What's the Difference? Share your side-by-side (2023)

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by cjgiant, Jan 21, 2023.

  1. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Happy new year from a few weeks into it. No one has started a this year's version of this thread started in 2021 by @jonphisher. We had a decent run with last year's thread, including comparisons of similar beers in the same style, of the same beer with different vintages, of the same beer in a can versus a bottle, and of similar styles. In the last quarter, we had a couple interesting side-by-sides, including a Braggot comparison and an 8-year vertical on Pliny :astonished:

    Thanks to @WickedBeer and @Beersnake1 and all the others who contributed last year; please feel free to join in again this year. And a big welcome to any other who want to participate in 2023. The "rules" as they sit are basically:
    • come up with some reason to try two or more beers together for any reason you have
    • obtain said beers and conduct the side-by-side
    • take a few notes along the way as to what you are finding similar and different in the beers
    • provide the information from the previous three bullets, plus anything else you care to share, for our reading pleasure

    So I purchased the Extreme Beer: Big Stout Box, and one of the beers in it was a Barrel-aged Ten FIDY. Now I have had this beer before, but this year's version was marketed as a blend of 3-5 year bourbon with 8-12 year bourbon barrel aged beers.
    Admittedly, I do not recall any previous marketing claims as to the barrels chosen for BA1050 (which the Oaskar Blues site indicates was first released in 2016), but I happen to have one can left from 2019, which will be used for comparison in both age and possible barrel constitution.
    In looks, I thought the initial head a little darker on the older can, but once they fall to a nicely holding sheen across the surface, they look similar in color. The newer beer looks slightly more creamy in makeup, but I'll call them essentially the same in this category.

    On the nose, the late 2022 beer has a more fruity edge to it - a mix of dark berry with a splash of prune - that the older pour doesn't seem to have. The newer beer is more aromatic overall, which isn't a big surprise, but both have a tinge of sweet borbuon that leads to a more nutty aroma than the bitter dark roast of a regular Ten FIDY.

    The barrel influence seems tame in the 2022, though like the nose, then heavy roasted malt of the base beer is tamed by the barrel aging. The 2019 has a little more bourbon influence in the first sips. The 2022 has more of a cola vibe that a slightly more carbonated feel helps to promote. There's a different fruit note in the newer beer than I got in the nose, but it is unique to that beer in this tasting. As I near the end of a warming beer, the barrel tannin grows a bit stronger in both, but especially in the 2022.

    (your left is older, right newer)

    The GF and I agree that we like the 2019 BA Ten FIDY more. She thought it had "more flavor" though she found the newer beer "smoother" (which I disagree with). I can't say that the barrel selection process, if different, is the primary reason for the 2022 falling flat. If anything, it seems more like the beer spent less time in barrels last year than anything to do with how long the previous occupant was in them.


    To join the thread, you don't have to be as descriptive as I tend to be, but some amount of information as to why you tried your beers together and what you found is key. Happy comparing!!!
  2. WickedBeer

    WickedBeer Pooh-Bah (2,774) Sep 23, 2015 Alabama
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    Hoping to be able to contribute to this starting next month after Dry January. CHEERS!
  3. CB_Michigan

    CB_Michigan Maven (1,436) Sep 4, 2014 Illinois
    Society Trader

    Cross-posting this in the Extreme Stout Box Forum. Cracked open a Revolution Dark Mode (2021)and a Revolution Very Special Old Dark Mode (2022):
    First thing I noticed was the difference in head. DM had a nice, creamy looking, pillowy tan head that persisted through the first few sips. VSODM was a dark caramel color and dissipated by the time I picked up my phone. The carbonation level of VSODM also seems higher and more prickly.

    The nose on each is similar. Lots of toffee, some vanilla, but much richer and more complex for the VSODM. Definitely more barrel presence in that one, but also a little less char and some subtle baking spice notes.

    In terms of taste, the DM leads with a slight brown sugar sweetness that gives way to a roasty, boozy sensation. There’s some dark fruit and a vanilla/caramel quality reminiscent of a craft cola. The roast and oak linger through the finish. Even after a year+ this beer is wonderful.

    The VSODM is an absolute bruiser (in a good way). The overall taste profile is similar, but there is greater depth of flavor. It’s more intense, for sure, but still drinks remarkably smoothly. The barrel is really in the spotlight from start to (lingering) finish. The booze, vanilla, oak, and caramel are all amped up (the booze more than any of the others). Instead of the cola note that DM had, there’s an oaky, tannic, drying finish. There’s a wine-like quality and complexity to the interplay between the flavors.

    Which is better? It really depends on what you’re looking for. I could drink Dark Mode on a regular basis, if it were available. It’s super approachable as a smooth, BBA Imp Stout. VSO Dark Mode, on the other hand, demands your attention. It’s a beer that almost requires contemplation and analysis. There’s so much going on underneath the surface, I’d find it hard to focus on anything else. It’s most definitely a “once in a while” treat for me.

    Despite the differences, it’s clear that these beers share an underlying DNA. They’re definitely brothers but one is the easy-going, take life as it comes, zen master seeking enjoyment. While the other is the hyper-driven, put me on stage, craving the spotlight, super achiever.
    #3 CB_Michigan, Feb 5, 2023
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2023
  4. jmdrpi

    jmdrpi Grand High Pooh-Bah (7,493) Dec 11, 2008 Pennsylvania
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    Posted this in the Cellaruary thread but appropriate here as well:

    2012 bottle of North Coast Old Stock Ale, along with a fresh 2022 bottle for comparison. The fresh bottle is hoppier and has some earthy balancing bitterness. The 10 year old bottle is heavier on the peach and plum fruitiness in the aroma.
  5. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Ok, it just so happened that I have three (3) smoked bers in my fridge at the same time. They are all different base styles and each has a small amount of age on it. I wanted to do a comparison to see how the different beers expressed the smoke.

    On the lighter end, we have a pale beer with Oxbow's Smoke Helles. In the middle and amber in color, we have local brewer Port City's Rauchbier. On the darker side, we have von Trapp's Trösten.

