Sunday, January 3, 2016

Top 10 Worst Beers of 2015

Normally, compiling my “worst beers of the year” list is pretty fun. But as I mentioned in the Best Beers of 2015 list, I’ve reviewed pretty much every macro beer by now – so there really aren’t a lot of purposely bad beers out there left for me to review. In fact, most of the stuff on this list is here probably because the bottle or can I happened to be drinking at the time was old (but if the brewery doesn’t fresh date their products I say it’s fair game for a review). Though there are still plenty of up-and-coming craft breweries that still haven’t mastered the art of quality control. If they’re going to put a bad batch on the market, then they deserve any and all negative reviews it’s met with. But anyway, this list isn’t nearly as heinous as years past. Most of the beers are just below average rather than truly bad (though there definitely are some stinkers on the list).

Mountain Brew Ice 002
 Not technically eligible for this list, but man was this a bad one!!

As per usual, the standard rules apply:
  • It must be a beer that I reviewed for the first time in 2015.
    • It doesn’t matter if it’s been around for years or debuted in 2015, just as long as this was the first calendar year in which I reviewed it.
    • It doesn’t matter if I’ve sampled or drank it before, just that I never have reviewed it until now.
  • Re-reviews don’t count (for better or worse).
  • Reviews of a different vintage or different edition of a previously-reviewed beer are ineligible.
  • Only one entry per brewery.
NOTE: These are all excerpts from my review of the beer. Click the link to read the full review and/or watch the video review.

    Heineken Light 002
  1. Heineken Light
The first word that came to mind upon taking my first sip was “clean.” It’s usually not a good sign when that is the predominate adjective to describe a beer, but in this case it’s not only apt, but practically a compliment. Obviously, this is a beer intended to be mild so it’s understandable. The first sip or two has a bit of a sour tang from the light strike, but it dissipates quickly. Eventually I start to taste a genuine malt sweetness – faint to be sure, but noticeable at least. Hops are practically non-existent, but I get a touch of rye-like spice. The finish and aftertaste is remarkably clean compared to so many foul examples of the style – no metallic or dirty sensation here (maybe just a trace amount of cooking oil, though).

  1. Super BockSuper Bock 003
There’s not much to describe about the palette of this brew. It’s quite similar to every other adjunct lager. Flavor isn’t feather-light, but there’s definitely not a lot to speak of. Slight corn taste, but not especially sweet. The skunky aroma does not translate to the palette. The corn taste seems a bit syrupy, but is in no way cloying. Some spicy hops would be nice. The only attribute this beer really has going for it is the fact it could have been much worse. This is tolerable but not enjoyable.

    Ballast Point Dead Ringer 003
  1. Ballast Point Dead Ringer
Ballast Point is quickly becoming one of my favorite breweries. Up until recently, they’ve seemed incapable of error. But with “Dead Ringer,” their entry into the Oktoberfest/Marzen style, they finally dropped the ball. When my friends and I reviewed this in a blind taste test in September it was awful. This particular bottle is much better than that one, though it’s still not that good. It’s possible something may have happened to this beer in transit to my area, but whatever the case may be, it’s just a disappointing experience.

There’s definitely a familiar Marzen character here with the presence of slightly sweet darker malt and just a hint of fruity flavor (maybe some toffee, too). Unfortunately, it’s completely obscured by a sour tanginess to the palette. Much like the nose, there’s a presence akin to cranberry in here: tart and a little astringent. No hop character that I can detect. The flavor seems to worsen as it warms. I don’t know what the deal is with this beer, but I do not like it.

    Narragansett Allie’s Double Chocolate Porter 002
  1. Narragansett Allie’s Double Chocolate Porter
Reading over the reviews of this beer, it sounds as though there’s an either a contaminated batch of it going around, or perhaps this beer just does not age well at all. This can is less than four months old, but it seems to have lost all its genuine flavor already. There’s a sharp tang right away; a flavor not too far removed from vinegar. I do notice some chocolate-like flavor lurking in the background, but not to the extent that I would consider this a chocolate beer. It has a slight cola taste, though that’s not necessarily an attribute. Otherwise, there’s really no genuine porter character to be found. Either this was very poorly brewed, or the brewers’ definition of chocolate differs greatly from mine.

Another 2015 dud from this brewery: Narragansett Lovecraft Honey Ale

    St. Pauli Girl 002
  1. St. Pauli Girl Lager
I think I have a pretty high tolerance for bad macro beers. I can recall drinking other brews much worse than this, but I’m still scoring St. Pauli Girl Lager low because it’s a lousy beer overall. The palette is pretty bland and boring; no malt or hop characteristics whatsoever. Initially, there’s a tang or spoiled flavor from the light strike, but I seem to build a tolerance to that quickly. Other beers of the general style tend to have a modicum of sweetness, but there’s none to be found here. Kind of ironic considering how it touts its ingredients. There are much better examples of mediocre pale lagers and they’re as readily available and cheaper than this. Avoid.

