Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 10 Worst Beers of 2014


Sigh, let’s get this over with.
The criteria for a beer to make this list:
These rankings are based solely on beers that I reviewed for the first time in 2014.
  • They didn’t have to be newly released in 2014 (some of them have been around for years), just beers I’d never had until this year.
  • The beer doesn’t have to be available locally to qualify, but it must be a commercial bottled or canned brew of some sort (i.e. you can buy it legally somewhere; it’s not a test batch, draught-only release, or someone’s homebrew).
  • A re-review doesn’t count, which means a LOT of beers I reviewed this year weren’t eligible for the list (so you won’t see Bud Light, Rolling Rock or Foster’s here even though they scored abysmally low).
  • A vintage is acceptable as long as I’ve never reviewed any other vintage and it must be readily available (a 15-year-old vintage from some guy’s cellar doesn’t count).
  • Multiple entries per brewery are allowed.
Lastly, I’m not trying to argue my personal taste as fact, or that these beers are superior brews of their respective styles according to BJCP or other such guidelines; just that these are my own hedonistic preferences.

NOTE: You will notice there are actually a few craft beers on this list. I suspect the bottles and cans I drank were either old and/or flawed in some way. I don’t think it’s fair to knowingly review old beer, but if the brewery does not put a freshness date on every individual bottle or can then they deserve to receive a bad review. I also think it’s fair to review a flawed beer since breweries should have good quality assurance methods in place to prevent bad batches from being released.

Blue Moon Rounder Belgian-Style Pale 00210. Blue Moon Rounder Belgian-Style Pale
There are a lot of things wrong with Blue Moon Rounder, which is a shame because the description and the ingredients list make the beer seem interesting. The beer fails for two reasons; it’s completely mislabeled and it has off-flavors.

There’s a familiar character to the palette; that of a standard American amber ale, only not a good example of one. While it does have some flavors of toffee and caramel on the first half, the second half is rife with off-flavors. There seems to be indications of oxidization and DMS as it finishes with a sharp, harsh, astringency. There is no Belgian yeast character at all, nor is there any hibiscus or orange peel as advertised. The flavors worsen as the beer warms.

Blue Moon Summer Honey Wheat 0029. Blue Moon Summer Honey Wheat
I don’t drink “crafty” beers because they all tend to be exactly that: pseudo, faux, or quasi-craft, and Blue Moon Summer Honey Wheat is the epitome of this. There’s no way a seasoned craft beer drinker would mistake this for even a mediocre craft pale wheat ale. However, a lager drinker looking to try something new might find it interesting, which would explain a lot.

The flavor is a bit difficult to describe because there’s so little of it. There’s an extremely mild taste of light malt and wheat from start to finish. The label indicates it’s brewed with orange peel and clover honey, though neither of those flavors are noticeable. Perhaps there’s a hint of them on the finish (and only momentarily (and only if the beer warms up significantly)). Hops are nowhere to be found, and there’s a slightly dirty aftertaste. Otherwise, it actually tastes a bit like a lager. Perhaps this is a Kölsch or cream ale in disguise. Whatever the case may be, the fact remains it has little to no traditional wheat beer character and is entirely too bland to enjoy.

Miami Brewing Vice IPA 0028. Miami Brewing Vice IPA
I feel bad when friends send me beer to review and it sucks. That’s the case of Miami Brewing’s Vice IPA, which came from a friend that knows his IPAs (though he said he never actually had this one). It’s possible what I’m drinking is simply an old can since there’s no discernible freshness date. While this isn’t undrinkable, it just tastes off. There’s a distinct green bean taste which is indicative of DMS. The malt isn’t really distinctive, and the hops are pure dry bitterness with just a hint of orange. I detect some yellow lollipop taste as well, which is usually indicative of a stale beer. It’s sweet and candy-like, but not enough to save the beer. There’s an astringent tang on the finish akin to a beer off a dirty tap line. I’m not appalled, just disappointed.

Natty Daddy 0017. Natty Daddy
Malt liquors are a fickle bunch. Drank cold out of the fridge they tend to be bland and inoffensive, but once they warm, their ugly side comes out. Which is the true character of the beer? Since most people who drink beers like Natty Daddy aren’t sipping on them like a barleywine, I’m going to opt for the cold flavor profile.

Not that there is much of a profile, anyway. This brew is bland and virtually flavorless. It does have the generic and familiar adjunct macro lager character to it in that it’s light-tasting with no discernible malt character and absolutely nothing in the way of hops. Some corn is noticeable, along with some metallic-like flavor on the finish, though this is par for the course. Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be any of the usual suspects like acetaldehyde or DMS. Not even the alcohol is noticeable. This is actually not that bad of a beer, but simply being bland is not attributing.

Highland St. Terese's Pale Ale 0016. Highland Brewing St. Terese’s Pale Ale
Even though the bottle I reviewed was only two months old, it tasted much older than that. The hops are nowhere to be found, the base malt tastes very lager-like, and there’s just not much body here. Though I will say it’s perhaps more bland than bad-tasting.

