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Archive for May, 2011

Justice Might Be Blind But Taste Isn’t (Molson Review Part Three)

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I finally managed to gather up enough suckers last weekend to give this whole “blind taste test” thing a whirl. Due to the blog’s resident globe-trotting scientist being off well, trotting the globe, my methods were likely a bit sloppy and the lack of lab coats and protective eye-wear means safety had to be compromised a bit in the interests of expediency (seriously, though: Nature of Things better give Jenn back soon, otherwise I’ll start mixing beers at random just to see what happens).

The assembled panel had a fairly wide range of tastes, from folks nearly as beer-geeky as myself, through a few lager louts, all the way to someone who never drinks beer if at all possible. The beers selected for tasting likewise represented a wide range of options. Of course, both Molson Canadian and Molson M were present, but I also picked up some micro-brewed lagers: Howe Sound Lager (largely due to the can), and Lighthouse’s new Overboard Imperial Pilsner because why the fuck not? If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

I also threw in another macro because, let’s face it, Moslon is not competing with Howe Sound or Lighthouse. Thus I found myself picking up a tallboy of Bud. I gotta admit it, I felt really rather embarrassed and dirty buying this. I would up throwing the can into my bag and out of sight as soon as the transaction was complete, and then covering it up with a liberal dose of porn, lube, pantyhose and condoms in case someone looked.

My six guinea pigs were given unlabeled, randomly ordered samples of each. Aside from the Molson products, even the identity of the candidate beers was unknown until the conclusion of the test. They were then asked to rank each beer upon a variety of criteria, including “Ease of Drinking”, “Refreshment” and “Overall”.

Wow. Even I’m impressed with the professionalism.
And the lack of fire. OK, mostly the fire.

So how’d things stack up? Well, there are a few surprises here. Frankly, I didn’t think M and Canadian would score differently, and I somewhat suspected casual beer drinkers (or non drinkers) would have difficulty telling the ligher lagers apart, craft or no. Here’s some take-aways:

  • People either hated or loved the Lighthouse. It ranked first or last for nearly everyone (one put it at 2nd to last).
  • Canadian and M ranked similarly in all cases, often one immediately after another. However, M always–without exception–ranked lower than Canadian. In all categories.
  • Everyone, craft beer drinker or not, was able to distinguish the craft beer from the macros, and almost unanimously felt the craft beer was a better product, in all categories.
  • Budweiser ranked higher than either Molson product for 5/6 tasters. It even beat Howe Sound in 1/6.
  • The gap between craft and non-craft was fairly large (except Lighthouse, due to some folk just hating it), but curiously the gap between Bud/Canadian and M was just as large.
  • Only one person, the non-beer drinker, picked Molson first, and only Canadian. So, uh, I guess Canadian is the best beer if you hate beer?

So we’ve answered the original question. Is M different from Canadian? I have to admit it, I was wrong. It is demonstrably different after all. It turns out that Molson M is much, much worse.

Overall Rankings:

  • First: Howe Sound Lager (1.67 average score)
  • Second: Lighthouse Overboard (2.83 average score)
  • Third: Bud (3.08 average score)
  • Fourth: Molson Canadian (3.17 average score)
  • Fifth: Molson M (4.25 average score)

And that’s it. I’m done. No more Molson for me, which also means that the bums who collect the empties out of my alley are about to get a treat (or more specifically, 20 treats).

Written by chuck

May 27th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Cuban Beer

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I was warned that one doesn’t travel to Cuba because of the beer, and my experiences there reinforced that prejudice. In fact, if one were to compile a list of reasons to travel to Cuba at all, beer would appear somewhere between “free elections” and “flawless upkeep of public infrastructure.”

I really wish this was a cherry picked extreme example. But hey, at least they didn’t vote for this.

However, I’m a beer guy, and I was in Cuba, so I tried the beer. Both of them. Yup, there are two kinds of beer in Cuba, Cristal and Bucanero. Now, I know both are brewed by the same brewery with only slight variations on the recipe, and yes I know that there are actually a few sub-variants of Bucanero which might technically count as different beers (and some minor regional variants-on-a-theme like Mayabe), but keep in mind that in an economy as tightly controlled as Cuba, it is possible to so efficiently hide an undesireable product that it effectively becomes invisible to tourists.

Attesting to this point, the only evidence I saw of the rumoured Bucanero “Max” was an half full can on the street still being clutched by an all-full local. Despite my inherent desire to sample all that Cuban brewing has to offer, I did not avail myself of this rare tasting opportunity.

