Lager out of a cooler at a party, I think this would be it.

Grade: C

Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) Review

Brewery: Pabst Brewing Co. | Beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon
Style: American Adjunct Lager | ABV: 4.7% | IBUs: ~12
Serving Method: 16 oz. can poured into Pilsener glass

Pabst Blue Ribbon
The flagship of the Pabst Brewing Company, Pabst Blue Ribbon is a beer with a long and varied history. Originally known as Best Select before the brewery was called Pabst, PBR dates back to the 1840s. The Blue Ribbon name comes from the blue ribbons that were once hand-tied around the neck of the bottles.

Sales peaked in 1977 at 18 million barrels. Over the next few decades, sales dropped off over 90%, getting to the sorry state of under one million barrels by 2001. However, the brand experienced a revival over the coming years, thanks to popularity amongst hipsters (not judging) yearning for an earnest, traditional, and cheap alternative to Bud/Miller/Coors. PBR is now a budget beer pitched at a dichotomous group of old-schoolers and hipsters.

Unlike many beers in this style, Pabst is actually pretty forward about the ingredient list. The malt bill includes six-row barley along with "a carefully balanced carbohydrate profile" from good old corn syrup. As for hops, there's a "unique" mix of Pacific hops and an "imported Yugoslavian variety."

Well, my skinny jeans are still at the cleaners, but I suppose we should jump on in anyway.

Appearance: A crystal-clear golden-straw body capped by a little over two fingers of bubbly white head that burn off quickly and leave no lacing.

Aroma: A thin pale malt body with just a whiff of flowery hops.

Taste: Grainy pale malt makes up the bulk of the profile, and unfortunately brings an off metallic flavor to the party. There is a thin wave of hops if you go hunting, and if you happen to catch them, you’ll find bare notes of lemon, grass, and banana. Pale malt and a hint of dark fruit in the finish.

Mouthfeel: A medium-light body with medium-high carbonation and a crisp finish.

Drinkability: This is an easy drinker, perfectly suited for a summertime Dashboard Confessional show.

Verdict: While the hipsters may be more interested in the can design than the beer inside, PBR is actually not too terrible of a beer. I suppose the highest compliment I could pay this beer is that I could easily believe this was a poor attempt at an easy-drinking lager from a mediocre craft brewery.

Grade: C-