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Posted at 5:04 PM ET, 06/30/2009

Taste Test: Cheap, Domestic Cans of Beer

By Fritz Hahn

The competitors -- all of which can be yours for less than a buck each.. (Fritz Hahn/washingtonpost.com)

Last year, I convened a panel of friends and coworkers to taste and rate Caribbean beers. This time around, we took on domestic canned beers in search of the perfect brew for a holiday weekend cookout. We were looking for one with broad appeal, one that people could enjoy all day in the afternoon sun and one that was cheap. How cheap? My only rule was that each individual beer had cost less than $1, or no more than $6 a six-pack.

This was a blind tasting, with beers served in unmarked cups. Participants were asked to rate the beer on a scale of 1 to 5 on the overall taste -- this was relative, given the quality of beer -- and a separate score of 1 to 5 based on how refreshing the beer would feel on a hot summer day. (Temperatures were in the 80s on both tasting days.) The average scores for each beer were then combined to get the overall tally.

And before you ask, it wasn't a panel full of beer snobs: Testers ranged from a sommelier at a highly-rated restaurant to a self-described Coors Light drinker. Let's see what they said.

Overall Winner
National Bohemian
Combined score: 7.14286 (Taste: 3.7/5; Refreshment: 3.4/5)
Price: $8/12-pack at DeVino's in Columbia Heights
The surprise winner was Baltimore's own Natty Boh, which testers rated highest on flavor and third for refreshment. Some of the praise: "The best one -- actually tastes like beer!" "High carbonation and the most hops." "Zesty ... got a little more kick."

"Flavor! Weird!" wrote one Going Out Guru, who was obviously not expecting much after sampling a few other brews. Another praised Boh as "Mellow and smooth."

Of course, reactions were mixed. "Most assertive and palatable flavor," said one, damning with faint praise. "I would happily drink this beer because it doesn't have a nasty aftertaste," added another. Final view: "Not great, but at least distinctive"

Second Place
Miller High Life
Combined score: 7 (Taste: 3.4/5; Refreshment: 3.6/5)
Price: $4.99/6-pack from Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits
The Champagne of Beers proved popular with testers on both ends of the spectrum, who rated it second for both flavor and refreshment. "The best ... I wanted to drink it though a straw in a tall glass with ice," raved one. "Cold and fizzy. Would probably like this with a dog," said another. Of course, there were notes of caution. "The tastiest, but not exactly refreshing." Another taster opined he "would not want to drink multiples of this one -- If my thirst got the best of me, I would regret the subsequent bloat."

Third Place
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Combined score: 6.5 (Taste: 3.1/5; Refreshment: 3.4/5)
Price: $5.29/6-pack from Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits
One of the most popular bargain beers around town didn't exactly win over our testers. They praised the "rich" taste and said it "goes down smooth." "I wouldn't have to be drunk to drink this," said one. But its refreshment divided the panel. One called it a "tabula rasa" and wanted tp "knock 'em down on the beach," while another held that PBR has "too much body for a thirst quencher." One participant turned up her nose completely: "Sort of icky. Makes me want to drink something else. Anything else."

Fourth Place
Bud Light
Combined score: 6.07143 (Taste: 2.4/5; Refreshment: 3.7/5)
Price: $4.99/6-pack from Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits
On a hot day, this is the beer our panel wants most. "Very refreshing, due to the complete lack of flavor," said one wag. It got high marks all around for being "bright, cold and bubbly," but didn't get much praise beyond that. "I bet this is the cheapest -- minimally flavored fizzy water," offered one. Said one expert: "Very carbonated; tastes like soda water. Good as the fifth or sixth beer of the night."

Fifth Place
Schaefer
Combined score: 5.92857 (Taste: 3/5; Refreshment: 2.9/5)
Price: $3.99/6-pack from Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits
One tester said Schaeffer was "lighter and fruitier [than some of the others] -- tastes like there should be an orange slice thrown in." On the other hand, another said it was "way too sugary to be refreshing." For the most part, though, Schaefer was just considered bland. "No aluminum taste, no hoppiness -- a suitable accompaniment to salty food." Or this random dismissal: "Cold and carbonated -- good enough for when you're already drunk and it's hot." And one just summed it up: "Yuck."