    On the nose, I was a bit surprised that Smoked Helles had some pop, coming as a clean smoke from a freshly started campfire. Trösten seemed more powerful at first, but I think the darker malts are playing into my thoughts, accentuating the smoke more than the pale malts of the Oxbow beer. Port City seems to be the smokiest to me on initial assessment, and falls on the meaty side compared to the others.

    The Helles brings lighter flavors from the malt and the smoke seems to be at an appropriate level because of this. The honey sweetness contrasts slightly with the smoke to bring a metallic tang as the co-mingle.

    The amber Rauchbier starts with a mineral note (I tend to get this in amber beers) and the malt flavors ease into the smoke a bit better than the Helles. Maybe because of this, the beer doesn't seem as smoky until the back end. Comparatively, Port City's beer is a bit more campfire compared to the Helles being a bit more ashy.

    I feel a pattern continues with the darker von Trapp beer - the darker malt is pairing with the smoke to shift the flavor profile rather than using smoke as an additional or separate note. Trösten is that of pumpernickel that spent a bit too long in the toaster paired with a thin spread of dark mole.

    So, on the first run through the darker the beer got, the less the smoke got an identity of its own. As the beers warmed, Trösten and Smoked Helles' smoke became a little less distinct, while Port City's seemed to hold its profile a bit longer.

    I'd be curious to see the malt bills for each of these to see how much smoked malt was used to produce the levels I perceived. While I could take a little more smoke in all the beers, I wouldn't want very much more in any. I like the initial levels of Oxbow's smoke before it started to fade. I also could use a little more smoke on Trösten to stand up to the dark malts.
  6. ESHBG

    ESHBG Pooh-Bah (1,857) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    The battle of the fruited IPAs! Still licking my wounds after the Eagles loss yesterday but being a Philly fan you get used to "almost" and "oh so close" over and over again so my recovery time will be quick :stuck_out_tongue: I had these two bottles on hand and figured this may be fun:

    1. Flying Dog Hare Chaser Grapefruit IPA - 6.2%, BB 06/13/23
    2. Victory Fruitful IPA (IPA with natural flavors, hops are El Dorado and Amarillo) - 6.4%, BB 06/07/23

    For the Victory, I am going into this thinking that I won't be a big fan because natural flavor additives can be hit or miss but it was intriguing so what the heck. Pours from a bottle a nice clear orange-ish color, very carbonated, fluffy head. Smell is decent, strong on the Apricot. Taste is Apricot, Peach, Berry and it does hit every note described on the label. The hops are underneath it all but do show up more as it warms. Am I enjoying this beer? Yes. Is it a little odd? Kind of, and because it has a slightly odd aftertaste. But it surpassed my expectations and is crisp/drinkable/refreshing and I would have this again if handed one.

    For the Flying Dog, pours a clear light yellow color, medium carbonation, nice head. Smell is the usual IPA with a hint of Grapefruit. Taste is right on the $ and it's an IPA with just enough Grapefruit, I prefer this one...not to say that the Victory is bad, but it's more artificial tasting than this and this is also crisp and refreshing and a little more natural tasting. Budmo!
  7. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Today I am going to redo a comparison I did last year, in which Jack's Abby Sunny Ridge ended up the better beer to my liking in the style of Czech Pilsner against Vibrissa's Degrees.

    It wasn't a big surprise as Sunny Ridge was one of my favorite new beers of 2022, although it sat on the shelf for a while last year. So much so, I wasn't sure about the dates when I saw it the other day, which aren't the easiest to read on the bottom of the can, but I am fairly certain the can is from January of this year, as is the Vibrissa beer.

    The looks are a little more equal this year, with Sunny Ridge having a little more head, though Degrees had a slightly better structure. Sunny Ridge has a bit more haze again this year.

    Pouring them a little too full, I dive into taste first. One quick gulp of each and I'm left with a grass and mineral aftertaste. Sunny Ridge had a slightly softer feel and a more bready malt flavor than Degrees, but they tasted fairly similar. Relatively, I would say Degrees seemed slightly more toasty, but I also think that the water profiles of these beers might be a difference I am picking up.

    Of course I'm talking out my ass, but it "feels" like that may be true. And I have to laugh that I mentioned the same thing last year, as I just now re-read what I posted then to see the difference. At least I'm consistent with my BS.

    Now that I can get my nose in, Sunny Ridge is more bread and grass where Degrees is grass with a slightly mineral graininess. Both also bring that overall nondescript "beer-like" aroma.

    Both are very good, but Sunny Ridge proves today my enjoyment of it last year wasn't an anomaly. I'm going to have to hit the store again in short order to grab a few new of this fresh batch. Vibrissa's beer also had a good showing, and if it weren't sitting next to Sunny Ridge today, I'd be looking forward to grabbing it for the next sip.
  8. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,169) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    You are fortunate to have Sunny Ridge available to you. None of my local beer retailers have this beer available. But coincidentally I bottled my annual batch of Bohemian Pilsner earlier today and in a couple/few weeks I will be drinking these beers.
    When it comes to brewing the Bohemian Pilsner (Czech Pale Lager) the brewing water does really matter. In the Czech Republic (e.g., the Pilsner Urquell brewery) they use very soft well water and in the specific case of Pilsner Urquell they even further treat the water to make it even softer (Note: soft water means very low mineral content). I have no purview into how Vibrissa or Jack's Abby 'manage' their water for these beers but in my homebrewery I use mostly distilled water (which had zero mineral content) and a minority portion of filtered tap water to achieve soft brewing water for my Bohemian Pilsner.

  9. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
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    Do "elite barrels" make a difference? Well, obviously a little more goes into the process of producing a batch of barrel-aged than just the barrels used, including time in barrel. Firestone Walker gave us Parabaloid for the Big Stout edition of the latest Extreme Beer Box, and their video mentions that the beer was aged for two years in 14 year old Old Forester barrels and 18 year old Sazerac rye barrels.

