Mass Beer Blind Taste Test

Last night a friend organized a blind taste test of several mass-produced beers. This stemmed from an argument over whether Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) was an okay beer or a horrible one. Tasters were given six small lettered cups of beer; nobody knew even which brands they were (except we all knew PBR was in the mix). I collected five results.

Photo: The good Doctor Paul Hsieh applies his penetrating scientific mind to the problem of determining beer quality; from Picasa.

I did a two-stage ranking. First I marked beers as “okay” or “not great”; I marked three in each category. Then I ranked the beers in order from 1 to 6. Here was my ranking: Sam Adams Boston Lager, Modelo Especial, PBR, Coors Light, Stella Artois, and Pilsner Urquell. So, while I thought the Sam Adams was clearly superior to PBR, PBR still made my “okay” list.

Jennifer (my wife) and I had similar tastes, except she ranked Pilsner Urquell second rather than last. (I didn’t like it at all.) Here was her ranking: Sam Adams Boston Lager, Pilsner Urquell, Modelo Especial, PBR, Stella Artois, Coors Light. (It’s too bad the regular Coors wasn’t in the mix; I suspect that’s somewhat better.)

Paul ranked them as follows: Modelo Especial, Sam Adams Boston Lager, PBR, Coors Light, Stella Artois, Pilsner Urquell.

“H:” Modelo Especial, Sam Adams Boston Lager, Pilsner Urquell, Stella Artois, PBR, Coors Light.

“S:” Coors Light, Stella Artois, Sam Adams Boston Lager, PBR, Modelo Especial, Pilsner Urquell.

While Sam Adams ranked in the top half of everyone’s list, only Jennifer and I ranked it first. (I thought it was clearly superior to the rest, though not nearly as good as the craft beers I usually drink.) Everyone ranked PBR in the middle, from a 3 to a 5. I was a little surprised that the Modelo performed relatively well, earning two first places and a second.

But of course this exercise largely was academic; generally I’m going to drink a real beer, such as a Guinness or a Rock Bottom Molly’s Brown.