Sunday, January 1, 2017

Top 10 Worst Beers of 2016

Assembling my “Best Of” list is always a challenge because I seem to try so many great beers. However, putting together a “Worst of” list is pretty easy for two reasons: 1) bad beers stand out in my mind more than good beers, and 2) I don’t drink that many bad beers anymore so the field of contenders is much smaller.

I’ve been doing beer reviews since 2008, which means I’ve reviewed pretty much every macro lager, light lager, and other generic fizzy yellow brew by now. It sucks having to make a list of bad beers made entirely of craft brands, but it has to be done.

The rules are basically the same as those for the “Best Of” list:
  • Only beers I reviewed for the first time this calendar year are eligible.
  • Re-reviews don’t count.
  • Both macro and micro brews are eligible.
  • Only one entry per brewery.
  • Only one entry per style.
  • Bottles and cans that were well past their freshness date (or seemed to be) were not eligible.
NOTE: Paragraphs in italics indicate excerpts from my original review.
  1. Sprecher Black BavarianSprecher Black Bavarian
When it was announced at the tail end of the Beer Bloggers Conference that next year’s event would be held in Milwaukee, everyone in attendance received a free bottle of Sprecher Black Bavarian. We can’t get Sprecher here in Florida and I wasn’t able to get that brewery’s beers when I lived in New York, either. I can’t say I’m missing much based on this brew.

Though fresh, this bottle seemed off to me. The aroma was musty, the taste was pretty bland, too. Only minute quantities of the usual schwarzbier character were found here. Dry, astringent aftertaste sure didn’t help. Probably considered an average to below-average example of the style and not one I’d want to try again.

  1. Brew Bus Rollin DirtyBrew Bus Rollin Dirty
I feel bad including this beer on the list since Brew Bus is a local company based in Tampa. This was also a giveaway at #BBC16, but free or not, I don’t hold my tongue when it comes to my beer reviews. And I’ll admit I’m not a fan of Irish Reds. I can only think of a few examples of the style I truly enjoyed, and this was not one of them.

Subtle caramel malt flavor and sweetness; slight red fruit flavor (cherry, plum). Mild earthy hop character, but low perceived bitterness. No roasty or chocolate flavors. Nothing off-putting but nothing to really enjoy here. This probably would be enjoyable for mainstream drinkers who want something mild and like the red color, but connoisseurs will probably be disappointed.

  1. Saltwater Locale
Saltwater LocAle
This should be an ideal Florida brew since it’s only 3.7% ABV, a blonde ale, and it comes in cans. Yet, it tastes like it was made by an amateur homebrewer. It tasted of both butter (diacetyl) and creamed corn (dimethyl sulfide); though I will say it was quite sweet. It also went flat very quickly and the head evaporated quicker than a soda. Those are all signs of a poorly-made beer.

And what’s really ironic is I bought this because I had it at the Harbinger Beer Fest and really liked it! Perhaps they released a bad batch, who knows?

  1. Weyerbacher Sunday Molé StoutWeyerbacher Sunday Mole Stout
Two brewing trends seemed to peak in 2016: citrus-infused IPAs and molé-style stouts. The quality of these offerings can be graphed as a bell curve, but in the case of Weyerbacher Sunday Molé Stout, it’s towards the bottom.

Cinnamon, chocolate and peppers create for an interesting combination of spices along with some natural fruit character from the base stout. Coffee is completely obscured by the spices (which is really odd considering how fresh this bottle is). There’s dark malt, but no roasty taste; hops are muted as well. Finishes with a solvent-like sensation. This should be a great combination of flavors, but it’s kinda gross. Even the mouthfeel is thick and tepid with a lingering spicy aftertaste. This was very disappointing.

NOTE: I’m counting this as a spice/herb/vegetable beer rather than an imperial stout.

  1. Rochester Mills Newton’s ALEchemy Double IPARochester Mills Newton's ALEchemy Double IPA 003
I had never seen or heard of Rochester Mills (a Michigan-based brewery) until I moved to Florida in 2015. I liked that all their beers are packaged in full 16oz pint cans and the prices were quite low, too. The first beer I tried was okay, but it was all downhill from there. I’m not sure how they managed to screw up a Double IPA, but they did.

Hops impart OJ concentrate flavor, especially on the finish. Palette has a strong yeasty flavor; slightly sulfury and phenolic. There’s a spicy/peppery taste that lingers (and is rather gross). Nowhere near as bitter as the style should be. Seems to be emulating the New England style, but doesn’t come close. Needs more actual bitterness and a different hop selection.