    In contrast, the other side of this comparison is Parabola, which they mention is aged for at least a year in a variety of bourbon barrels. Another difference I am inferring is the Parabola relies more on the blending process based on the results of sampling the various filled barrels FW has. The "elite" barrels are certainly less in number, and therefore it seems like it would be more a case of "this is what we got" in the bottle.

    Anyhow, let's see if there's a big enough difference in these that I may like to see something beyond this inaugural batch of Parabaloid or if I'm fine with regular old Parabola.

    Both pour dark, and both have lasting full-coverage head. Parabaloid has a little bit thicker collar and a shade darker color in my pours. The noses start fairly similar, but going back and forth, the Parabaloid is a little more chewy fudgy and Parabola has a hint of barrel wood that seems better integrated in Parabaloid. Both have a hint of something like oxidation, but I do not think that is age, I just think its the mix of roasted malt, barrel wood, and dark sugar from the whiskey.

    Parabola is roasty bitter in taste with a dark brown to burnt sugar whiskey influence. Parabaloid isn't as bitter, and the roasted malt melds with the whiskey to produce a coffee creme filled bon bon with a thin thread of caramel.

    I know that sounds pastry, so I want to claim that Parabaloid isn't "sugary" and nowhere near cloying.

    Going back, dark chocolate and an after dinner Irish coffee comes to mind with more sips of Parabola. It's an American stout that gets an injection of sugary barrel-aged spirit and recovers to end roasty. More sips of a warming Parabaloid brings a hint of coconut to the aforementioned flavors. The evolution in Parabaloid is a little more smooth and the beer seems a tad more cohesive.

    Both are very good beers, but I do think Parabaloid is slightly more enjoyable this evening to me. The GF, who is drinking blind bu I suspect will also like Parabaloid, says...

    "It's really hard to pick. They're both really good. I think I like [Parabaloid] more as it's a little smoother."

    So there you have it - two people's opinions to use as you see fit. Cheers!
  10. Snowcrash000

    Snowcrash000 Grand Pooh-Bah (5,765) Oct 4, 2017 Germany
    Super Mod Pooh-Bah Society Trader


    In what has become a birthday tradition for me, I'm having a (relatively) fresh Orval next to one from my cellar, in this case 5 months next to 48 months. Thinking back to the 3-year-old bottle I had last year, the differences to 4 years aren't huge, actually, while also reminding me that I actually prefer Orval either fresh or at around 2 years old, when you get that slightly more profound funk, but oxidation hasn't yet set in heavily,

    To go on a brief tangent here, I think that oxidation is NEVER a good thing in beer, except maybe in Eisbocks and Barleywines. I'm just not a huge fan of those sherry and cardboard notes and disagree that oxidation, which is widely regarded as a huge flaw in beer, suddenly becomes okay or even desireable when aging certain styles.

    Getting back to the side-by-side though, the coloration is slightly clearer, darker and more reddish for the 4Y bottles, with slightly less carbonation bubbles and faster fading head. The 5M bottle is noticeably more hazy, slightly lighter and more orange.

    Smell is naturally more hoppy for the younger bottle, with more grassy and slightly citrussy notes coming through, although fruity, spicy esters of apple and clove are also present. The older bottle has a much maltier, sweeter and oxidized aroma to it, with no hops detectable and more dark, red fruit joining the fruity esters, with notes of redcurrant, blackberry, apple and clove, as well as hints of musty funk.

    Taste pretty much follows the nose with the younger bottle still feeling reasonably hoppy for 5 months old. There's a good balance of doughy malt and slightly faded, grassy, citrussy hops, as well as distinct fruity and spicy esters of apple, gooseberry, clove and black pepper, finishing with a certain bitterness. The older bottle is much more dominated by sweeter malts, oxidation and funk, with very little hop characteristics coming through. The fruity esters and oxidation bring bring out notes of red and black currants, blackberry, plum, fig and apple, as well as stronger spice, with clove really standing out here, with some musty, leathery funk coming through as well. Thankfully no overly noticeable cardboard notes though.

    The younger bottle feels a bit more lively carbonated, resulting in that lovely, effervescent mouthfeel I love about Orval, although the older bottle still manages a surprising amount of carbonation, with moutfeel being noticeably less effervescent though.

    Orval is a fascinating beer that ages very gracefully, gradually turning from a quite fresh, hoppy and bitter Pale Ale into an estery, slightly hoppy Saison and eventually becoming something akin to a Lambic. Having finished the bottle now, I must say that I prefer it to the 3-year-old bottle after all, although this is all based on fallible memory, of course. To me, Orval seems best at certain ages, with the intervalls inbetween feeling kinda neither here nor there. It's great at any age, but seems best to me very fresh, at 1-2 years old and 4+ years old. I'm looking very much forward to my last bottle, which I will be having next year at 5 years old.
  11. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Grand Pooh-Bah (3,076) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
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  12. Beersnake1

    Beersnake1 Grand Pooh-Bah (5,978) Aug 17, 2013 California
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    Great comparison!
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  13. Snowcrash000

    Snowcrash000 Grand Pooh-Bah (5,765) Oct 4, 2017 Germany
    Super Mod Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    A cask is usually consumed within 3-5 days, so there's no opportunity for heavy oxidation to set in. While cask ale is subject to very light oxidation, I'm pretty sure that it's considered "off" once it starts to develop heavy cardboard or sherry flavors.
  14. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,169) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Cask beer is exposed to air as it is being served (e.g., via a hand pump) and yes oxidation is part of the aging/staling process but also exposure to microbes in the air (e.g., bacteria, wild yeast,...) can create issues here. Cask beer can become acetic (sour) if it gets exposed to Acetobacter bacteria as one point of example.

    Cask beer is best enjoyed for a handful of days after tapping.

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  15. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
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    A quick one, as I wanted to compare the two remaining peanut butter beers I have from the Extreme Beer Box. These beers have a fair amount of differences beyond the similarities of peanut butter and stout: Ecliptic's beer is a relatively lower ABV oatmeal stout compared to Weathered Souls' imperial stout that adds coconut as well.

