As much as I dislike drinking bad beer, I do get a little bit of joy in compiling a “worst of” list. The late film critic Gene Siskel used to refer to his annual worst movies of the year list as “The Critic’s Revenge!”
The same rules apply to my worst-of list as my best-of list: only
beers that I reviewed for the first time in 2013 are eligible to make
this list. It doesn’t matter if the beer has been around for years or is
brand new. Re-reviews don’t count. Additionally, I’m not grading them
on any kind of “objective” standard or on technical merit or BJCP style
guidelines. In fact, most of the beers on this list probably meet some
of the strictest quality control standards.
You’ll notice there’s plenty of craft beers on this list. It just
goes to show that just because it’s a craft beer doesn’t make it good.
Though I’ll bet a lot of them made this list for the simple fact the
bottles I drank were old, but the brewery didn’t put a freshness date on
their bottle. If I know I’m drinking expired beer and it tastes
bad I won’t review it. However, if there’s no way to know how fresh the
bottle is, I’d say it’s fair game to review. No freshness dates are my
#1 pet peeve of the beer industry!
Lastly, as I said before, you can’t argue taste.
If you enjoy any of these beers, that’s fine. Please don’t take my
opinion as an insult (it cracks me up how people are insulted when other
people dislike things they enjoy). Different strokes for different
folks and all that.
#10 Captain Lawrence Freshchester Pale Ale
It sucks starting off a list like this with not only a craft beer,
but a craft beer from New York State. I’ve found the quality of Captain
Lawrence’s beers has been declining and I’m not sure if I’m going to
bother reviewing any of their brews in 2014.
This beer claims to be a pale ale but has a palette akin to an amber
ale. The hops are quite mild and the maltiness is too twangy for the
style. It almost reminds me of a sorghum-based brew as there’s a touch
of sourness right on the finish. The label description mentions West
Coast influence, but there’s none of that here. No citrus, no flowers;
instead just a general earthy character of tree bark and light resin.
#9 Cigar City White Oak Jai Alai IPA
I appreciate the originality of aging an IPA on white oak, however,
this is just a bad-tasting beer. The hop character has significantly
faded, and the palette is overrun by a distracting taste of herbs and
ashes. The flavor I was most reminded of was pickle juice as it’s not so
much bitter as it is salty. The white oak imparts the taste of a hot
southern swamp in July. If I pay attention, I can detect some malty
sweetness, but it doesn’t make up for the damage done. I’m not sure what
the brewers’ intentions were with this, and I certainly don’t
understand the rave reviews. I doubt it’s an old bottle, I just don’t
think this beer is for me.
#8 Hangar 24 Orange Wheat
Beer geeks like me tend to mock the “crafty” fruity wheat beers like
Shock Top and Blue Moon for tasting too fake and dirty. Hangar 24 Orange
Wheat is the real deal, yet it’s not any better. Brewed with oranges to
capitalize on the natural citrusy flavors often found in these types of
beers gives it a sweet, candy-like flavor. However, it fall apart
quickly as there’s a prominent sourness throughout the palate (and not
in that good brettanomyces/lactobacillus kind of way).
Immediate sourness as soon as it hits the tongue. Reminds me exactly of
expired orange juice. A bit more authentic wheat beer character through
the middle, but finishes with even more sourness on the end. I don’t
think I got a bad bottle, I think this is how this beer is supposed to
taste. It doesn’t appear to be made with Bavarian yeast so it’s lacking
the banana and clove components that make beers like this manageable. I
could see some people finding this refreshing if drank on a hot summer
day, but in the dead of winter it’s just barely tolerable.
#7 Uinta Punk’n
Uinta is a brewery I’ve enjoyed exploring over the last year or two,
and I’ve liked all of their beers that I’ve had. That is until I tried
the Punk’n. This is not your average pumpkin beer – if it were, it’d be
much better. This beer has an unusual spice palette that opts for sheer
rusticness over sweetness or familiar pie flavor.
It’s actually a bit difficult to describe what’s going on here. The
spices are most likely nutmeg and cinnamon, but they don’t have the
familiar sweet combination you get in most other brews of the style.
It’s like liquefied potpourri – bitter, astringent and earthy. The label
indicates the beer is made with organic pumpkin, and it’s possible that
what I’m tasting actually is the pumpkin itself rather than sweetened
puree used in so many other beers. That’s fine, but the result is a
bad-tasting beer. These flavors just don’t work together. I even get a
salty, almost bile-like flavor on the finish, which is quite off-putting
to say the least. Finishing the serving was a challenge.
