Blind tasting lager

Commercial lagers lying in the fridge.

A couple of weeks ago, we posted something about the lager spectrum, suggesting that lagers range from nasty (e.g. San Miguel) to good (Estrella Damm) via neutral (Becks).

We had a nagging doubt, however, that there might be some prejudice in our rankings of these various very similar industrial beers. Do we prefer Estrella to San Miguel because it’s imported rather than license brewed in the UK? Did we think of Becks as neutral because the brand suggests ‘german purity’?

So, inspired by Lars Marius Garshol, and by the results of blind tasting for the Champion Beer of Britain at GBBF, we set out to test ourselves.

Bailey served four beers to Boak, who didn’t know which were in the fridge. They were chosen on the basis that none of them was especially highly regarded or characterful (i.e. no Brooklyn Lager or Jever). The serving order was randomised to prevent any temptation on Bailey’s part to save the perceived best for last, or vice versa.

Boak’s notes were as follows.

Beer 1 (San Miguel, UK brewed)
Tastes like generic lager! Good malt profile; a bitter, slightly metallic edge; no hop aroma or flavour. Not much after-taste at first. A bit unpleasant as it warms up. Not unpleasant when cold. Spanish? Is this Estrella Damm?

Beer 2 (Becks)
Good, pungent, hempy aroma, like Jever, which totally fails to deliver on tasting. Disintegrates. Bland. Like drinking spit. German?

Beer 3 (Estrella Damm)
Crisp and refreshing, but tastes of nothing, apart from a little tartness. Fizzy water with a twist of lemon. Spanish?

Beer 4 (Bitburger)
Similar hoppy aroma to number two but flavour persists a bit longer, definitely accentuated towards the hop. Pretty good. German?

At the end, she named San Miguel her favourite because of the solid maltiness, with Bitburger the runner up because of its hoppiness; Estrella Damm was her least favourite. We were both surprised by this, and a little embarrassed.

This was a fun, eye-opening exercise, and (as if it were needed) once again proves the value of blind tasting.

8 thoughts on “Blind tasting lager”

  1. not too embarassing as the difference between spanish and German beers was identified. It does go to show that a big part of the drinking experience is formed by preconceived ideas and drinking environment.

    I think blind tastings should be blindfolded tastings, that would be fun!

  2. Lars Marius did a blind tasting several years ago where one of the beers was dyed dark. Colour sends so many signals to us about how something will/should taste. Did you ever do that experiment in home economics at school where you had a pink coloured milkshake that was actually chocolate flavour? Absolutely bonkers. Would have sworn in court it was strawberry.

  3. Blind tastings are great fun and some interesting results here. I love the idea of only ever drinking stuff that I have no prior knowledge about and judge it exactly as I taste it, but then at the same time I love the way that hype or expectation can make beers better than they perhaps are. I’ve been meaning to get Lauren to buy a few random beers from the supermarket and give them to me blind to see what I say and think about them.

  4. I love doing blind tastings, a recent IPA one was good fun. When Starr Hill brought out a “black IPA” I messed about with a few people and did blind tastings of that and a mix of stout and the regular IPA – no-one could tell the difference.

  5. Interesting stuff – as blind tastings always are, like you say. Just goes to show that they are super-useful, even to the ‘experienced’, like yourselves. Sort of like a work-out for your palate and brain.

  6. LMG — of the two of us, Boak is the one with the sensitive palate. Usually, when I’m sitting there saying “malty, hoppy, beery”, she’s spotting wet cornflakes, apricots, gripewater…

    Leigh and Mark — it’s a bit of a pain to organise a blind tasting but, as you say, worth the trouble. If nothing else, there’s something really weird about trying to judge a beer without other cues, especially alongside other similar beers. All kinds of subtle differences emerge that you might not otherwise notice.

    TIW — we associate Zywiec with nasty hangovers in Poland from when Boak lived there! Not sure what’s up with Becks but I doubt their weird spammer/blogger will be linking to this post, or that they’ll be adding “Tastes like spit” to their bottle anytime soon.

Comments are closed.