    The differences expanded as I got sight of the liquids out of their containment, with the higher octane PB Fusion Technique looking like tar pouring out of the can and generating a small, dark brown head. The lighter Gravastar produced a pillowy cloud of light tan head.
    The GF, having them blind, said one is much better to her and thought one didn't even smell like beer. For me, I am getting peanut butter from PB Fusion and not much else; not much also describes what I get from Gravastar, a light roast coffee with a little effort. So to me, Gravastar smells the most "like a beer," but mainly by default.

    Gravastar has a nice, drinkable light feel, with more of what hits me as an Irish stout vibe. I enjoy the opening taste, despite the sightly fizzy feel. I am not really getting peanut butter (the brewer mentioned using PB powder and a chocolate pb powder), although there is a bitter dark chocolate in back.

    PB Fusion Technique is thick and oily, with a liquid chocolate opening and a dry peanut butter middle. It seems sweeter on opening than it presents throughout, as the beer gets some dark fruit (date, raisin) and cola notes before the named ingredient comes into play.

    An interesting case of the beers tasting like they looked. I actually think I like Gravastar just a bit more, but neither challenged for my favorite beers in the box. The GF likes PB Fusion better, but I also think her Gravastar glass wasn't rinsed as well as it could have been, as there was a light soapy note in the aroma that explains her previous comment.

    Epilogue: I mixed about a 2:1 ratio PB Fusion:Gravastar to get a beverage I enjoyed more than the individual beers.
  16. DavetotheB

    DavetotheB Grand Pooh-Bah (3,265) Sep 30, 2017 Pennsylvania
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    Always wanted to do this side-by side. Focal Banger and Heady Topper. I've got both on-hand and I'm in for the night, so here we go...


    Heady is hands down my favorite beer. Focal is probably in my top 10. For the record, this was a difficult side-by-side. The flavor on both of these beers is super-pungent (read delicious) and quite over-powering. It's almost like some sort of Jedi mind trick drinking them one after the other.

    Heady Canned 1/2/23, Focal canned 1/3/23

    Look was based on a small pour, all the rest is from the can.

    Look: Very similar straw color. Heady is slightly darker and a little more opaque and thick. Similar head retention. Didn’t really pour enough to generate a lot of head-“Drink from the can!” after all.

    Smell: HT-earth, pineapple, citrus rind, pine. FB is a little earthier with an onion aroma.

    Taste: Follows the aroma pretty closely but with less juiciness. Focal is a bit earthier, Heady trends slightly juicier. To be clear, I would not classify either of these beers as “juicy” Both have a nice lingering piney bitterness. Heady is more in your face, Focal is a little more subtle. Both are loaded with flavor.

    Feel: Classic soft, creamy Alchemist mouthfeel on both. I’ve not had another beer that has the mouthfeel of these two. Strangely, the creaminess was missing when drinking from the glass. Both finish dry with decent stickiness and a lingering bitter aftertaste. Medium carbonation on both.

    Overall: As said above-difficult side-by-side for me because of the powerful flavor. Bottom line: This isn’t a Heady vs. Focal competition. That’d be like picking which kid I love the most. The winner here is me.

  17. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
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    Awww… don’t cop out with that :wink:

    I mean that semi-seriously. You truly didn’t enjoy one more than the other tonight? I’ve learned that a single side-by-side is rarely a definitive thing, and what I find today might be different next week. However I usually gravitate slightly towards one, for whatever reason it is that day.

    Thar aside, I’m a little surprised at your description of the two based on my previous experience of finding Focal more fruity. But each year is a bit different with The Alchemist, and I don’t get enough chance to test the concept, regrettably.

    Thanks for posting, always like seeing others comparing beers I have compared in the past!
  18. DavetotheB

    DavetotheB Grand Pooh-Bah (3,265) Sep 30, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Haha. Sorry for the cop out. It's Heady. Then again, with me, it's always Heady. I can't imagine a better beer.
    On fruitiness...I think Focal has mosaic hops and I feel like I generally perceive mosaic hops as more earthy (dirt, oniony) than juicy/fruity. Not sure the hops in Heady.
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  19. VodkaPong87

    VodkaPong87 Savant (1,004) Oct 9, 2020 Connecticut

    2019 was a phenomenal year. I really like 2022 also. The 2020 and 2021 were a step below imo
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  20. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Interesting, that is different than my general experience, so explains it pretty well. I think Heady is Simcoe hops, but could be mistaken.
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  21. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Yeah, I thought I had more vintages available in the cellar to compare to the more recent batch, but apparently I found them enjoyable enough to finish off before that last 2019.
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  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,169) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Dave Green (@telejunkie) traveled to The Alchemist a number of years ago and discussed the beers in a BYO article. There are six hops used to brew Heady Topper with a complex hop schedule; Dave provided a clone recipe in his article. I homebrewed a batch in 2016 and one example of hopping is what I used for the dry hop addition, a combination of Columbus (CTZ), Apollo, Simcoe and Centennial. Simcoe is indeed used but as you can see from the example for dry hopping so are a number of other hop varieties.

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  23. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,169) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Since there was a discussion about beers from The Alchemist (Focal Banger, Heady Topper) I figured I would re-post the below which I originally posted in 2018 in a NBS thread:


    Today’s New Beer Sunday tasting has a backstory:

    My wife has a good friend Marilyn who is a hop head. Whenever I homebrew hoppy beers (e.g., IPAs) I send some of my beers Marilyn’s way. My most recent IPA was my version of Alchemist Focal Banger which was based upon a clone recipe in Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine. I have never tasted Focal Banger before so this was very much uncharted waters for me.

