Mike's Beer Ratings
What follows is, in order of preference, my ratings of beers that I've
had. There's also an alphabetic
listing if you want to see what I've rated. Of course, the
ratings are biased, as they're based solely on my personal taste. The
beers listed here are based on my bottle collection at home; I collect
only bottles that I've actually drunk. This means that there are
various beers that I've had in restaurants and at parties that are not
on this list, as I don't have the bottle.
The relative distance between any two beers is not fixed. This list is
still growing, so the current top may lose its place. I don't see the
current bottom losing its place, as I don't intend to drink Budweiser,
Coors, or Miller ever again. Those three do make good cheap
The picture at the top of this page is the label from Anchor Porter,
my top-rated beer. Comments on this page are welcome, as are
suggestions for beers not on this list. I'm mjbauer (at) mit (dot)
Disclaimer and notes on glass color and
- Anchor Porter
- This beer was surprising for its intense chocolate flavor and
tasty head. Delicious stuff, either with food or sipped by itself.
The best American beer I've had yet.
- Guinness Extra Stout
- Very close to Anchor Porter, Guinness is a great beer. Slightly
more bitter than I would like, which is what cost it a higher rating.
- Pete's Wicked Ale
- Not as thick or chewy as the first few (but still pretty chewy),
Pete's is a magnificent American brew. Nicely bitter, good flavor,
and probably the best of these to drink with dinner.
- Pilsner Urquell
- The best pilsner-style beer I've ever had. It looks like Budweiser
(Budweiser is theoretically a pilsner), but tastes orders of magnitude
better. An excellent, light-bodied beer. It has the misfortune of
being shipped in green bottles.
- Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale
- Another good dark beer, good flavor, decent bitterness, and a
pleasant yeasty aftertaste. Unfortunatley, this beer comes in a clear
bottle, leaving it very susceptible to skunking.
- Tucher Hefe-Weizen
- This is what a wheat beer should be. A light-weight beer with a
wheat-and-yeast flavor that I can only call "dense". It's somewhat
cloudy, but it's supposed to be. "Hefe" is German for "yeast", and
there's a reasonable dose of yeast in this beer. Make sure you swish
the last half-inch of beer around in the bottle before pouring --
yummy. If you like, have it with a wedge of lemon.
- Negra Modelo
- Although this may sound strange, this beer has the best
aftertaste I've ever run across in a beer. The beer itself is dark,
but doesn't taste like it -- its flavor more resembles a brown ale in
strength. The flavor is somewhat sweet, which fits in wonderfully.
The hops are nice and subdued, contributing to the flavor without
- Oregon Nut Brown Ale
- An excellent medium-dark beer with a well-rounded flavor that is
just slightly thin. The hop flavor is quite pleasant; it is
distinguishable but not overpowering. It does rather well with food,
and can hold its own when served with spicy or hot dishes.
- Old Brown Dog Ale
- Courtesy of the Smuttynose Brewery in New Hampshire, Old Brown Dog
Ale is a good brown ale with a strong, but pleasant, hop flavor. It
does very well with food (in the case of the one I had, deep-dish
pizza), and would probably do well by itself.
- Bass Pale Ale
- Bass, for all its advertising hype, is actually worth drinking.
It has good body, a nice flavor, and compliments Guinness well as the
other half of a Black and Tan.
- Chimay is possibly the best-known of the many excellent beers
brewed in Belgium. It is very smooth, with little hop bite. There is
a faint sourness to it that I would attribute to the unique strains of
wild yeasts available in Belgium. Quite tasty.
- Samichlaus Bier 1994
- Samichlaus is delicious, with an interesting combination of good
sweet-malt flavor, strong winey and alcoholic background notes, and no
appreciable hop flavor. It should not be drunk with food; rather, it
should sipped and savored as an after-dinner drink. Perhaps share one
with a friend. At about 18% alcohol, drinking a single bottle of it
is about the same as drinking half a normal-sized bottle of wine. (As
this beer is only made one day per year in Switzerland, and is rather
expensive (US$5.00 per bottle), it is difficult to find.) (I found
this beer a year after it had been bottled; I don't know if the extra
bottle time made a difference in the flavor.)
- Mackeson Triple Stout
- Mackeson Triple Stout has a lovely malt flavor. The hops are
extremely assertive, but not overpowering -- this is a nicely balanced
brew. For those of you who are hop fiends, you should find this an
excellent beer. I'm not a hop fiend....
- Thomas Hardy's Ale
- This beer comes in half-size bottles; it's rather pricey even then
at about US$3 per half-size bottle (for a single; four-packs were
US$10). This beer claims to age extremely well, and improve in flavor
for up to 25 years. The one I bought was dated 1993, so it was at
least seven months old when I drank it. If you do get this beer, I'd
recommend letting it age for longer than I did -- the flavor was
extremely sweet, although quite tasty. I suspect after a few years in
the bottle, this would be a truly excellent beer. As it was, mine was
young, and not as good. [I've since bought another bottle, December
1995, with the intent of drinking it for New Year's Eve, 2000. I'll
write it up then. -MJB]
- Flying Dog Doggie Style Ale
- Once again, I tried a beer with an amusing name -- and this time,
it was really good! It had a pleasant malt flavor, and they did
something wonderful with the hops -- the flowery odor and flavor were
there, but it was missing the excessive bitterness that usually goes
along with the odor and flavor. The label says that they use
dry-hopping to achieve this. I wonder if it's just the technique of
dry-hopping, or the specific variety of hops they use.
