There are great beers and ordinary but drinkable beers. Then, there are the beers HADYN GREEN won’t countenance drinking at all.
Brewers make mistakes, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. I’m a beer writer and a beer drinker, but that doesn’t mean I love every drop that passes my lips. In fact, I’d guesstimate a third of the beers I’ve tried I didn’t like enough to try again and many I actively disliked.
Sometimes it’s because the beers are bad, and sometimes it’s just a style I don’t vibe with. But today I just want to talk about the ones that were bad.
I’ve tried beers that are the result of accidents, where the brewing process screwed up somewhere and suddenly everything tastes, for example, like butterscotch.
As a quick aside, while butterscotch flavour in your beer is considered a diacetyl fault, I know many beer drinkers (and even some brewers) who like it, especially in darker beers where it seems appropriate. One home brewer once cheerfully shared his “buttered popcorn” beer with me, and when I told him the flavour he was showing off was a fault he said, “But I like it!”
Then there are the beers which just taste bad. Beers where the brewers should’ve cut their losses and tipped it.
At a beer festival in Wellington, I was poured a paua beer from a well-known brewery that shall remain unnamed for this story. I walked away thinking it’d probably taste a bit like an oyster stout. It did not. I could barely take more than a sip or two and none of my friends wanted it, so I took it back to be tipped out and to get another. The bartender seemed confused, so I told him how disgusting and unpalatable it was. He told me that he was actually the brewer, and I died.
Stunt beers, as they are often called, seem like a fun time but more often than not are either dull or undrinkable. It’s like the TV show Jackass doing crazier and crazier stunts until you realise it’s not fun anymore and you’re just watching a bunch of jerks.
I will often ignore chilli beers for this reason. I have had maybe two or three beers made with chilli that were interesting and flavoursome and different. Garage Project’s Day Of The Dead is one that I will regularly seek out, for example. But most of them are either so mild the chilli isn’t a factor or made with a hefty, painful kick of chilli, added as a sadistic display of masculine toughness.
At another festival, I tried a beer that had a record IBU level (international bitterness units). It had no flavour, just bitterness. Again, I had to tip it. Many beers are like this, trying to push limits and go more extreme.
Sink the Bismarck was a beer like this. It was part of Scottish brewery Brew Dog’s attempt to make the world’s most alcoholic beer. It was a 41% quadruple IPA and was described by the brewers like this:
“This is IPA amplified, the most evocative style of the craft beer resistance with the volume cranked off the scale. Kettle hopped, dry-hopped then freeze hopped for a deep fruit, resinous and spicy aroma. A full out attack on your tastebuds ensues as the incredibly smooth liquid delivers a crescendo of malt, sweet honey, hop oils and a torpedo of hop bitterness which lasts and lasts.”
It actually tasted fucking disgusting. So much so that my friends and I decided to make shandies out of it, which only barely helped.
How can you avoid bad beers? Ha! You can’t! There’s literally no way of knowing what a new beer is going to be like without getting some of it on your tongue. Even awful smelling beers can taste amazing.
The best you can do is read reviews and even reviews are unreliable. So you’re stuck. The best thing is to make the most of it and hopefully get a good story out of it when you drink something gross.