Blind Leading the Blind is a beer blog collaboration between myself and the brilliantly bearded Canadian mastermind behind Brews & Bacon. For those that are new to this, our collaborative concept is simple – blind beer tasting. The basic outline is:
- we pick a beer style
- we buy five beers of that style for the other blogger to blind taste
- one of those beers will be a pre-determined ‘benchmark’ beer that we both blindly taste, to act as a baseline between our results
- another beer will be from a ‘faux craft’ or ‘amusingly crap’ brand, to a little levity and sniggering to the proceedings
- we then meet up and do the blind tasting, reveal our beers to one another, laugh, and post our findings on our blogs
For a more detailed outline of how we do this, check out the first post here.
In honour of Australia Day this coming Monday, our second blind tasting involved a style that is about as Aussie as pluggers and footy shorts – Pale Lagers. It’s also a style that my Canadian counterpart has no time for at all. This tasting was quite a struggle for the self-proclaimed “beer bigot”, which made me giggle on more than a few occasions. To his credit though he made it through the whole thing, and only tipped out one of the beers.
I never imagined buying five lagers would be such a difficult task! In a market where the lion’s share belongs to the ‘evil-mass-produced-lager-brewers’, it was surprisingly tricky to find five that would provide enough difference in flavour to make it and interesting tasting. Then there’s the issue of trying to track down a ‘crafty’ lager – not a Pilsner, not an IPL, just a lager. They’re as rare as hen’s teeth! I came very close to giving up and simply buying Jason some tins of XXXX, VB and Tooheys New. But I couldn’t do that to the young man, and after a lot of searching managed to find him a few gems (relatively speaking). Check out his version of events to see what I ended up getting him, and what he thought of them…after you read through my results, of course.
The benchmark beer for this round – Byron Bays own Stone & Wood Pale Lager
Note: All five beers were sampled prior to the reveal, but for the ease of presenting the results I’ve revealed each beer after its own (relatively unedited) notes.
Fluffy white head, and the body emits a fizzy glow. It’s actually pretty tempting to look at, but this may have more to do with the midday heat beating down on my shoulders than anything else. Smell’s of…not much at all. Slight cereal, maybe a hint of citrus. The flavour is certainly nothing offensive. The hops are rather prominent, displaying a ‘noble’ quality – citrus with some spice. Not hating on this. It’s fine, and comes across as being brewed with a little bit of love. Then I had a sip of Fosters part way through, and suddenly I loved this SO much more! As it warmed up it released floral notes, a little melon…gobstopper lollies? A respectable 7/10
Reveal – Pistonhead Kustom Lager (Can)
Afterthought: I’ve seen this on the shelves at Dan’s for months now, but I’ve never bought one because I was positive that it would be shit. It really wasn’t – guess you really can’t judge a beer by its can”
No head this time, but the same colour as the first beer. Although for some reason it’s just not as tempting…less sparkle. The first smell made me go “wow” – much sweeter and more floral, kinda like number 1 turnt up. The first taste also elicited a “wow” – lots more flavour and hoppy goodness. Maybe a little too much even? It’s still tasty, but I dunno, I kinda want something cleaner from my lager (N.B. I know, saying “I want my lager to be clean” suggests that the evil lager marketing machine has gotten to me. I’m going to blame slight sunstroke for that comment). As it warms it just gets worse and worse. The bitterness hurts, and the taste reminds me of the chewable Panadol I was forced to endure as a child. In the end, it didn’t get finished. A promising start lead to an eventual score of 1/10
Reveal – Vale LGR
Afterthought: Two tastings in a row, a beer that I’ve rated highly in the past comes up short – in this case, really short. It started off with real promise when it was cold, but by the time it had warmed up it was verging on undrinkable. This beer is now ruined for me. Thanks a lot Jason…
The colour is definitely cloudier in this one, but other than that it’s the same as the first two. The first smell isn’t promising – I don’t really want it. The first taste is far more promising though. It’s sweet, much tastier than it smells, with a fresh grain flavour coming through at the end. It’s a little nutty as well, and the aroma has grown on me. Kind of…it’s starting to smell very ‘Straya’, which I’m not sure is a good thing. Then boiled veggies appear in the aroma and in the taste, and I become sad L. But it’s not making me cry, so it grabs a 3/10
Reveal – Stone & Wood Lager
Afterthought: Ok, now that’s two beers, IN A ROW, that I’ve rated highly in the past that have fallen short in this tasting. Again, it started off with promise, but went downhill quickly once it warmed. A lesson for next time – score the lagers before they warm up.