Last Place
Schlitz
Combined score: 5.5 (Taste: 2.4/5; Refreshment: 3.1/5)
Price: $3.99/6-pack from Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits
"The beer that made Milwaukee famous" was not a favorite of our testers. Let's just run down the comments:
"Tastes a little bit of hops, a little bit of cardboard"
"Would only drink this if was served in a koozie."
"Kind of like drinking sparkling water with beer ice cubes. But it's easy to drink."
"Frothy -- definitely cheap tasting, like a [Milwaukee's Best] nose"
"Tasteless and slightly reminiscent of saliva."

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | June 30, 2009; 5:04 PM ET
Categories:  Misc.  
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Comments

Fritz - I am so damn tired of your stupidity. Finally, I am posting..

National Bohemian, colloquially called Natty Boh, is an American lager-style beer originally brewed in Baltimore, Maryland, but now brewed by the Miller Brewing Company in Eden, North Carolina and distributed by the Pabst Brewing Company.

Posted by: MinorLeagueFanatic | June 30, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Now.. Where's the Blatz?

Posted by: koelpien | July 1, 2009 7:18 AM | Report abuse

MinorLeagueFanatic, I think pretty much everyone in Maryland knows that Boh is no longer brewed in Baltimore. (The brewery itself is now condos.) But whether or not the beer is made in the city, Natty Boh still belongs to Baltimore.

You don't have to look hard to see it: The large neon head of Mr. Boh looks down on Canton from Brewer's Hill; Mr. Boh is used on billboards for Smyth's jewelers; there's a shop selling all manner of National Bohemian paraphernalia in Fells Point; and you can still buy the beer itself in taverns and pubs all over the city.

Wherever the Natty Boh is produced, it is still widely associated with and embraced by Baltimore. That's why I referred to it as "Baltimore's own."

Posted by: Fritz_Hahn | July 1, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

MinorLeagueFanatic needs to go back to the minor leagues and get an education. Thanks for saying what everyone in Baltimore knows, Fritz. MinorLeague is a Major League idiot.

Posted by: homertuckumd | July 1, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I didn't even need Fritz's rebuttal to see that MinorLeague needs to chill out.

I love that a sommelier participated! A cheap beer tasting sounds like a fun way to spend a summer afternoon.

Posted by: AmaliaAusten | July 1, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

no Miller Lite? no Coors Light? this seems like a huge miss for a cheap beer taste test...

Posted by: buggzy | July 1, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Miller Lite and Coors Light were both considered for the final six. I left Miller Lite out because I wanted to get High Life in, and we decided that we didn't want to have two Miller beers in the test. (This is of course disregarding the fact that Boh, PBR, Schaeffer and Schiltz are all brewed under contract by Miller.)

As for Coors Light ... maybe next time, but our self-described "nothing but Coors Light" drinker DID rate Natty Boh the highest.

Posted by: Fritz_Hahn | July 1, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone in VA sell Natty Boh?

Posted by: kulwicki7 | July 1, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

All domestic lagers taste like watered-down water.....

Posted by: jckdoors | July 1, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

No Yuengling?

Posted by: gjhome1 | July 1, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

The only thing that could possibly complement this is a Taste Test between several brands of bologna; perhaps Oscar Mayer vs Eckrich?

Posted by: CubsFan | July 1, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm going up to western New York this weekend and bringing back some Labatts, where a 12 pack can be found on sale for about $6.99 (plus deposit). It's a good beer, albeit Canadian on this most-American of holidays, and you can't beat the price.

Posted by: AnnandaleAnnie | July 1, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

AnnandaleAnnie, I got 30 packs of PBR for $10.99 when I was in Delaware over Memorial Day. (Outlet Liquors, the amazing new beer superstore on Highway One between Dewey and Rehoboth, if anyone's going to the beach this weekend.) Best part: Delaware doesn't have deposits on cans.

Posted by: Fritz_Hahn | July 1, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

You definitely overlooked Yuengling. It blows all those other beers away.

Posted by: jasper12 | July 2, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I live in Baltimore and used to live in Austin, TX. I love me some Natty Boh, but I'm disappointed that Lone Star didn't make the list. But then again, it's just a little gem down south that we don't want everyone to find out about.

Posted by: abp123 | July 2, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

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