    So, my wife gave Marilyn my homebrewed IPA and the next day when I saw Marilyn I emphasized to her that it was my attempt to brew a Focal Banger but I had no idea how close I came since I never had this beer. Ironically she was in Vermont a few weeks prior and she bought a can of Focal Banger for me. How is that for serendipity!?!:slight_smile:

    Below is a short write-up on Focal Banger:

    The Alchemist co-owner Jen Kimmich on Focal Banger, the brewery’s other knockout American IPA:

    “Focal Banger is more hop-forward than Heady [Topper]. While Heady has a more complex hop profile and a stronger malt backbone, Focal is all about the Citra and Mosaic hops. At 7% and with all pale malt, it is much easier to drink two of these than it is with Heady Topper. The tropical fruit in the Focal is delicious. We currently brew 15 barrels of Focal Banger one time per week. It’s all distributed to local bars and restaurants; no retail sales. It was first brewed at our brewpub in 2007, draft only. It was first canned in January 2013.”


    When I brewed my version of Alchemist Focal Banger I decided to make a few tweaks:

    · Grain bill: Focal Banger base malt is Thomas Fawcett Pearl Malt. Since I had some Pilsner Malt that I wanted to use up I decided to use a 50/50 split of Pilsner Malt and Thomas Fawcett Pearl Malt.

    · Yeast: The Alchemist house yeast strain is euphemistically called the ‘Conan’ yeast strain by us homebrewers. For my batch I decided to use a yeast blend of the ‘Conan’ yeast and Sacch Trois yeast.

    I decided to call my batch of beer Jack’s Focal Point IPA.

    So, let’s see how close Jack’s Focal Point IPA is to Alchemist Focal Banger; my wife will be joining me in today’s tasting.

    Beers served in small tulip glasses:


    Alchemist Focal Banger: Yellow colored with floaties. A firm white head.

    Jack’s Focal Point: Light golden colored with a fluffy white head. This beer has excellent head retention as the beer is consumed.


    Alchemist Focal Banger: There is mostly a fruity (tropical fruit) nose but in the background there is some dank.

    Jack’s Focal Point: The nose is predominantly fruity (tropical fruit) but I am picking up a hint of citrus as well.


    Alchemist Focal Banger: The flavor is predominantly fruity but the dank aspect is more notable here. It has a firm bitterness.

    Jack’s Focal Point: The flavor follows the nose with fruity. It has a firm bitterness.


    Alchemist Focal Banger: Medium bodied with an aspect of crispness.

    Jack’s Focal Point: Medium bodied with a soft-ish mouthfeel.


    Alchemist Focal Banger: This beer is very good. A combination of mostly fruity but a notable aspect of dank on the flavor profile as well. I am personally not a fan of floaties in my beer but…

    Jack’s Focal Point: This beer is very good too! A good friend described this beer using the terminology of “fruit bomb”; I agree with that. I personally enjoyed the soft-ish mouthfeel of this beer.

    My wife expressed a preference for Jack’s Focal Point. When she was drinking the Alchemist Focal Banger she made mention of the beer having a “harsh” aspect to it; I personally did not perceive this aspect.


  24. micada

    micada Grand Pooh-Bah (3,034) Jul 13, 2015 New York
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    Ok, tomorrow night I will try to compare Other Half ‘23 Quiet Space against Moksa Duplexity PVW 23. Both aged in 23 year Pappy barrels.
    ESHBG, ChicagoJ and DavetotheB like this.
  25. ESHBG

    ESHBG Pooh-Bah (1,857) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    I haven't had either yet but your description of Focal tells me that I won't particularly care for it and will prefer Heady.
    AZgman and ChicagoJ like this.
  26. defunksta

    defunksta Pooh-Bah (2,488) Jan 18, 2019 North Dakota
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    1) Utepils Muni Franconian Landbier (5.4%): A Euro Dark Lager from Minnesota that is unfiltered with flavors of dark grains, caramel, wheat, yeast.
    2) Badger State SKI-BRW (5.6%): A Czech Dark Lager from Wisconsin with flavors of chocolate, caramel, smooth bread, with some floral notes. (Mismatched these two blind)

    1) Utepils Muni Franconian Landbier:
    Both of these were surprisingly similar. SKI BRW is a more traditional Dark Lager with flavors of chocolate, caramel, smooth malts. I really enjoyed this unique one from Utepils. Some brown bread, caramel, and almost notes of peanut butter. Yet dry and yeasty like a zwickel. A true Dark Wheat Beer.
    tekstr1der, Spade, cjgiant and 7 others like this.
  27. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    A little impromptu side-by-side today (sans picture). Started by drinking a Brasserie de Blaugies / Hill Farmstead collaboration called La Vermontoise, and though it had some farmhouse funk in the nose to go with a grassy hop profile, the taste was a dry pale ale. It reminded me a little bit of Duvel, with that beer fairly fresh in my mind from the Duvel tasting earlier this year.

    Now, La Vermontoise didn't have much in the way of Belgian yeast in my experience, so I am expecting that to be one difference. But I'm curious how far off my thought of similarities are, so I poured a lighter straw and clearer Duvel into another glass for comparison.

    As I typed this, the GF is saying they are less alike than she was originally thinking, but they are similar. She specifically mentioned Duvel being more aggressively carbonated, which is interesting b/c I found La Vermontoise to be quite prickly.

    On the nose, Duvel (12/2023 BB date) is muted compared to the barnyard and pithy/grassy hops coming from La Vermontoise. There is a little more honey bread sweetness and a bit of Belgian yeast in Duvel.

    Duvel is more dry than bitter when compared to La Vermontoise, especially late in the taste and the linger. I think La Vermontoise is a bit softer, but not by much (and I'd guess less so than the GF thinks). Tasting them together, I am getting a little citrus from the La Vermontoise that I wasn't getting having it alone; Duvel is a bit more bready, relatively, and I start noticing some black peppery notes as I shift back and forth.

    Before the end, the GF also noted that she found Duvel to be a "little more flowery" than La Vermontoise. I wouldn't use that term, but I think I get what she is saying. I think I wasn't too far off in tying these two beers in my mind. I'm also glad I had them together, as nuances came out a bit in both as I examined them for this post.
  28. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,169) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    I am of the opinion that one of the benefits of a side-by-side drinking experience is that sometimes (often?) subtle aspects are noted which may not have been 'evident' if just drinking a beer standalone.