So back to the contenders; both are manufactured by a subsidiary of InBev, and both have reached near-theoretical levels of both market penetration and near-ubiquitous availability. Basically anywhere that sells anything sells both Cristal and Bucanero, generally for CUC$1, which is so close to CANUCK$1 as to be not worth the distinction. Restaurants mark this up, sometimes all the way to $2.50.

As well, both are really quite bad. Cristal is fairly obviously made to be a native-produced drop-in replacement for Heineken, down to the clear green bottle and red-green colour scheme. Taste-wise I think they did quite well here, as I doubt I could pick up the nuanced subtleties that distinguish these two near-identical piles of schleck. Cristal might be a bit sweeter due to the odd Cuban desire to spike every damn thing they encounter with extra sugar, but confirming this would require another sample of Heineken and frankly it’s just not worth it.

Good luck telling them apart with the lights off. Or even just dimmed.

Bucanero, by contrast, was about 10x better (so a solid 0.010 / 10). The fact that it came in a proper anti-skunking brown bottle instantly gave it some points, but honestly with the sun and UV levels down there even brown glass wouldn’t put up much of a fight. Simultaneously the best and worst things I can say about this beer is that it tastes like Old Style Pilsner, again only sweeter. Given the choice, though, I spent most of my beer pesos on this guy. Plus, it has a jaunty pirate on the label. Beer labels need more pirates. (Lighthouse, I’m looking at you here)

Beyond those two choices, the only variety exists in the form of Cuba’s solitary brewpub. Located on the Plaza Vieja in Havana’s Old Town, they produce beer in three variants: Light, Amber and Dark. Not a good start. I feared that these beers would only vary by how much molasses they slipped into the kettle, but somewhat astonishingly they’re brewed using fairly different recipes. The lowdown:

  • Light – You know what? It’s not bad. It’s not good, but it’s not bad. If they’d just curtail the freaking sugar it might even be a decent Pilsner.
  • Amber – Oh wow. Imagine the worst pale ale you’ve ever had. Now add about a cup of sugar to it. Reaffirming my faith in humanity, this vile concoction seemed to be the most popular option with the assembled tourist. Even worse than Bucanero.
  • Dark – Again, not bad. A dark mild without a lot of character and, no surprise, way too much sugar, but still worth drinking.

Yup, that’s right. The best beer in Cuba gets a “meh.” Oh well, at least it wasn’t endless Corona. I guess there’s no surprise that as my time in Cuba went on, I ordered more and more rum-based drinks, and less and less beer? Or that my standard drink was two mojitos.

I call it the “Cuban Double Double.”

Written by chuck

May 24th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Posted in Beer and You,Beers

I’m Back! (And BC Beer Awards)

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Well, I’m back from Cuba. The beer scene there is basically non-existant, but even so I’ll manage to squeeze a short post out of it later this week for anyone curious about such things.

Also, I will seriously try and get the last instalment of my ongoing Chuck vs Molson series up this week/early next, provided my designated testers don’t take off for the long weekend again (aka don’t bet on it).

In the meantime, though, let’s talk about BC Beer. I don’t think much BC Beer-related happened while I was gone, so there’s not too much to talk about. However, there is a bit of discussion right now about the BC Beer Awards, which were handed out just last week, despite there not being any appropriate city-wide craft beer celebrations at which to stage such an event.

Before we get into it, here are the results.

Some folks are taking issue with the results, and while I do agree that these are perhaps not what I would have picked, I have to say it’s really not that far off. Most of the best beers are represented, including basically everything Driftwood has produced this year (and rightly so), and while my picks for Best in BC on this blog might not be 100% represented, at least most of them do show up in their respective categories.

Perhaps two things I’d take issue with is the absence of Crannog anywhere, and Russell’s Lemon Ale winning, well, anything beyond “Best use of Lemon Pledge in a beer”, but other than that most of these winners make me drool as I remember tasting the listed beers, and that’s a good thing (well, not for my carpets).

It should also be noted that many of these beers are only produced in small lots, and quality control is not 100%, so the beers vary a lot from bottle to bottle (or keg to keg), so we can’t rule out the possibility of an unusually good/bad batch making its way to the judges’ tables. And yes, there were actual judges tasting the entries and rating them, as opposed to a popularity vote, so perhaps my biggest complaint of all was that I was not one of the judges.

Written by chuck

May 17th, 2011 at 11:32 am

Posted in Beer and You