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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

Molson and Me – Part One

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The most popular question asked of me at this weekend’s excellent CAMRA Spring Fest of Ale was not what my favourite beer was, or what I thought of that weird blood orange concoction from R&B, but rather if I’d gone ahead and sampled the Molson M that magically appeared on my doorstop last week. This perturbed me somewhat because, here we were surrounded by oodles of delicious light ales brewed specifically for our enjoyment, and everyone wanted to talk macro to me. (This is not like talking dirty, not even close)

So I figured I’d just get down to business and say it. Yes. Yes, I did sample the Molson M. And the Canadian, and a local craft lager (Central City’s), all side by each. I performed this subjective review, as promised, during a hockey game on Friday. Here are my impressions.

Wow. Molson M is quite possibly the easiest drinking, smoothest tasting lager I have ever had. It’s astonishing how many years of my life I have wasted in pursuit of darker, more flavourful ales, when beer nirvana was just $2 away at the local LDB. I don’t want to take away from Canadian, though, as it does have its place when you want to slow down and enjoy things, but for quick refreshment and a no-questions-asked finish, M is the place to be. I love this… hang on, Ted from accounting just popped in. What’s that? Bounced? You sure? The whole thing, eh. What about the briefcase of cash? Not actually money, you say? Yeah, I know that was just regular paper with my picture on it, but it just seemed so… natural.

Well fine, if you want to bribe me to praise your product, you better make good with the Bordens. So, back to the review, now without sudden and shockingly excessive income influencing my opinion.

Molson Canadian and M are terrible. Just ungordly awful. I paused after my second sip of each and pondered what exactly I had done wrong in my life to wind up here, now, drinking this schlock. These beers are not just pale, insipid, hollow ghosts of what a beer might once have aspired to. No, they are just plain dreadful.

They start with a faint nose of slightly-off straw, which can only be described as “barn-like” in quality, or perhaps even more accurately “used barn-like.” Too vague? Ok, piss. It smells like goat piss on wet hay. Perhaps, the piss is why the hay is wet and mildewing. I’m not really going to invest too much thought on this one, but I’ve spent enough time in petting zoos to confirm this comparison is apt.

Gotta admit, not sure how this could help the smell,
but also not sure what would make it worse.

The body is virtually non-existant, although some of the M did have a slight tinge of unfermented malt (not all, though, making me think their quality control isn’t where Canadian’s is). The finish is like being physically assaulted by a bad, off-beer taste. When I say this beer is bad, I do not mean “not good.” I mean “bad as in milk.” In fact, the most repeated first comment after a sip was not “Ugh”, “This is bad” or “Yuck.” No, the first comment was universally a gag reflex. I am not making this up. This beer is so bad your body confuses it with poison and wants you to stop drinking it right-the-fuck-now. After that, you’re stuck with a off-putting chemical taste on the palate that only another sip can seemingly cure, even if temporarily.

But that’s not what we’re here to evaluate. The job is to determine if M is better, or easier drinking than Canadian, which is about a relative evaluation rather than an absolute. Are they even different beers? Well, I have to admit these are two very slightly different beers, perhaps by as much as one or two percent overall. When you take a sip of one, and concentrate very very hard for 10 seconds or so, you can determine an ever-so-slight difference in the second, but this difference is so slight that it could honestly just be because the second sip is of beer which has now been open 10 seconds longer.

Is M better? No. M and Canadian are practically indistinguishable. In fact, we had to abandon the first trial part way through because it was no longer clear which product was which, and repeated samplings did nothing to address the situation. After that one glass was flagged to allow us to keep track. The microcarbonation process, which Molson refuses to talk about, did not inject tiny little pixies into the glass, nor did it somehow magically violate physical law to make nitrogen-like CO2 bubbles appear when you opened the bottle. In fact, the carbonation level of each beer appeared nearly identical, although I have not yet precisely measured it.

