Blind Tasting Beers Can Be Humbling

Have you ever wondered how well you could identify certain beer brands out of a line up of similar beers? Take Corona for example. Don’t you think you could pick a Corona out of a lineup of similar Mexican beers? I was curious as to how well I could identify beers in a blind taste test, so I decided to give it a whirl. If you consider yourself knowledgeable about beer and find yourself critical of certain beers or large breweries and you have never done so, you should try blind tasting some. It can be quite humbling.

I recently tried my hand at blind tasting some Mexican imports, both to educate myself on some of the nuances and to test my knowledge and experience. I’ll admit I was surprised at the results. I realize that I am not a beer Cicerone; but I have been studying and tasting beer for several years now, so I like to think of myself as knowledgeable. I decided to blind taste test Corona Extra, Corona Premier, Modelo Especial, Dos Equis, and Pacifico. I threw in Full Sail Session Cerveza as both a potential decoy, because it is brewed to imitate Mexican beers and to test if I could identify the domestic craft beer version. My goal was to see how different, if any, the characteristics of each brand were and if I could pick them out of a blind lineup. For a beer geek like myself, it’s both fun and a way to test my skills at the same time. Let’s get right to the results.

Of the six beers I blind tasted, I identified three correctly – 50%. While that is not good, it’s not too bad considering the beer styles were very similar. The following is how I ranked the beers – least enjoyable to most enjoyable. I’ve indicated if a identified the beer correctly with a Y or N.

The Rankings

No. 6 – Pacifico Clara (N)

Pacifico Clara

This was actually the biggest surprise of the group. I rated it last of the six even though I have enjoyed it in the past. But why? I think it is because the majority of the time I have had this beer it has been with a meal and it pairs well with Mexican cuisine. But, as a stand alone beer, it had a peculiar taste that was difficult for me to pin down. I’ll call it a metallic/mineral-like taste. It also was the next most bitter of the beers tested, second only to Modelo. I have no idea what hops are used in it, so I am not sure if it is the hops or most likely the water profile that caused the metallic/mineral-like taste. It’s still a decent beer and I would definitely order it with a meal.

To Lime or Not to Lime: Best drunk with a lime (or food).

No. 5 – Modelo Especial (Y)

Modelo Especial

This one was a little bit of a surprise as well. The Modelo Especial I have had in Mexico has been quite good. It has a distinct bitterness to it; but I have enjoyed it lounging on the beach. Now, their best beer by a long shot is Negra Modelo. I REALLY enjoy that one. Unfortunately, this sample of Especial suffered from that familiar skunky smell we often encounter with beers in a clear bottle. The bitterness would still be described as restrained or mild and it has a nice lightly carbonated, creamy mouthfeel. Modelo Especial is best drunk fresh, out of the can or on tap; thus avoiding that unappealing skunkiness.

To Lime or Not To Lime: YES, by all means drink with a lime (if from the bottle)!

No. 4 – Corona Extra (Y)

Corona Extra

This beer is quite an enigma wrapped in a question. It’s obviously very popular, as its sales have grown exponentially in the U.S. over the last ten years or so. But, you either love it or hate it, with very little middle ground. I am in the “hate’ category. It does not have the quality and character of most craft lagers brewed in the United States. This beer has restrained bitterness, a slight grainy aroma and flavor with low carbonation. It’s just kind of blah. If you like it and drink it often, that’s great. You are in good company. It is definitely a beer that should be consumed ice cold and with the infamous lime. I did rank it above Pacifico and Modelo; however, there was a very distinct line of demarcation between it, Modelo, Pacifico and the three I ranked above them.

To Lime or Not to Lime: Well, as advertised, please do drink with a lime.

No. 3- Corona Premier (N)

Corona Premier

Of all the Corona products available on the market today, Premier is one of the better ones. It’s still not great; but in terms of straight drinkability, it works. It pours a clear, pale gold developing pure white head with short to medium retention. It is light and refreshing with virtually no bitterness. It presents a grainy aroma and taste. The sample I tried came in a 24 oz. can; thus eliminating that familiar skunkiness that you encounter with Corona Extra and Corona Light in the clear bottle. The bottom line, don’t drink Extra or Premier from the clear bottle; go for the cans.

To Lime or Not to Lime: Coin toss, feel free to go naked without the lime!

No. 2 – Full Sail Sesion Cerveza (Y)

Full Sail Sesion Cerveza

Sesion Cerveza is a hidden gem in the Full Sail Brewing line up. This is one of the best beers out there for taking to the beach, lake, pool or backyard cookout. Even better, it is now available in 12 oz. cans. Even though it has been available longer, I discovered it over a year ago and have been drinking it ever sense. Naturally, it was one of the three I was able to identify out of the line up.

This beer is highly carbonated and pours a brilliant, clear straw gold color with good head retention, making it attractive right out of the gate. It presents some nice subtle grainy, floral, lemon and spicy aromas (very Saazer-like). The mouthfeel is thin (in a good way) and highly carbonated, finishing clean and crisp with no bitterness. It leans toward the sweet side; but is not overly sweet. The funny thing about Full Sail Sesion Cerveza is, if it were made in Mexico instead of Oregon, it would be one of the more popular exports from that country.

To Lime or Not to Lime: No Lime Needed

No. 1 – Dos Equis Lager Especial (N)

Dos Equis Lager Especial

So this is where the humbling part comes in. When it came time for me select my favorite of the six, I selected the Dos Equis pale lager. As someone who considers myself a big supporter of craft beer and high quality beers, how in the world did I select Dos Equis? After all, this brewery states up front they use corn starch and corn syrup in the brewing process.

I had to be honest with myself. When I am looking for a versatile, all around “light” beer that will provide the most enjoyment on a hot summer day, I am generally going to go with something that is very low bitterness, low ABV, and easy drinking. I usually go for a Witbier or Hefeweizen; however, a beer like Dos Equis fits that bill as well. It pours out a pale golden color with medium head retention. Exhibits mild grain and corn-like aromas. The sweet malt backbone delivers a consistent taste, finishing short and sweet. It’s simply a smooth, easy drinking beer. It doesn’t exhibit any kind of outstanding hops characteristics, which leaves it open to critics; but it’s not a bad tasting beer either.

To Lime or Not to Lime: No Lime Needed

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, I am no better at identifying mass marketed beers from craft beers than the average person. Somewhat in my defense, it is very challenging to identify specific brands that are in the same style of beer. You have to really know you stuff get most of those correct. I also placed the craft beer in the top two, so maybe I am not as bad as I think I am. The bottom line is, if you like a certain beer, drink it. If you prefer to support craft breweries (as I do), go for it! Keep supporting them! If you think that person drinking the Dos Equis or Pabst Blue Ribbon at the table next to you is an unsophisticated beer Neanderthal, think twice about that. Even better, try some blind taste testing yourself; you’ll be surprised at the results. You’ll also learn a few things along the way.

Thanks for reading and until next time…Let Us Drink Beer!

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