  29. ChicagoJ

    ChicagoJ Grand Pooh-Bah (3,881) Feb 2, 2015 Illinois
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    My formal Duvel review was I believe in my first 30 days here, so pretty much vague on particulars, but I had the same experience as you in terms of the unexpected carbonation level for La Vermontoise.

    I have also avoided carbonation with the new to me craft beer appreciation (8 years vs. 45 years). I avoided pop throughout life, drank mostly whiskey neat or on rocks until eight years ago in preference over beer, Guinness nitro was my favorite beer over the decades. I guess this also explains in part my love of cask.

    I do appreciate reading and conducting side by side reviews across brands and even styles. It’s a fun experience and at times can be much more informative.

    The only side by sides I won’t conduct are pitting two favorite beers against each other. I understand there is natural wiggle room in terms of rating scores, so I don’t necessarily concede that I like one beer as scored slightly higher by me over another.

    I wouldn’t want definitive confirmation, even for one day, and have that influence future beer purchase decisions. I like having the “these beers are great” feeling over a broader range of beers, versus feeling I should always buy this one over others within the same style.

    This goes against my usual nature / inclination as a numbers / statistics oriented person. It’s why I wouldn’t join Untappd, even if Beer Advocate and Rate Beer didn’t exist. Would just go spreadsheet at that stage.

    SLeffler27 and cjgiant like this.
  30. SLeffler27

    SLeffler27 Grand Pooh-Bah (3,490) Feb 24, 2008 New York
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    Well put.
    ChicagoJ likes this.
  31. augustgarage

    augustgarage Pooh-Bah (2,175) May 20, 2007 California
    Pooh-Bah Trader


    Figured this was appropriate for today's holiday:

    Guinness draught (nitro) vs. Societe "The Pugilist"

    The former was packaged on 10/13/22, the latter on 3/6/23. Both served at 60F.

    • Guinness: Clear sienna body with half a finger of beige stiff peaks. Extremely fine, creamy lacing; superlative retention.
    • Societe: Clear bole body with a fizzy dun head receding rapidly to naught. Minimal lacing; poor retention.
    Very similar liquid, but a poor showing from The Pugilist regarding head development/retention. Nitro gives an obvious advantage visually, but there is really no comparison here.

    • Guinness: Subtle but persistent roast barley, caramel, faint coffee and chocolate in the nose. Low vaguely fruity esters.
    • Societe: Hints of chocolate covered almonds, prunes, and medium-roast coffee in the nose, riding the line between subtle and weak. Vaguely floral perhaps.
    Guinness signature roast quality wins out by a quarter point.

    • Guinness: Sharp yet flaccid palate entry with low but lasting bitterness balanced between roast barley and earthy/thyme-kissed hops. Creamy dry finish. Hints of stale herbs, cheap tobacco, instant coffee, and Lipton tea in the aftertaste.
    • Societe: Root-beer, decent milk chocolate, and vanilla flavors are offset by mild earthy hop notes. Dry finish, but with a faint returning sweetness. Roast barley is just perceptible. Low bitterness. Subtle yeast character. No off notes.
    Slight preference for The Pugilist - Draught has a sort of "Industrial" quality underneath it all. Surprisingly different.

    • Guinness: Brisk, slightly astringent, and light-bodied - but simultaneously creamy, smooth, and luxurious thanks to the nitro.
    • Societe: Fairly thin, soda-like mouth-feel.
    Societe dropped the ball here.

    • While nearly style-defining, this flattens out what little character "Extra" still had.
    • Flavor is to style, yet novel - more fruit/chocolate than roast barley/coffee. Execution seems a little off though.
    • Guinness: 3.5/5 rDev -2.8%
      look: 4.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5
    • Societe: 3.36/5 rDev -11.3%
      look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5
    Not surprisingly, while these are adequate, I wish I had ready access to some better examples of the style (or Foreign Export Stout) to celebrate my Irish heritage, but these will both go into my stew today, so nothing wasted. Would be happy to try The Pugilist again if I saw it on cask. Cheers!
  32. DavetotheB

    DavetotheB Grand Pooh-Bah (3,265) Sep 30, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    West coast from the east coast tonight: Stone IPA and Stone Ruination


    tl;dr...biggest difference I noticed was mouthfeel. Ruination was more full-bodied and had looooong lasting bitterness in the aftertaste.

    IPA: Packaged 12/29/22, Best by 4/28/22
    Smell: Pine/garlic/earth
    Visual: Translucent gold amber, white head, better lacing than Ruination, good retention
    Taste: Piney, resiny bitterness
    Feel: Sticky mouthfeel, dry finish, bitter aftertaste
    Becomes a little more mellow on warming

    Ruination: Packaged 12/27/22, Best by 4/26/22
    Smell: Fainter aroma pine, earth, citrus rind, hint of citrus juice
    Visual: Maybe slightly less translucent, more orange in color, white head, good retention
    Taste: Piney, bitter, alcohol is a little more noticeable
    Feel: Sticky mouthfeel, thicker than IPA, bitter aftertaste lingers forever
    More aggressive bitterness on warming.

    Al things being equal (price, availability), I would pick Ruination over the IPA but since I usually can't pick Ruination, I'm more than happy with IPA. Cheers!
  33. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Ok, I have my butt plopped down in front of the TV presently watching to see if UVa's lacrosse team can stay undefeated by beating a team that crushed them twice last year (but lost a bit of their championship team). Then there's more NCAA basketball, so taking the opportunity to try out a Dogfish Head side-by-side of beers that are about a half an hour apart:

    Dogfish Head 120 Minute is a darker amber colored beer, and it has less clarity beyond coloring. DFH's 90 Minute had a bit more head, but as the sit, the two beers have fairly creamy heads. I'll note the 120 Minute is a bit older, bought I think about the middle of last year, whereas the 90 Minute was bought a couple days ago.

