Sunday, December 23, 2012

Top 10 Worst Beers of 2012



I have to say that 2012 was a surprisingly good year for me. I really didn't have that many bad beers this year. In fact, the vast majority of those that made this list aren't even really "bad" per se. They're just really mediocre.

Criteria for this list: Must be a beer I reviewed for the first time in 2012. Re-reviews don't count. Doesn't matter if it debuted in 2012 or if it's been around for years - just as long as I never had reviewed it until now.

NOTE: I didn't do a video list this year because almost all of these beers were reviewed via text only.

I don’t think you have to be a genius to infer that Trader José Premium Lager is Trader Joe’s attempt to have a Corona-like beer of their own. This beer is made in Mexico, though I’m unfamiliar with the brewery. To its credit, it’s actually a better beer than Corona, but not by much and not enough to warrant an honest thumbs up from me.

It’s not that Trader José Premium Lager tastes bad, it’s that it’s completely lacking of taste altogether. Very mild sweetness up front with a distinct toasted corn and cardboard flavor through the middle. Dry bitterness as it finishes with an astringent, slightly metallic flavor often found in cheap pale lagers. Not much of an aftertaste (for better or for worse), but not a lot to enjoy. I’m sure if you were to stick a lime wedge in the bottle and drink it that way it would taste much better, but I always judge beer in and of itself without peripheral devices.



If you have to think about what flavors you just got in a beer or you have to make a conscience decision to pay attention to the palate, then it’s probably not a good beer. That’s what I had to do with Blue Point Oktoberfest - another generic, bland and just plain boring American take on the Marzen style.

It’s closer to an economy lager than a true Marzen. Not particularly bitter, not sweet at all. Beers of the style should have a toffee and caramel taste, but this does not. It just tastes like the epitome of lager. There’s even a trace of sour or metallic flavor right as it finishes, but I think only sensitive palates would detect this. At least it has a clean aftertaste, but isn’t what I’d call a refreshing beer.


I love the tagline for this beer: "Hoppier than a bullfrog with a stubbed toe." I just wish that were true because hops actually have some flavor (e.g. citrus, pine), but Red Brick HopLanta is pretty much just bitterness incarnate. From the moment it hits the tongue until well after it’s swallowed there’s an intense dry bitterness. It peaks at the apex of the swig before imparting a bit of orange candy-like flavor or perhaps orange sherbet.

I’m not sure of the IBUs for this brew, and for a single IPA it could give some imperial IPAs a run for their money. But hops alone does not a great IPA make. There’s not a lot of complexity to this palate, certainly not much malt character to balance out the bitterness. That’s not to say it’s an off-putting palate entirely. I can find some things to enjoy here, but the qualities are drowned out in the distraction of the intense dry bitterness. A beer you pretty much have to drink with a spicy meal to put it to good use.


The brown ale style is what got me into craft beer and while it’s not one of my favorites anymore, I can still appreciate a good one whenever I get the chance. Unfortunately, Red Brick Brown Ale is not one I would offer up as an example of the style. It might work on a basic level as simply as transitional beer, but nothing more than that.

The only distinct flavor I can really pull out is a slight apple juice or even apple cider taste. This could be a sign of acetaldehyde or just what happens when this beer gets old. It’s not particularly bad, in fact there’s mild sweetness throughout, and I would describe this palate as being mild and drinker-friendly. But mostly it’s just a boring beer, even compared to Newcastle Brown Ale.


It’s debatable whether Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy is really a beer or more of an alcopop. I’ve tried my share of lemonade-flavored alcopops and this brew is right in line with most of them as far as taste goes. It claims to be a "weiss beer brewed with honey with natural lemonade flavor" [sic]but there really isn’t much in the way of wheat beer taste. There isn’t much honey, either. In fact, the first half of the palate is quite bland with just a generic, very mild, American pale wheat ale taste. The second half sports a strong, but obviously artificial, lemonade taste. Slight sweet, it’s mildly refreshing but a bit challenging too as there’s a tart, almost acidic edge to it. The aftertaste is mostly clean, at least at first, but eventually begins to build up and become a little cloying.

Honestly, there’s nothing ghastly about this beer, but there isn’t much to truly enjoy unless you really like artificial lemonade flavored beverages and alcopops. I don’t think true craft beer enthusiasts are the target audience for this anyway.