    Lionshead Deluxe Pilsner Beer 002
  1. Lionshead Deluxe Pilsner Beer
Knowing what I do about beer, I’ve reached a point where I’m actually surprised when a beer tastes bad and not from brewing flaws like diacetyl, dimethyl sulfide or acetaldehyde. A beer like this is deliberately designed to taste this way – why? It’s just a mildly sweet malty slurry flavor with a noticeable corn water taste (maybe it is DMS after all). No metallic character, though I notice a tanginess on the finish and a bit of a bile-like flavor right as it goes down. To be fair, there is a faint amount of sweetness, but it’s not enough to salvage the rest of the palette. Perhaps if it were fresh (and I’ll readily admit this bottle is rather old), it might make a difference; but for now this is just plain bad. Ick.

    River Horse Hopalotamus 002
  1. River Horse Hopalotamus
I hate getting burned by unknowingly old beer. The only thing I can do to “get back” at the brewery for not fresh dating their bottles is to review the beer as it is. I’m inclined to believe that River Horse Hopalotamus is a decent beer when it’s fresh, but I probably won’t know as we don’t get their beers here in Albany (I got this bottle downstate). This has all the makings of an old IPA: a lack of hops, pronounced malts, tangy astringency, and general off-flavors and aromas.

The malt base has held in rather well and creates for a peanut brittle and toffee flavor along with lemon lollipops (oxidation). Hops are pretty much gone except for light piney flavor up front and a touch of earthy resin on the finish. Otherwise, it’s mostly a sharp, dry astringent flavor and a tangy sourness on the finish and aftertaste. I can’t imagine this is how the beer was supposed to taste.

    Broken Bow Broken Auger Lager 003
  1. Broken Bow Broken Auger Lager
I have a feeling when this beer is fresh it’s at least drinkable, maybe even good. I don’t know if this brewery has a problem with their actual brewing and/or their canning process, or if their wholesaler just sits on product and old cans end up on the shelf of my local bottle shop. Whatever the case may be, the two times I’ve drank this beer it’s been clearly infected with lacto and thus makes it impossible to review the palette as its meant to be tasted. I do detect a little nutty character, maybe even some sweet maltiness often found in amber and Vienna lagers. Unfortunately, the off-flavors are too distracting and grow more cloying as the beer warms. I could actually see this sourness working well if done intentional via barrel-aging, but there’s really no excuse for it in an ordinary canned lager. Pfft. Amateurs.

Another 2015 dud from this brewery: Broken Bow Red Ale

  1. Mountain Brew LightMountain Brew Light 001
As perplexed as I am by the existence of Stewart’s “Mountain Brew Ice,” I’m even more captivated by the fact there’s a light version. That would seem to imply that the original was so popular that there’s enough demand for another product (but without much difference). Mountain Brew Light is a tad better than its forbearer, but still a pretty lousy beer anyway.

While I don’t think Mountain Brew Light is vastly superior to its bigger brother, I do notice quite a difference in taste. Mostly due to the fact I can actually drink more than a few ounces of this at a time. Not that there’s a lot (or anything) to taste here. Only a faint Corn Flakes-like sweetness. No malt or hop character at all. Thankfully, not much metallic or starch or tangy off-flavors (there is a bit of a dirty taste, but it’s faint and probably due to the fact the can is so old). It actually quite watery-tasting. Not terrible, but this would be doubly good if it were merely mediocre.

Another 2015 dud from this brewery: Mountain Brew Ice

    Twisted Pine Ghost Face Killah 002
  1. Twisted Pine Ghost Face Killah
Twisted Pine’s “Ghost Face Killah” is not a beer, it is an alcoholic gag gift. A beer would imply it’s drinkable and has elements of malts and hops. This is essentially just carbonated hot sauce. It really has no redeeming qualities since it’s extremely difficult to drink more than an ounce of it because it is so ridiculously hot.
I’m no stranger to peppers. I’ve grown my own jalapenos, habaneros and Trinidad Scorpion peppers and eaten them raw. I’ve even brewed with these peppers and was able to use them to impart gentle warmth. Twisted Pine’s “Ghost Face Killah” is most definitely not gentle, nor is it warm. In fact, “hot” doesn’t really describe it. As soon as it touches the tongue and lips it sets those body parts on fire. It has the taste of raw peppers as it goes down – a nasty earthy/soil-like flavor. After a while, there’s a slight smokey aftertaste, not unlike that of a Chipotle pepper, but by that point it’s too late. I can’t imagine anyone other than a pepper enthusiast being able to get through more than 4oz of this. There’s nothing to taste, it’s just liquid fire. Screw this.

See also:
Top 10 Worst Beers of 2014
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

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