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Our Blind Taste Test Revealed The Best Mainstream Grocery Store Beer For Summer ’21

There’s no bigger beer in the world than the classic lager. Even if it feels like IPAs are everywhere, the sales of those niche beers don’t even come close to the power of the lager on a global scale. And while there are many different types of lager to choose from, the adjunct lager is the most popular, by far.

Very quickly, “adjunct” simply means the lager is made with barley and corn or rice as adjunct (added) ingredients in the base of the beer. This makes the beer cheaper to produce by providing more accessible sugars from less expensive grains, which the yeasts then convert into alcohol. Popular adjunct lagers are known for being super light, crisp, clean, dry, and only subtly hoppy, which all adds up to these beers being very refreshing.

No wonder they shine during the summer months. Because if we’re being honest, as much as we’re all geeked on craft brews and whatever style the hype machine is raving about lately, seeing a Bud, Coors, Miller, Corona, or Pabst at a backyard party is nothing to dread. Especially when the temperature crosses 85-degrees. The numbers don’t lie.

The blind taste test below is based on aroma and flavor alone. We didn’t want labels messing with our rankings. We’ve also thrown in a ringer to see it if stands out. We added a classic Heineken — which is a European pale lager — to the mix, to see if the old-school recipe of only barley, hops, yeast, and water is noticeably different than the corn and rice fueled American and Mexican adjunct lagers.

Part 1: The Taste

Taste 1:

Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Upon the first sniff, I notice a fairly skunky smell. After that come hints of bananas, sweet malts, and subtle, floral hops. The flavor is surprisingly bitter but somehow palatable. There are more banana-like notes and just a hint of malt sweetness.

Overall, this has an exciting flavor profile that I would definitely come back to.

Taste 2:

Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

This beer smells very cheap. There’s a lot of corn and bread on the nose and not much else. There are maybe some mild, floral hops, but that’s pushing it. The flavor is in line with the nose. I noticed a lot of corny sweetness that is almost overwhelming paired with hints of barley and some floral notes.

All in all, it’s not a very memorable sip.

Taste 3:

Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

I was surprised at the complexity of this beer’s nose. I smelled a bready sweetness, fresh corn, wet grass, and just a hint of floral hops. The palate was similar to the nose with a mix of freshly baked bread, flowers, citrus, and subtle bitter hops at the very end. Though, all of the flavors were fairly muted.

Still, this was … a decent beer that I would drink again. Nothing to write home about, but not unpleasant.

Taste 4:

Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

I took a few moments to breathe in the aromas. I noticed a slight corn smell along with sweet malts, and just a hint of floral hops. The palate is swirling with a good combination of sweet corn and rich caramel malts along with a slightly bitter, piney finish. The finish is crisp, dry, and refreshing.

Taste 5:

Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

There isn’t much going on with this beer. Honestly, all I smell is corn and metal. It smells like a cheap beer. The flavor is overly sweet with cloying sugary sweet corn.

Honestly, this beer tastes like it’s supposed to be a corn-flavored beer. It is refreshing and light, but not much else.

Taste 6:

Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Breathing in this beer’s aromas, you can immediately tell it’s an adjunct lager. I noticed smells of fresh-baked bread, wet grass, sweet, almost corn-like malts, and subtle floral hops. The flavor is similar to the aromas with earthy grass, and bread with sweet malts taking center stage. The only difference is the slight hoppy bitterness at the very end.

While not the most complex beer ever, this is highly drinkable and surprisingly flavorful.

Taste 7:

Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

A lot is going on with this beer’s nose. I smelled caramel malts, crisp apples, and fresh, sweet corn that ended with a nice floral scent. The flavor is all corn sweetness, caramel, subtle hops presence, and a very welcoming fruity flavor. It all ended in a smooth, crisp crescendo that I won’t soon forget.

So far, this is my favorite sip.

Taste 8:

Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

This beer smells kind of… stale. The first scents I noticed were subtle sweet malts and maybe some floral notes. Sadly, it was all kind of muted as it smelled like an old beer that had been opened and left out in the sun for a few hours.

The flavor was much better than the aromas with a good deal of sweet malts and very light citrus notes. But that’s about all that’s going on with this one.

Part 2: The Ranking

8. Busch — Taste 5

Anheuser Busch

ABV: 4.3%

Average Price: $6 (six-pack)

The Beer:

Busch made this list because it’s a classic, cheap, refreshing, no-frills beer. The beer made simply with hops, malted barley, corn, and water.