    120 Minute has a sweeter and more bread-like (toasted) aroma that 90 Minute, which does have a malty side to its aroma but a more bright and fresh citrus hop scent. There's a very slight impression of wet grain in both, with 90 Minute erasing it with grapefruit pith and 120 Minute with caramel, spice (alcohol), and a light pine.

    Sipping, 90 Minute is unsurprisingly lighter and has the hop notes right up front. In total makeup, it is more bitter front to back, with the extra malt in 120 Minute bringing a caramel note 90 Minute doesn't have. To balance this, there is a strong bitter note to 120 Minute, more piney than citrusy, but these hops have a stronger opponent than those in 90 Minute, leaving 120 Minute as the more balanced beer overall.

    The GF is easily enjoying the 90 Minute more, noting the increased alcohol in the 120 Minute. She also thought the 120 Minute might be older (which is true, but she was thinking more along the line of being cellared).

    From experience, I anticipated these to be different, but they were more different in this sitting than my memory indicated. The switch of the hop flavor profile from 90 Minute to 120 Minute was the most dramatic difference I didn't foresee. They're easily different enough I wouldn't substitute one temporally named beer for the other (even ignoring how the relative ABVs could play into that decision).

    The other thing this taught me is that I may be quite curious in trying a 120 Minute and Bigfoot comparison, across a couple vintages, perhaps. I fully expect Bigfoot to be more bitter and piney, but I could be surprised again.
  34. ATL6245

    ATL6245 Pooh-Bah (2,688) Aug 16, 2018 Georgia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    I do side by side comparisons quite a lot because, as @JackHorzempa pointed out, a lot more subtleties come out. This is one of the more lame ones I've done, but I've often what kind of differences, if any at all, I could discern between Big Beer AAL's and craft versions. I thought I would side by side by side two Big Beer and a local craft offering. Miller High Life, Hamm's & New Realm United Craft Lager.


    I was able too pick out each one. It surprised me that each had some distinctive feature.

    Appearance: Brilliant clear gold color. Pours to a frothy white head with moderate retention.

    Aroma: Very subtle, but has some floral and bread flour aroma. Clean otherwise.

    Taste: Grainy note, subtle spicy hops. Sweet start to finish. Restrained bitterness.

    Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, soft with high carbonation. Short clean finish.

    Miller High Life:
    Appearance: Brilliant clear gold color. Frothy white head with very good retention.

    Aroma: Very little. Some bread flour. Not much else.

    Taste: Light bread flour and grainy malt up front. Subtle spicy hops. Sweet start to finish. No bitterness.

    Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied. Soft. High carbonation. Short clean finish.

    New Realm United Craft Lager:

    Appearance: Slightly cloudy, gold color. Thin white head with moderate retention.

    Aroma: Light lemon/lime and floral hops. Grainy malt.

    Taste: Similar to aroma. Grainy sweet malt with lemon/lime notes. Restrained but subtle bitterness.

    Mouthfeel: Medium bodied. Soft but notably more drying than the other beers. Moderate carbonation. Short clean finish.


    For anyone that read this far, the differences are probably obvious. The New Realm stood out because the hops they used gave it some extra aroma and flavor. Visually, it was not as clear nor did it have as good retention. But it was easy to pick it out.
    What surprised me was how great the MHL's head retention was and how much better than canned version was than the bottled. Between the MHL and Hamm's, the Hamm's had a hair better flavor but you could only tell much difference in a side by side.

    For the price, it's hard to beat the Hamm's at $4.49 per 4 pack of 16 oz cans. Overall, the New Realm United Craft Lager wins because it has more aroma and flavor but that was just a matter of hops selection.

    So, not a super compelling side by side, it was a good exercise for me in digging into subtleties of AAL lagers. I always learn something new drom these reviews. I still very much prefer craft & local over Big Beer. I did a German Pils side by side last year with locals & a couple of German "control" beers. That was fun and I want to revisit that one again sometime soon.

    One last side note. I remember way back when the first time I ever tried any of these AAL's (late 80's) and I remember how utterly bitter they seemed. Now none of them seem that way. I wonder if the bitterness has been lowered or if I have just become immune to it with age.

  35. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,169) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    I think this is a great side-by-side on many levels!

    Firstly, there are some BAs who will claim that all AAL beers taste the same. As you pointed out there were indeed difference between Hamms and MHL (likely more recognizable in a side-by-side).

    You mentioned “how much better than canned version was than the bottled” for MHL. A fair number of BAs will post they have a strong preference for MHL in the bottle vs. cans but obviously you have a differing opinion here. We all have our own unique palates/preferences. It has been too long since I have had a MHL so I have no input here.

    How much did you pay for the New Realm beer? I did a quick web search and Total Wine lists $12.49 for a six-pack:


    I wonder how well this beer sells at that price point. I have not had the pleasure of drinking this beer but I suspect that at this price point I personally would opt buy a six-pack of a locally brewed Pilsner (e.g., Sterling Pig Shoats Pilsner) or a 12-pack of Yuengling Lord Chesterfield instead.

    Is New Realm United Craft Lager at $12.49 a six-pack something you would choose to regularly buy?

    PapaGoose03, ESHBG, ChicagoJ and 2 others like this.
  36. ATL6245

    ATL6245 Pooh-Bah (2,688) Aug 16, 2018 Georgia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Hi @JackHorzempa, thanks for the feedback. I can find the New Realm under $11 per 6'er in many stores around me. So the answer is yes, when I am looking for this style beer I do buy it. New Realm is made in Atlanta and is local for me. So I would tend to default to local when purchasing anyway. Truthfully, I drink more Helles & German Pils in the pale lager group. If I am looking for a true pilsner, then I am going with a German style and wouldn't even look at the New Realm. But I am probably the wrong person to ask about price because I'm not too price conscious. I'll pay more for what I perceive as a well made local beer just to support a local business. I suspect the United Craft Lager does not sell real well because of the price but that is a good question. I may ask a local New Real sales rep I know how it's selling.
  37. ChicagoJ

    ChicagoJ Grand Pooh-Bah (3,881) Feb 2, 2015 Illinois
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    3 Floyds came out with an "Ice" version of one of my favorite beers. I really enjoyed Zombie Ice, and wanted to see how it lines up against Zombie Dust.