How did it compare to a local lager, brewed by Central City? Perhaps all lagers are flat and taste vaguely uric? I’m not a huge fan of the CC Lager. I find it quite boring and honestly not that good. However, after the Molsons, I easily could have confused it with a light hefeweizen. Yeast aromas popped out of the glass, and the crisp clean finish made it practically beg me to have another sip.

So, I guess Molson M does have a use in the real world: making mediocre craft beer seem absolutely awesome.

Kinda like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon,
although I’m unsure which is which in this analogy.

But I’m not done yet. Next up is a double blind taste test where random people will be asked to sample a variety of fluids and rank them in a variety of categories. Does anyone have a goat I can borrow for a few hours?

Update: The epic concludes in part 4. (Or go back to Part 2)

Written by chuck

April 18th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Be Careful What You Wish For

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Last week I called out Molson for launching yet another marketing campaign disguised as a beer, “Molson M.” I even included an honest offer to review their beers and post the results here. Well, damn, turns out they have a marketing department that reads random internet blogs about beer, and very specifically my random internet blog about beer.

As a result, I was contacted by their Director of Communications and offered a chance to sample their new product. Not being a beer geek who goes against his word, I asked them for enough of both Canadian and M to do a sampling for 3-4 people. Two 12 packs showed up the next day at my office. I suspect Molson samples beer a bit differently than I do.

Pictured: Quality Control Trial # 42/50

With the beer itself came the Molson M press kit which, as you’ve probably already guessed, contains exactly zero information about the beer that isn’t already online at their website, which itself contains very scant intel. From my email conversation with Adam Moffat (said Director of Communications), it became pretty clear that Molson aims to guard any and all details about what goes into their product, or how it’s made, as closely as a state secret.

Here’s what we do know about Molson M, with the marketing hype striped away:

  • It is a lager
  • It is 4.9% ABV
  • It has 135 calories (because that’s a concern of the first order)
  • Umm… that’s about it.

There is other meta-info, like the fact it won Gold at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards in the category “North American Style Premium Lager.” However, don’t read too much into this, as that category basically means “best macro lager” which is kind of like saying “most fragrant manure.”

Beyond that, though, I’m going in blind. With 12 of each beer to sample I’ve decided to split things up into a few tests and reveal the results here in separate posts. This is half to avoid an overwhelming dump of info on the site, and half because these Molson-based posts get a LOT of traffic, and I am an insufferable attention whore. No really, I will do absolutely unspeakable things if you’ll hang out with me. Please?

The first of these tests will commence this evening, if only to make some extra room in my fridge for good beer.

Not a common sight in my fridge. No, not the beer, Branston Pickle. Eeeewwwwww.*

In order to sample Molson’s products in the best possible environment, I will perform a side-by-each comparison of Canadian, M, and Central City Lager this evening while watching the Canucks/Blackhawks game and record my impressions. I will then ritually flagellate myself in penance for having violated the beer temple that is my body, and perform a ceremonial cleansing of my light ale palate tomorrow at CAMRA’s Spring Sessional Fest of Ale. (Update: this test is covered here)

Three other tests will be conducted with the product generously supplied by Molson:

  1. A 4 person double-blind taste test of Canadian, M, Central City Lager, and some club soda I have strained through an old dirty sock.
  2. The exact same test, but with carbonation between all four products equalized (likely at ~9psi). This will help determine if M’s gimmick is literally just less carbonation.
  3. A series of lab tests, intending to determine sugar content, raw carbonation, and a few other variables. Yes, I have access to a lab. Yes, I call it the Beer Cave. The exact nature of these experiments will be determined by the delay between a window breaking and the cops showing up, and whether or not they get faster or slower with repeated events.

All told, you can likely expect me to prattle on about all this shiite for some time, so it’s probably best to tune out for a week or so if you’d prefer. By then, I should be back to posting about beer that you might actually want to drink.

* No, not really. Branston Pickle is damned tasty. So good, in fact, that I use a person’s feelings towards it as a basis for concrete character judgements.

Update: The epic continues in part 3. (Or go back to Part 1)

Written by chuck

April 15th, 2011 at 11:40 am

Posted in Beer and You

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