I don’t know what elder berries are or what they taste like, but I shouldn’t have to in order to appreciate Magic Hat Elder Betty. I’ve had many fruit wheat beers before and while most of them are average at best, this one is one of the worst examples. It begins rather sweet with a generic fruit cereal-like taste up front. While I wouldn’t say it tastes like blueberries outright, that’s the closest taste I can compare it to. There’s a standard "American pale wheat ale" taste throughout the palate of very mild wheat as well.

As it transitions to the finish there’s an odd, tart, sour or tannic flavor that pops up quickly. It’s short-lived but it’s quite disruptive. Perhaps this is an off-flavor from the bottle being "too old" but that shouldn’t be the case since this is a summer seasonal and I’m drinking smack dab in the middle of summer in early July. If it was brewed and bottled in the winter and sat on store shelves at room temperature for months - well, that’s not my problem! Whatever the case may be this is a boring beer at the core that is made off-putting by the sour and tannic flavors.


Cleaner tasting than a malt liquor or an "economy" lager, but not nearly as authentically flavorful as an all-malt pale lager (which do exist). It’s kind of a hybrid of the two, actually. I would definitely use the word "clean" to describe the palate to this brew, but add a caveat of "for the most part." The palate is noticeably bland for most of the duration, but there’s a distinct twang of boiled corn, cardboard, and a hint of metal on the finish. A quick kiss of sweetness just before it finishes with a chalky dry aftertaste that lingers momentarily (though it builds up as you drink on).

Sure, there are way worse beers out there, but just because it’s "classic" (whatever that means) doesn’t make it good. There’s really nothing enjoyable about this palate (well, maybe that subtle sweetness), so the only reason to drink it would be for utilitarian purposes (e.g. getting drunk on the cheap or to wash down pizza and wings, etc.)


I hate describing a beer in vague terms like "malty," but that’s an accurate description of Dundee Irish Red Lager. Though the beer is brewed with four malts and three hops, none of them individually stand out to me. I get a generic maltiness with what I can only compare to the taste of split pea soup or any kind of canned vegetable taste. It’s not that it’s sour or bitter or astringent - it’s just there, really. Nothing I would consider delectable, yet nothing that’s completely repulsive (I’ve had MUCH worse). It’s a little cereal-like with a touch of red apple sweetness and maybe even some cider-like tartness. Otherwise, it’s a boring palate that could easily be salvaged with emphasis on more authentic flavors. There’s a faint amount of caramel here - why not play that up more? The hops are practically non-existent - throw a bunch more in there to emphasize some pine and earthy flavor, please.


I didn’t think it was possible to screw up a chocolate stout, but apparently Trader Joe’s contract brewed "Boatswain" line made by the Minhas Craft Brewery managed to do it. This is neither chocolaty nor stouty, but more like a failed homebrew experiment. That’s not to say it’s horrible or undrinkable, but well below average. Twangy, astringent, metallic flavors should not be found in this type of beer.

It begins rather mild with a typical pub-style stout or porter flavor. It’s actually closer to a dark mild rather than a stout since there’s little roasted malt flavor and definitely no chocolate. A hint of bitterness through the middle and a big finish of a sour, metallic, grainy taste akin to a malt liquor. The aftertaste is slightly dry, but thankfully mostly clean. I initially chalked these off-flavors up to the beer being too cold so I let it warm up but it actually got worse. In fact, the more I drank the less I liked it. In short, this is the worst chocolate stout I’ve ever had.


Reviewing a beer like this, especially by the same standards you review any other beer, is a challenge. Trying to describe what Michelob Ultra actually "tastes" like it’s quite difficult. Obviously two descriptors immediately come to mind: watery and bland. Whereas other brews of the style tend to have distinctive, generic "grainy" flavors that often have off-flavors of corn and rice, this one is virtually flavorless.

For what it’s worth the palate is at least clean and inoffensive. For a brief moment there’s a hint of sweetness just before the swig finishes, but that’s about it. Still, I have to rate this beer low because it seems so pointless. You’re essentially paying for carbonated alcoholic water.

Dishonorable mentions (all beers that scored a 4 or worse):