Bottom Line:

There’s nothing wrong with Busch. It’s a cheap, easy-to-drink beer. But there are definitely no bells and whistles with this one. It tastes the way you imagine super cheap beer tastes in your mind.

7. Corona Extra –Taste 8

Corona

ABV: 4.6%

Average Price: $11 (six-pack)

The Beer:

Corona is a classic beach beer. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it’s the greatest warm weather beer of all time. The brew is made with water, yeast, malted barley, corn, hops, vitamin C, and a food stabilizer.

Bottom Line:

Corona Extra is fine on its own if you want to drink a fairly flavorless beer that you can crush on a hot day. You need to add a lime wedge though. Otherwise, it’s pretty bland with very few redeeming qualities.

6. Coors Banquet — Taste 2

Coors

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $6 (six-pack)

The Beer:

Coors Banquet beer, as the name suggests, is the kind of beer you want to pair with a grilled, likely meat-filled, meal. This five percent lager is brewed using Rocky Mountain water and Moravian barley. But it also contains hop extract and corn syrup. So… there’s that.

Bottom Line:

You don’t crack open a Coors to compare notes on its broad flavor profile. You open one to drink it fast while you stand beside a grill in your backyard. It works perfectly for this purpose.

5. Budweiser — Taste 3

Anheuser Busch

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $6 (six-pack)

The Beer:

Budweiser is known as the “King of Beers.” Of course, that’s just Mad Men-level advertising. Sure, it might be one of the most popular beers (hence the moniker), but it’s far from the most elevated. In essence, it’s a crisp, thirst-quenching, one-dimensional beer made with malted barley and rice alongside yeast, hop extract, and (what feels like a lot of) water.

Bottom Line:

Budweiser is popular because it appeals to passive beer drinkers. You don’t have to care about beer to drink Budweiser. You just drink it and get a refreshing buzz with no judgment or artifice.

4. Heineken — Taste 1

Heineken

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $15 (six-pack)

The Beer:

Heineken is also among the most popular beers in the world. This Dutch pale lager comes in its classic green bottle adorned with a red star. The beer in the bottle is made with hops, malted barley, and water with Heineken’s signature fruity “A-Yeast” strain.

Bottom Line:

As you can see by my tasting notes, this one stood out for being so distinct from the others. Definitely a solid way to switch up your BBQ beer routine.

3. Pabst Blue Ribbon — Taste 6

Pabst

ABV: 4.7%

Average Price: $6 (six-pack)

The Beer:

This crisp and very refreshing beer gets its name due to an award it claims to have won way back in the 1890s. Whether this is actually true doesn’t matter. This iconic beer stood the test of time and remains just as beloved today thanks to a recipe of 2 and 6-Row malted barley, a mix of cereal grains, and American and European hops mixed with PBR’s own proprietary yeast.

Bottom Line:

PBR is cheap, easy to find everywhere, and always there for you. It’s not the fanciest beer, but hipster craft drinkers and old folks playing horseshoes agree that it hits the spot on a hot day. That pure drinkability pushed it all the way to #3 in this tasting.

2. Narragansett — Taste 4

Narragansett

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $9 (six-pack, 16-oz. cans)

The Beer:

This beer is more than the beer that Captain Quint drinks in Jaws (although that’s pretty cool). The New England classic has been brewed since 1890 and has racked up awards ever since. The brew is made with 6-row malts, seedless hops, corn, Narragansett’s own lager yeast strain, and water from Lake Ontario and Lake Hemlock.

Bottom Line:

Whether you grab a Jaws throwback can or one of its iconic tallboys, this is a refreshing, light sipper well-suited for pairing with a day at a coastal beach or in your backyard with your feet in a kiddie pool. The balance and a nice note of hops, plus the fact that the corn wasn’t as overwhelming as it was in some of the others scored this a top spot.

1. Miller High Life — Taste 7

Miller

ABV: 4.6%

Average Price: $6 (six-pack)

The Beer:

Miller High Life is referred to as “The Champagne of Beers,” but that’s a bit of misdirection because this is the epitome of a no-frills, simple, refresher. It gets its refreshing flavor from the use of malted barley, proprietary yeast, Galena hop extract, and corn syrup.

Bottom Line:

While the “King of Beers” didn’t live up to the hype, the “Champagne of Beers” absolutely did. While it’s filled with sweet corn flavor, there were enough other fruity, thirst-quenching notes to make it the most well-rounded beer on this list.

I went into this with no real expectations — I’ve been focused on craft beer for so long that all of these were sort of off my radar. What I found is my new absolute go-to cookout beer.


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