Hey y’all. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya’, but I’ve been pulled about 4 ways from Wednesday for the past week, so there hasn’t been much time for boozin’ and reviewin’. However, we bring to you today a review that may be of benefit as we get into the dog days of summer, hanging by the pool, bbq’ing, and drinking fizzy domestic beers. This, my friends, is the Silver Star Derby – named as such because a) it took place on Silver Star Drive, and b) it involves more horse piss than the Kentucky Derby.
For this review, we pulled together a sampling of 14 of our fizziest, yellowest brews to be sampled, critiqued, and compared. It wasn’t easy. Trust me. It was actually very difficult, and at times we wanted to throw in the towel altogether, but we made it through. Here’s a list of the beers we tried:
2) Bud Light
3) Bud Select
7) Pabst Blue Ribbon
8) Coors Light
9) Miller Highlife
10) Natural Light
11) Miller Light
12) Busch Light
13) King Cobra Malt Liquor
14) Stella Artois
You may notice a few omissions here. The three that I most wish could have been included are Rolling Rock, Schaeffer, and Michelob Light. However, we were oddly unable to find these during our single beer stop and, when you’re buying cheap beer in bulk, you gotta stop somewhere. So, bear with us. Also, you’ll notice a couple of odd additions; namely, King Cobra and Stella Artois. The former was included for a comparison basis against what is perceived as a vastly inferior beverage, even when compared to the cheapest of beers. The latter is included because I have always felt that it is a vastly overpriced and overhyped beer that is, in fact, on par with most domestic brews.
Our goal with this tasting isn’t to rate these in quality from 1 to 14. We felt that this would be impossible, due to the obvious similarity of all beers involved. Rather, we wanted to get some basic tasting notes and establish the 2 or 3 beers that we feel are the elite of the inferior. Our tasters today involve myself, Matt, and our 2 friends who recently moved to the area – Chris and Elsje. Myself, Matt, and Chris are all rather weathered drinkers of quality craft brew. Elsje is an experienced, albeit less weathered, drinker with an affinity for Bud Light, and so will be a less-biased reviewer of the beers in question.
So, there you have it – the Silver Star Derby. Now, let’s get on with the pain.
The drinking was done using a double-blind method involving numbered cups so that noone would know exactly which beer they were drinking at a given tasting. The tastings were performed in 3 rounds of 5 beers each (with the exception of the final round, involving 4 beers). During each round, we simultaneously drank the same beer, discussed the beer, and individually ranked that beer against the rest from the round. At the end of the final round, we were left with 3 favorites from each round, roughly equating to our favorite brews from the Derby. While this isn’t an absolutely foolproof method to pick the best of the worst, it’s good enough to get me through the summer. So, for starters, we’ll show you our concise descriptions of each of the beers involved. Here are the descriptions and the random beers included in each round; reviewed in the order they were tasted:
Schlitz: Aroma of cardboard and lemon rind. Bland flavor with low carbonation and a watered-down, saccharine sweetness.
Icehouse: Aroma of sea salt and a hint of berry; slight peppery spice. Flavor has stronger presence at the back of the mouth, with a stronger bite and hop profile.
Bud Light: Smells like city water. Flavor of stale bread with a slight vinegary sourness
Stella Artois: Aroma full of spice and malt. Fullest mouthfeel yet with a noticeable hop bit and malty bread flavors.
Southpaw: Burning aroma with a sour citrus tone. Flavor is salty and metallic.
Winner of Round 1: Stella Artois
Runner up: Icehouse
Pabst Blue Ribbon: Yeasty aroma with a grainy sweetness. More substantial flavor with hints of nut and smoke. ‘Meatier’ than the other beers.
Budweiser: Cheap aroma with a sugary yeast hint. High carbonation, but a flat flavor. Has a clean finish, but tastes cheap and contrived.
Bud Select: Musty bread aroma. Has a yeasty wild flavor at the top of the mouth, almost like a watered down flemish ale blended with a typical domestic.
King Cobra Malt Liquor: Carbon dioxide aroma. Slight wheaty sweetness with a bit of berry in the flavor. Not very good, but interesting flavors.
Coors Light: Aroma of sour apples soaked in gasoline. Strong flavor with fullest mouthfeel yet. Substantial malt profile with some floral hints.
Winner of Round 2: TIE – Pabst Blue Ribbon, Bud Select
Runner Up: Coors Light
Natural Light: Smells of wet cardboard and citrus. Flavor has some citrus and light bready flavor. Quite bitter.
Busch Light: Aroma is malty and sour with a metallic backbone. A rather full mouthfeel with some saltiness. Taste more like what I expect from a ‘domestic brew’ than anything yet.
Miller High Life: Citrus and malt in the nose, and more pungent than most. Decent hop profile in the mouth with a lingering bitterness. Some evidence of lemon zest and a light sweetness.
Miller Light: Non-descript aroma, almost ‘sweaty’ smell. Quite bad, with a sour flavor that gave us all the dreaded ‘bitter beer face’
Winner or Round 3: Miller High Life
Runner Up: Busch Light
So, there you have it. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed in my own results, as I rated Stella Artois right up there with the best of the worst, whereas I would’ve preferred that it come in at rock bottom. However, I’m willing to eat crow when it is deserved. (Although, admittedly, Stella Artois is only on-par with the best of domestic beers, which isn’t saying a lot, considering the price differential and perceived value of the beer). Another surprise was that Busch Light actually ranked pretty well, contrary to what I expected. However, beyond those surprises, the remainder of the rankings fit fairly well with my expections – I feel that Miller High Life and Pabst Blue Ribbon are both above par when compared to most domestic brews, so I’m glad to see them do well.
In closing, I hope you enjoyed the fruits of the dismal experience that was the Silver Star Derby. So, when you step into your grocer’s aisle to pick out that 12-pack for your upcoming lake outing or BBQ, you’ll know that, at least in the eyes of the SevenPack crew, your best bets are:
Stella Artois Miller High Life Pabst Blue Ribbon Bud Select