#6 Wachusett Pumpkan
When I smelled and tasted Wachusett Pumpkan, I was surprised by how
mediocre the beer was. The can appeared to be fresh and my glass was
clean – yet it reeked and tasted quite lousy.Was this a bad can from a
bad batch, or is this is how it’s supposed to taste?
The first half of the palette is rather mild. Nothing in the way of
the standard pumpkin beer spices. The flavor is so mild that it seems
like the beer is stale and old. It doesn’t improve any throughout the
swig, in fact, it actually worsens. There’s a sour off-taste on the
finish. Similar to canned green beans. It’s possible this is dimethyl
sulfide (DMS). Whatever it may be, the usual pumpkin flavors just aren’t
here. Well, I can detect them if I pay close attention, but otherwise
the beer just seems old. If this is the taste the brewery intended I
find it an extremely odd choice since there’s so little flavor to found
here. It’s one of the worst pumpkin beers I’ve ever had.
Miller High Life
As hard as I try, I really can’t find any genuine flavors to Miller
High Life. It’s a beer that’s much more bland and flavorless than it is
offensive. But simply being inoffensive does not a good beer make.
I think I’d actually prefer the overt rice flavor of Budweiser or the
corn flavor of a malt liquor since they give your mouth something to
concentrate on. In the case of this beer it’s just a cold liquid with a
faint sweetness and a clean finish. Perhaps there’s some canned corn
water taste, but there’s definitely nothing in the way of malts or hops.
It’s not particularly high in alcohol like an “ice” beer, so what
purpose does this beer serve?
#4 Bud Light Platinum
I’m often amazed by how some low ABV beers can have so much flavor.
Well, the complete opposite is true of Bud Light Platinum. Seriously,
how can a beer of 6% ABV have next to no genuine flavor? In a weird way
it’s actually a feat or achievement in brewing. But at the end of the
day it’s still a bad beer.
There’s a slightly sharp, metallic flavor through the middle and a
hint of lemon at the apex. The finish is awful, though, as a wave of
astringency, boiled corn, tinfoil and a mélange of off-flavors come
whooshing in to kill what is otherwise a fairly tolerable palette. It’s a
struggle to finish even a single serving. I don’t think this product
will last very long.
#3 Natural Ice
I’ve been saying for a while now that I’ve been building up a
tolerance to “economy” adjunct macro lagers. I figured Natural Ice was a
good test to see just how strong my palate’s defenses against bad beer
are. I’m happy to report my tongue seems to have passed the test. I
could taste this beer in all its cheap glory, and while it wasn’t
aggressively off-putting, there certainly weren’t any redeeming
There is definitely a corn-forward flavor, followed by a significant
starchy taste and a metallic finish. It reminds me of sucking on a very
old ice cube from the back of the freezer. After a while, the
off-flavors seem to homogenize, then fade – which means this beer
actually tastes a little better the more you drink it. There’s perhaps a
hint of sweetness from the corn, but it’s nothing special and certainly
not enough to save Natural Ice from itself.
I didn’t realize it until I was halfway through, but Beck’s is now
brewed in America by Anheuser-Busch (aka Budweiser). I’d like to think
the authentic German version would be a little bit better than “just
barely tolerable.” While I’ve had several fizzy yellow beers that are
much worse than Beck’s, I have to say I’m genuinely disappointed by how
bad this beer is. The flavor is virtually non-existent (which is nice,
actually), but it’s the awful finish that ruins it. If it tasted like
generic macro lager it would be an improvement. Honestly, there’s just
nothing for my taste buds to latch on to. Though, the backside of each
swig brings with it an astringent, foul taste of something akin to
saltwater or maybe even bile. I’m not sure what’s accounting for this,
but I definitely don’t like it. I don’t see how anyone could.
#1 Genesee Ice
Beers like Genesee Ice make me wonder what the point of their
existence is. If you want to get drunk cheap, there are stronger beers
for the same price. And despite the ludicrous marketing hyperbole, there
really is nothing “premium” about cheap “ice” brews. It’s an adjunct
macro lager as cheap as they come with the taste to match.
The palette starts off surprisingly weak and watery. Nothing but cliché
fizzy yellow lager flavor, but weaker than most. Next to no bitterness
anywhere in the taste here, which is fine, frankly. I actually do detect
a subtle caramel sweetness on the finish, but it’s quickly obscured by a
foul taste of cheap, dry graininess akin to drinking dirty dishwater.
And yes, it’s just as gross as that sounds.
Fun fact: Stewart’s “Mountain Brew Beer Ice” was simply Genny Ice repackaged. Though the rights have since been sold to Miller, so it’s a different recipe now.
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