Great head! Still the same colour as the first three…the imitial smell is musky, quite nice. There’s not a huge amount going on in the flavour either way. It’s clean (yep, there’s that descriptor again) It’s fine, but rather nondescript. There’s sweetness and a slight bitterness. Actually scratch that – it’s much bitterer than the others. It’s opening up as it warms, getting better as it goes while the lagers sitting next to it go downhill. This is why it pulls a 5/10
Reveal – Minimum Chips Golden Lager
Afterthought: Hmmm…it’s still very…yep….just, yep. I really don’t have any strong thoughts about this beer either way. It’s fine, very deserving of a completely mid-range score. (N.B. I kept drinking all of the beers after I’d scored them, and this beer ended up tasting worse than the Stone & Wood. But by that time it was too late. There’s definitely some tweaking that needs to be done to the system.)
Ok, something is up here. This beer is significantly darker than anything else that’s been poured today. I think I’m being tricked. The aroma suggests the same thing – caramel, toffee, stone fruit, citrus. I think I had this during our last tasting. The flavour has some hazelnut, and big fruit notes. Is this even a lager?! I’m really getting a ‘hand crafted’ vibe from this one. This is definitely something different to what we’ve had today. I’m honestly torn here. I like this beer, a lot. It’s interesting, it’s different…but I seriously don’t think it’s a lager! The flavours I’m getting here would give some pale ales a run for their money. I’m even going to go as far as predicting what this beer is – I think Jason has slipped me a Moon Dog Double Lager. It’s far bolder than any other beer we’ve had today. Doubly bolder in fact. I’m not sure how to score it though; it doesn’t seem like a fair comparison. But, whatever…this is flavour country, so it gets an 8/10.
Reveal – Edge Brewing Project Cryonic Hops
Afterthought: Prediction fail, but I was right about the ‘double’ part. Sort of anyway; they call this an ‘Imperial version’ of their Cool Hops Lager, so it was indeed a much bigger brew than all the others. I still don’t think it was a fair comparison to the others though.
Results Wrap Up
- Edge Brewing Project Cryonic Hops (8/10)
- Pistonhead Kustom Lager (Can) (7/10)
- Minimum Chips Golden Lager (5/10)
- Stone $ Wood Lager (3/10)
- Vale LGR (1/10)
Personally, I wouldn’t read too much into these results. We tried to drink these beers in the best possible condition, by keeping them in the fridge until each one was ready to be sampled. We hoped that this would keep the beers cold, and it did – but then I changed my scores based on what the beers tasted like after they’d been sitting in their plastic cups for too long. Looking back now, that was probably an error on my part.
There’s an argument to say that beer should be pleasant to drink at any temperature, and that only truly awful beer needs to be consumed ice-cold. However, if I’d locked the scores in while the beers were still chilled, the final scores would have looked much different. And really, who is going to drink a lager slowly, allowing flavour and aroma to develop as it warms?! These beers are designed to be consumed cold, and I think these results reflect that. The next time we do a Lager session, we’re doing it on the beach, and there will be a five-minute time limit to make a call! Although I don’t know how my Canadian buddy will feel about that…
For our next tasting we’re finally getting hoppy with some IPA goodness! But we’re also getting al little more specific – we’ll be tasting IPA’s brewed exclusively in Victoria. I’m looking forward to this one.
Got an idea for one of the next secret beers? Let us know in the comments below. If you missed the links to Jason’s version of this post, then here’s one last chance for you to head over to www.brewsandbacon.com now.