Why we're here...

Beer culture is coming of age. At any store, restaurant, bar, or friend's house you can now find at least a few good brews. In fact, there seem to be so many new beers, breweries and bars it's difficult to separate the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

If you're going spend $10 on one beer, what should you buy? If you're going to drive 2 hours to check out a brewery, what's worth your time? If you're going to plan a Friday night, what has a good selection and friendly atmosphere? We're here to help you answer these questions.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

NorCal Double IPA Grocery Store Showdown

Nine of us blind taste-tested four Double or Imperial IPAs from NorCal breweries. They were bought a grocery store to see how they compare. We bought them all from Bel Air, knowing they've likely sat on the shelf longer than if they were bought from bottle shop.We wanted to see what an average consumer would find if they picked up a bottle from a grocery store.

We used a score range of 0-5, five being the best.

We bought Heretic's Evil Cousin, Napa Smith's Hopageddon, Bear Republic's Cafe Racer 15, and Rubicon's Hopsauce.

Evil Cousin
Beer Advocate: 87
Rate Beer: 3.68
Our score: 3

Beer Advocate: 83
Rate Beer: 3.52
Our score: 2.5

Cafe Racer 15
Beer Advocate: 94
Rate Beer: 3.88
Our Score: 3.38

Beer Advocate: 85
Rate Beer: 3.66
Our Score: 2.1

Overall, the hop flavor was lacking. These must have been sitting around for awhile. However, it was clear the Cafe Racer was the favorite and Evil Cousin a close second. Cafe Racer's hop flavors held up and Evil Cousin was more malt-forward with a enjoyable bitter finish. The other two had off-flavors ranging from slightly sour, buttery, to dirt.

Is it fair to judge beers we know are older? Yes. These are the bottles to which the average consumer will have access, especially new or irregular craft brew drinkers. Beers can win medals at beerfests, because breweries put their best, freshest, and well-tended batches forward. But, those aren't the batches consumers will end up taking home from the store.

The supply chain (breweries, distributors, and stores) needs to do a better job at rotating, storing, and labeling dates on brews. The four brews we tested either did not have bottling dates or had date stamps that were not easily understood. All nine tasters have had disappointing experiences of buying old beers and this tasting validated the problem.

We understand that breweries want to get their brand out and increase production, but the decline in quality turns off the craft beer nerds who help recruit more craft beer nerds. There's at least two breweries we we won't be buying stuff from or recommending (this isn't our first negative experiences with these breweries). We're looking for breweries that focus on quality and consumer knowledge.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I need to be reminded that it's okay to use descriptors that aren't "the norm." As long as we are effectively communicating a flavor and a feeling, we reviewers can dare to be adventurous.