    Zombie Ice vs. Zombie Dust


    Tale of the Tape:

    • Zombie Ice - 12 oz canned 2/28/23 (Rookie Mint release), 8.5% ABV.
    • Zombie Dust - 19.2 oz canned 1/18/23, both sold at room temp and refrigerated thereafter. 6.5% ABV
    Appearance: Zombie Ice darker but clearer base with slightly more carbonation. Head same in terms of appearance, coverage and lacing. Zombie Dust slightly hazy and lighter caramel vs. brown bronze colour of Zombie Ice. Tie

    Similar, with the strong pine presence of the Zombie Ice making me prefer this aspect vs. Zombie Dust, which may be suffering from the additional 40 days of aging. Advantage Zombie Dust

    Taste: Zombie Dust dank, beautiful citrus pine combo. Zombie Ice malt assertive, constrains the pine and citrus, though both are still present. Would say in the taste department, I prefer Zombie Ice's showcase of pine and dankness, but prefer Zombie Dust's absence of malt. If it could somehow capture that pine featured in the Ice, I would love Zombie Dust even more. Both excellent, comes down to personal preference, both deliver as promised.

    Mouthfeel: Zombie Dust light, crisp and refreshing. Dry and slightly bitter, though citrus sweetness stands its ground. Zombie Ice is sticky and resinous in terms of pine, malt assertive, citrus has been put in the corner. Zombie Dust drinks light and easy, Zombie Ice as expected is stronger, the alcohol feels much stronger, much more of a challenge in terms of wanting to gulp Zombie Dust vs. wanting to sip Zombie Ice. I believe both are well crafted and presented as expected, leaving this to one's personal choice. I prefer Zombie Dust, but objectively call this a tie due to both delivering well. Tie

    Overall: Much of the above may appear as a personal copout, in terms of the ties, but both of these beers are quite excellent for their respective styles, and I highly recommend both.

    I really wasn't surprised with any aspect of this side by side. I personally prefer a solid full flavored Pale Ale, or standard WCIPA over most Double / Imperial versions, primarily due my preferred showcase of hops with negligible to no malt presence of Zombie Dust, vs.the very high to me malt sweetness factor with the latter. I will still consider a Zombie Ice now and again, and the primary aspect I prefer Zombie Ice more is the heavier pine presence for the aroma and taste, but Zombie Dust is my true love. Bottom line, if you like stronger beers and a malt presence, pick Zombie Ice. If you like nice clean crisp hops front and center pale ales, Zombie Dust is for you.

    Kernkraft 400 Award Winner = Zombie Dust

  38. ESHBG

    ESHBG Pooh-Bah (1,857) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Not lame at all and my appreciation for some AALs has actually grown over the years and I enjoyed this.

    I come to the same conclusions when I review IPAs vs DIPAs and they end up being different enough where it's hard to pick a winner. But anymore I end up going with the part I put in bold/underline and IPAs are the more drinkable ones and I usually don't tire of them halfway through the glass like I do with DIPAs as they start to warm and when the sweetness starts to come out more and the flavors begin clashing a little too much for my preference.
    ATL6245, cjgiant and ChicagoJ like this.
  39. cjgiant

    cjgiant Grand High Pooh-Bah (6,248) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Ok, I have a doubly inspired side-by-side, doubled. The March Madness thread by @ChicagoJ made me realize I have not rated or reviewed many of the most popular beers that I’ve had many times. And the post by @ATL6245 had me wanting to revisit a macro lager comparison of the most often rated offerings that are missing such from me.

    So I decided to do this blind, and I’m shocked by one part of it - that I properly guessed each beer correctly. Note: the GF, as quickly as she could, tried each and chose the same favorite, but she had the two Buds as interchangeable and liked Miller Lite the least.

    My notes (copied below for easier reading):
    Beers 2 and 3 had sustained heads, 2 being more creamy. 3 is lightest in color, 1 and 2 looking similarly more tan than the others, and 4 being most “yellow.”

    2 had the best smell, with something beer-like and I might be excused thinking maybe hops, but might be something else (like maybe beechwood?). 3 and 4 are lightest, with 3 being a mix of corn and something floral.

    3 is almost tasteless, very light and quite corny, but soft. 2 is similarly near tasteless, but is more watery and gets a hint of toast. 1 and 4 easily hold my interest more than the other two.

    1 starts a bit sweeter than 4, but also has a light bitterness. 4 has the most carbonation, which helps, and finishes the driest, with at most a whiff of bitterness.

    As for enjoyment, my ranks highest to lowest were:
    1, 4, 2, 3
    And my guesses (I was only fairly confident of Bud Light):
    Corona, Bud, Lite, Bud Light (all correct!!)

    Replacing the numbers with beer names:
    Lite and BL had sustained heads, Lite being more creamy. BL is lightest in color, Corona and Lite looking similarly more tan than the others, and Bud being most “yellow.”

    Lite had the best smell, with something beer-like and I might be excused thinking maybe hops, but might be something else (like maybe beechwood?). Bud and BL are lightest, with BL being a mix of corn and something floral.

    BL is almost tasteless, very light and quite corny, but soft. Lite is similarly near tasteless, but is more watery and gets a hint of toast. Corona and Bud easily hold my interest more than the other two.

    Corona starts a bit sweeter than Bud, but also has a light bitterness. Bud has the most carbonation, which helps, and finishes the driest, with at most a whiff of bitterness.
    jmdrpi, AlcahueteJ, JMN44 and 8 others like this.
  40. ATL6245

    ATL6245 Pooh-Bah (2,688) Aug 16, 2018 Georgia
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Great post. There really is something instructive about comparing these mass produced beers. The can of Corona is very interesting vs a bottled one. Bottled will have tha skunked aroma 99% of the time.
    PapaGoose03, ChicagoJ and cjgiant like this.