B.C. Beer Blog

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of B.C. craft beer

Super Bowl Super Duds

with 9 comments

A Province article on February 1 explained how their sports department attempted to discover “the best refreshing brew to enjoy” while watching the Super Bowl. Naturally, given the sports orientation of the exercise, this year’s “ultimate Super Sud” was to be determined by a “knockout-style bracket.” The contenders? BC’s eight top-selling beer brands and eight “lesser-known but still tasty” ones. The tasting panel was comprised of six males and one female. (Do we detect a bias?) For the results, read on and weep.

The provincial top eight sellers are:
1. Corona
2. Molson Canadian
3. Kokanee
4. Budweiser
5. Coors
6. Stella Artois
7. Miller Genuine Draft
8. Alexander Keith’s

Notice that seven of the eight are mass-market lagers. All eight are heavily advertised — ergo, the power of media in brainwashing the public. Many would call these everyday beers for the working man, but think of what really is the working man’s brew. Is it beer’s equivalent of Wonder Bread, a product mass-produced by a large corporation to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to maximize profits? These contenders strike me as the equivalent of trying to find the tastiest meal by comparing McDonald’s with Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, KFC, Panago, Tim Horton’s, and Denny’s. Because the food can be had fast and cheap, notwithstanding the ultimate high price paid, people are persuaded they are, somehow, good.

The remaining eight were:
9. Sleeman’s  (sic) Honey Brown
10. Carlsberg
11. Grolsch
12. Innis and (sic) Gunn
13. Bowen Island Pale
14. Phoenix
15. St. Ambroise
16. Yanjing

“Phoenix” is actually Phillips Phoenix Gold Lager. St. Ambroise could be any one of eight beers produced by Montreal’s MacAuslan Brewing; in this case, it happens to be their Apricot Wheat Ale.

In the first round, the match-up was between Corona & Yanjing, Canadian & St. Ambroise, Kokanee & Phoenix Gold, Budweiser & Bowen Island, Coors versus Innis & Gunn, Stella & Grolsch, MGD & Carlsberg, and Keith’s & Sleeman. Going on to the next round were Yanjing, Canadian, Kokanee, Budweiser, Innis & Gunn, Grolsch, MGD, and Sleeman. Except for the I&G, all the remaining contenders are lagers.

In the Province article’s commentary, there were some interesting remarks. Corona was characterized as “bland” and “distinctly unimpressive.” So why is it the top-selling beer in BC? If you are what you eat/drink, what would that say about the people here? Of course, being the top-seller doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority of people here buy it. Those that like it may guzzle it a lot, but the rest of us may be justly satisfied with drinking less and drinking well.

Naturally, the St. Ambroise was deemed a girly beer (“This isn’t a Super Bowl beer…”), so the female panelist was rapidly slapped down. But Innis & Gunn proved Kevlar to the Silver Bullet, keeping her in the game as it was her clear favourite. Kokanee trumped Phoenix Gold because it’s “a good, standard, hoser beer.” That clearly deserves a replay. Budweiser dominated Bowen Island, but all of the latter’s tasters were polished off. Sound like the game was rigged? Next to Grolsch, Stella was exposed as “swill,” “rancid and awful.” Better beer does tend to do that. The Sleeman Honey Brown was mischaracterized as an ale. I guess the panel didn’t think a lager could have such flavour.

I was a Kokanee whore. Now I’m changing my ways.
– Rose Weir, The Whip Restaurant & Gallery

The second round pitted Sleeman against Yanjing, Canadian vs. MGD, Kokanee & Grolsch, and Budweiser vs. Innis & Gunn. Given the trend so far, one might expect Sleeman, Grolsch, and Innis & Gunn to get knocked out. Not so. Going on to the semi-finals were Sleeman, MGD, Kokanee, and Budweiser. Comically, Grolsch was characterized as a “Dutch ‘Budweiser.'” Nevertheless, the competition started getting serious. A former CFL player on the panel was reduced to cursing when Bud advanced.

Now at this point, even when you’re drinking swill, the beer can start going to your head. The panel’s choice of sustenance to keep moving the ball forward? Pizza and chips — two of America’s favourite food groups.

With the carbo loading out of the way, the taste of victory was in the mouths of the remaining competitors. Down to the five yard line? MGD and Sleeman! Who’s going to kick the winning field goal? The five times cold filtered contradiction (hint: draft means it isn’t in a bottle) or the beer of colour that’s actually a lager? Potential spoiler: the writer notes that Sleeman comes in clear bottles and “some have said that the taste can be affected by the exposure to light.” However, the panel didn’t seem to think so. I imagine it’s because their bottles weren’t light struck (thus, it’s conclusive this is a myth!). Ever wondered why beer bottles are mostly brown?