It’s difficult to describe the palette here since there’s little my taste buds pick up on. A general, but mild taste of pale malt with just the faintest trace of bitterness. This is probably better categorized as a golden/blonde ale than a pale ale since the hops are missing. I get a slightly metallic or minerally taste on the back end, with a bit of starch on the aftertaste. Overall, it’s not horrible, just boring and insipid.

Third Shift Amber Lager 0045. Third Shift Amber Lager
The big macro brewers have been putting out a lot of quasi-craft lagers in the last few years. This appears to be Coors’ attempt at a Yeungling-like brew, though it doesn’t taste nearly as good. In fact, this is reminiscent of so many economy or “premium” lagers because it’s so simple, boring, and has an awful finish.

I’m not sure what the point of this beer is. The palette is familiar to say the least: a generic combination of pale malt, standard macro lager taste, and a touch of faux sweetness. It’s the second half that kills it as a sour, vegetal-like astringent taste emerges out of nowhere and completely ruins everything that had come before. Had the taste been consistent this would be a decent amber lager, but what I’m left with just seems flawed and cheap. Perhaps there’s a hint of caramel to be found in here, but the off-flavor of what is probably DMS just ruins it. No hop presence to speak of, though that’s fine. I think this has the potential to be a good amber lager, but the adjuncts need to be removed and stricter quality control needs to be initiated at the brewery.

4. Foster’s Premium Ale
Foster’s is one of the most popular macro brands in the world, though they’re known mostly for one beer (their lager). Lest we forget, they also make a “Premium Ale” that comes in a green can. This is allegedly an English-style pale ale, but it has so many similarities to that of an adjunct lager it’s actually quite impressive they were able to brew it this way. That being said, it’s most definitely not a good beer – little authentic taste, some off-flavors, and an inefficient body.Fosters Premium Ale 003
I actually made a point of drinking this beer a little warmer than I normally would in hopes of detecting any and all flavor it had to offer. Just a faint hint of bready/biscuity malts and a touch of confectionery sweetness is apparent throughout the first half. Once it hits the apex, an astringent, tannic sensation of metal-like flavors come rushing in. It has a slight sour tanginess, and leaves a dry, starchy aftertaste. The more I drink, the less prominent it becomes, though that’s not a sign of a good beer. I can tolerate this, as many drinkers probably will, but there isn’t much to truly enjoy.

Middle Ages Wizard's Winter Ale 0033. Middle Ages Wizard’s Winter Ale
I’ve never been a fan of the Middle Ages brewery out of Syracuse. Most of their beers are average at best, though several are extremely amateurish and seem to be lacking in quality control. Wizard’s Winter Ale is a good example of what I mean. Here is what should be a decent, robust English strong ale or winter warmer.

What it actually is, is a mess of skunk, random/clashing spices, and brewing flaws every amateur homebrewer knows how to avoid.
A general melange of amber and pale malts, but with no sweetness – just raw graininess. Light bitterness on the second half with some dryness on the finish, but still lacking any real hop character. Additional sourness emerges as the beer goes down. Honestly, I just don’t know what this beer is supposed to be. I’d probably chalk this up to being a really old bottle, but I doubt that’s the case because: 1) it’s a winter seasonal, so unless my beer store forgot to sell this last year, there’s no reason to believe this could be more than just a few months old; 2) there’s no freshness date on the bottle, so even if it were expired or fresh off the bottling line I’d never be able to tell.

2. Budweiser Select 55
I didn’t think light beer drinkers would want anything lighter than Bud Light, but somehow the major macro breweries have all churned out sub-100 calorie lagers with Budweiser Select 55 being the lightest of them. At only 2.4% ABV it’s sessionable to say the least – but is it enjoyable? No.Budweiser Select 55 001
It has that classic taste found adjunct light lagers, but is even milder (which I didn’t know was possible until now). I do detect a modicum of sweetest; something almost reminiscent of hard cider as there’s a slight tartness. Perhaps that apple character is just acetaldehyde – which the AB/InBev brands are notorious for having. In this presentation it actually works to the beer’s advantage since it’s so ridiculously mild overall. Don’t get me wrong, there really isn’t anything to genuinely enjoy here. The palette is offensive in that it’s so overtly bland, at least if it tasted like fizzy yellow beer there would actually be something to taste.

Utica Club Light 0021. Utica Club Light
Utica Club is the beer with the bad reputation, which is, in my opinion, not really deserved. I think I understand where it comes from, though. People are confusing Utica Club with its “Light” version. While this beer is more bland than it is repulsive, it is quite extreme in its blandness. Really nothing to taste here as far as genuine brewing characteristics go. It actually seems to have a flavor akin to club soda. It’s mostly neutral-tasting with a light astringency and dry, sharp tanginess. No repulsive off-flavors like acetaldehyde, DMS or diacetyl, but nothing even close to identifiable malt and hop makeup. This is just the epitome of cheap, economy beer and it’s not even one of the better examples of the style.

See also:
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2013
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2012
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2011
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2010
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2009