This brewery actually sassed me on Twitter, so I won’t be buying their crap anymore.

  1. Kentucky Bourbon Barrel StoutKentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout
Everybody loves beer aged in bourbon barrels, right? What if there was an entire brewery based around that concept? That’d be a winning formula if they made good beer. I’ve tried several of the Alltech Lexington Brewing And Distilling’s brews and they’ve all been disappointing at best and disgusting at worse.

Mild palette of dark malt with generic, nondescript sweetness. No distinct roasted malt flavor whatsoever. Some firm dry bitterness at the apex of the swig followed by a short coffee flavor and some alcohol warmth. No chocolate or vanilla notes. Bourbon barrel character is virtually undetectable. This fails as both a bourbon barrel brew and a coffee stout. Entirely too mild and insipid.

  1. Sun King Wee Mac Scottish-style AleSun King Wee Mac Scottish-style Ale
This was yet another beer that was given to me by a brewery at the Beer Bloggers Conference. They actually gave me a few different beers and they were all pretty lame across the board. There isn’t much to say about this one because it’s so boring. Yet for some reason I dislike it immensely.

Mild, bland palette. Malt-focused, but little distinct character. Trace confectionery notes; slightly minerally. No hop presence. Can is fairly fresh but seems old, though no signs of oxidation. Entirely too bland to enjoy. No glaring flaws, just nowhere near the style guidelines.

  1. Samuel Adams Whitewater IPASamuel Adams Whitewater IPA 001
Whenever Sam Adams makes a trendy style beer I get a little embarrassed for them because I know they’re going to turn a niche style made for discerning palates into something mild and mainstream. Whitewater IPA is supposed to be their take on the “White IPA” style (a witbier/IPA hybrid), but it completely fails.

Overall palette is similar to Blue Moon: witbier-ish but faux. Dry bitterness throughout with slight orangepeel flavor. Apricot presence is invisible. Strong black pepper sensation on finish. Seems to have a dirty taste and maybe even some unintentional sourness. Off-putting. Palette is extremely astringent with lingering unpleasant aftertaste. Not refreshing at all. Difficult to believe this is the intended taste; seems like a bad batch. Flavors do not harmonize. Can’t finish it.

  1. Orange Blossom Honey PilsnerOrange Blossom Pilsner
Here’s another local brew I feel bad for including on this list and especially this high up [or should I saw “this far down”?], but the truth needs to be told. I’ve tried a few of Orlando’s own Orange Blossom Brewing Company and I’ve yet to be able to enjoy one. Supposedly this is a pilsner with honey added as an adjunct. That’s an interesting, experimental brewing technique, but the final product is a complete mess.

Does not seem like a pilsner at all. More of an amber ale. Missing the body of a lager. Honey flavor is evident, but tastes like cough syrup. No hop character. Palette is barely tolerable. Not at all crisp as a pilsner should be. Completely tepid, slightly thick. Texture is at least smooth and finish is mostly clean. Tastes and drinks like an old can, but it’s actually quite fresh. This is nowhere close to a pilsner and completely lacking in character. Seems like a failed homebrew, not a commercial product.

NGB Gluten Free Lager 0011 NGB Gluten Free Lager

I’ve never been a big fan of sorghum-based gluten-free lagers except for Albany’s Steadfast Beer Company. They tend to be twangy, astringent, vegetal, and/or anything other than what real beer should taste like. Most are tolerable, but this was just plain awful. I can’t say I’m surprised considering it’s made by the Minhas Craft Brewery which is also responsible for all those terrible “Boatswain” brand beers sold at Trader Joe’s.

I’m just going to include my review verbatim in order to do it justice:
AROMA: Almost completely odorless. The faintest lager-like aroma. 4/12
APPEARANCE: Clear gold; highly carbonated. White head fizzles away quickly like a soda. Looks like a cider. 1/3
FLAVOR: Borderline flavor-free. Some generic lager taste, though sorghum twang/grit presence is noticeable. Some apple juice character (acetaldehyde?). Not repulsive, but extremely lacking in palette. 7/20
MOUTHFEEL: Thin, crisp, watery texture. Clean finish. 3/5
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Not as twangy as much sorghum-based brews, but it has nothing going for it at all. Bottle was 5 months old. 3/10

Top 10 Worst Beers of 2015
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