Despite the handicap, Sleeman Honey Brown is voted the Super Sud. Why? “…having slogged through so many lighter-tasting beers, they all began to taste the same. But not Sleeman’s.” Wow! A sports-centric group tiring of beer monoculture? We may be starting to get somewhere. But given the glacial rate of progress, I’m not quite prepared to hold my breath. Calling beer “suds” doesn’t indicate to me an appreciable degree of respect for the beverage. Would you catch a writer referring to wine as “plonk?” Only if it were meant to indicate derision.

The first problem with this competition is that the goal was to pick a single beer to imbibe for a whole eight hours. Why do you have to drink just one for the entire duration? What a bore! The other problem was the selection chosen to begin with. Twelve lagers out of 16 evaluated? That’s a distinct stylistic bias. The rabble have yet to discover bocks, porters, dubbels, tripels, quadrupels, saisons, lambics, alts, barley wine, bitters, milds, IPAs, Scotch ale, bière de garde, Rauchbier, Roggenbier, Koelsch, wood-aged ales, red ales, brown ales, Trappist ales, spiced ales, Russian Imperial stout, sahti, Berliner Weisse, Australian sparkling ale, etc. It’s kind of like the Titanic hitting an iceberg: the extent of what exists is not visible from what is merely in the surface.

I’m always puzzled by the strong association of light lager with American football, as epitomized by the Super Bowl beer commercials. If football is such a macho sport, then why do jocks think it is très cool to drink such wimpy, characterless beer? Something more fitting would be a chewy IPA or stout. When faced with the latter, however, the sport nuts are scared of the dark and want the light turned on. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate their image.

In the meantime, stay tuned for periodic beer evaluations from the Thinking Drinkers tasting panel. They will be more even-handed evaluations with an even split between male and female participants. For inspiration, my “first-down” this evening is going to be one of the last bottles of R&B’s Hop Goblin’, which will be replaced with a new brand: same IPA, different name. We can thank the litigious limeys at Wychwood for that.

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9 Responses

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  1. Hey Rick,

    Great post. One question though, what do you have against Innis and Gunn? I seem to remember it being rather tasty the last time I tried it.

    Cheers,

    Chris

    Chris

    February 10, 2009 at 5:28 pm

  2. Chris,

    While I’m not impressed with most of the beers chosen for this exercise, I’m not trying to say that all of them are lousy. I like Innis & Gunn. It’s a shame, though, that they put it into clear bottles. Unless they are boxed like the Rum Cask I&G, I would be very wary of buying one in a BCLS. I doubt they worry that much about beer in clear bottles becoming light-struck — another case of marketing taking priority over the beer.

    On the diversity side, the panel could have had an interesting choice of styles, but boxed themselves in to mostly lagers. For contrast, I did a tasting last night for some craft beer neophytes of six beers that included a Koelsch, a Vienna lager, an Oud Bruin, a cask-conditioned Scotch ale, a porter, and a barley wine. I’m happy to say there were a couple of epiphany moments that kicked people out of the lager/pale ale rut.

    bcbrews

    February 11, 2009 at 9:56 am

  3. I thought the clear bottle might have been the reason Innis and Gunn warranted a (sic), thanks for clarifying. I have definitely purchased some ‘skunky’ Innis and Gunn from the BCLC in the past. I then wondered why I’d liked their beer so much previously, but this was before I got wise to the pitfalls of a clear bottle.

    I agree that the Province could have done a much better job with their beer selection. I recall seeing the article and immediately not bothering to read it. I wonder if the Province would be interested in reading your post as well as a write up of your recent tasting? They might run their experiment again, this time with Vancouver beers as the contenders.

    Chris

    February 11, 2009 at 11:32 am

  4. “Sic” is an editorial note that means something is written as it was in the source, despite grammar, spelling, or usage errors. In the case of Sleeman’s, that is not the name of the beer, nor the company; it’s Sleeman without an apostrophe “s.” Innis & Gunn is the proper company name.

    As for the Province, I’d be surprised if they were interested in my post, much less wanting to be bothered to respond to it. Here’s why: http://themeaningofweb.com/why-newspapers-failing-online/.

    bcbrews

    February 11, 2009 at 5:30 pm

  5. I did not know about (sic), thanks for enlightening me. That article about newspapers on the web is pretty bang on. I predict the emergence of bird cage lining and fire starting markets.

    Chris

    February 11, 2009 at 5:37 pm

  6. […] the majority of it is industrial beer advertising. Is it any surprise, then, that BC’s top-selling brands closely correlate with those most heavily advertised? And what is the substance of the majority of […]

  7. […] advertising pockets of the brewing conglomerates, it’s no wonder that the great majority of the top selling brands is American lager. Therefore, it’s a shame that our local craft brewers have upped their […]

  8. Yanjing Beer still uses formaldehyde as an anit-settling agent in their beer. Yanjing Beer is not gluten free and Yanjng Beer uses rice as a major adjunct. Total crap.

    If you want a good Chinese beer, try Harbin, Zhujiang or Tsingtao.

    Henry

    December 1, 2011 at 4:29 am


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