- Samuel Smith's Pure Brewed Lager Beer
- Despite the pretentious-sounding name, this is a very nice beer.
It is medium-bodied and extremely smooth, with a bit of an edge of
hops that fits right in. Like the Nut Brown Ale, it had yeast in the
bottom -- very pleasant. The bottle I had also had a slight sour
flavor, with a very faint odor of skunk; I think it was minimally
light-struck. (Green bottles are evil.) If it wasn't skunked, I
think this would sit up near (or above!) Pilsner Urquell.
- Newcastle Brown Ale
- Nice flavor, nice bitterness, although the hopping is a bit too
much. Tasty, although not great with food. Sadly, it comes in a
- Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout
- A sweet, malty beer with barely a hint of hops. The sweet flavor
does not turn cloying, unlike some other sweet beers. I don't
recommend having food with this beer; the sweet flavor will overpower
virtually any delicate food, and likely clash with anything stronger.
Unfortunately, it comes in clear glass. I do wish that the folks at
Samuel Smith's brewery would start using brown glass.
- Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager
- Probably the darkest beer on this list, the name made the beer
worth trying, although it wasn't all that its name would imply.
Good, thick, chewy stuff, but not amazing.
- Theakston Old Peculier
- Old Peculier used to be the best beer I have ever had. Wonderful
flavor, decently bitter. Unfortunately, recent shipments have been
consistently of a lesser grade than its previous incarnation -- one
bottle went so far as to have a faint taste of wet cardboard. If the
brewery (bought out within the past few years, which might explain the
drop in quality) starts shipping the delicious stuff it used to ship
to this side of the pond, I'll put it back on top.
- Pete's Wicked Lager
- Not as thick as Pete's Wicked Ale, but with more body than Pete's
Wicked Red. Something other than body that's in Pete's Wicked Ale
also seems to be missing from his Lager -- perhaps different hops?
Another decent food beer, but I'd recommend Pete's Wicked Ale. Much
- Hackerbräu Edelhell
- A somewhat strongly hopped, medium bodied beer from Germany. The
hops are very pleasant, which (given my tastes) is rare at their
strength of flavor. It accompanied a chicken dinner quite well,
neither disappearing into nor ovepowering the food. Definitely a food
- Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger Kentish Ale
- This English ale has a nice body, but is a bit excessive on the
hops. It goes well with pretzels, and should hold up well to all but
the strongest foods -- I can see this nicely complementing
medium-spicy Indian food. Unfortunately it comes in a clear bottle.
- Castlemaine XXXX Export Lager
- This Australian beer is heavy on the malt -- I could almost
mistake it for Japanese mugicha (barley tea) were it not for
the carbonation and the hops. The hops absolutely make this beer --
they're very subtle. They don't stand out on their own, but instead
provide a wonderful undertone that augments the flavor. The reversal
(strong malt, sublte hops) is interesting, and I rather like it.
[On inspecting my XXXX bottle, it does not claim to be brewed by
Coors. However, it is brewed under contract with a brewery I've never
heard of -- in Golden, Colorado. Might this be a Coors subsidiary?
- Celis White
- A lovely wheat beer, courtesy of a Belgian expatriate in Texas.
It's light, and I expect rather refreshing in summer heat. (I've only
had two, both on early spring days so far.) The wheat has interesting
overtones of honey, but has an odd bite to it. It benefits from
warming -- 50 degrees F is about right; refrigerator temperatures are
too cold for it.
- Celis Grand Cru
- A pure-malt version of Celis white. The flavorings are nearly
identical; however, the flavor of the wheat is missing. Nearly, but
not quite as, good.
- Fuller's ESB English Ale
- When served refrigerator cold, Fuller's ESB has a strong hoppy
flavor. When cellar cool (about 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit), it is very
pleasant -- the hops and the malt balance each other nicely. Once it
reaches room temperature, the hop flavor is strengthens, and the malt
fades, making an unpleasantly hoppy beer. Definitely drink this one
cellar cool; it rates much lower (somewhere near Harp Lager)
otherwise. I've never before come across a beer that varies so much
- Pete's Wicked Red
- Lighter-bodied than Pete's Wicked Ale, this beer could also be
termed a Pale Ale without difficulty. Quite tasty, with the nice
balance of hops and malt. It does leave something to be desired in
flavor -- but it makes a wonderful pretzel beer.
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale does not suffer the severe overhopping that
seems to afflict everything else that comes out of the Sierra Nevada
brewery. This is a pleasant ale, light and reasonably hoppy, although
the hops get a bit too intense toward the end of the bottle.
- Young's Old Nick
- Don't let the mild flavor of this beer fool you. It's a barley
wine, a beer that has near wine-level alcohol content. Old Nick is
rather pleasant to drink, and lends itself nicely to food. Just don't
have too many.
- Xingu Black Beer
- Xingu seems to be of the same style as Negro Modela. It doesn't
taste as thick as its darkness would imply, and it has a nice sweet
flavor. It's not quite as good as Negro Modela; Xingu is slightly
harsher and doesn't have the wonderful aftertaste.
- Samuel Adams Scotch Ale
- This is one of the best Samuel Adams beers. It's reasonably thick,
without the associated hop content or indifferent flavor that seems to
plague other Samuel Adams beers. Good by itself or with munchies.
- Celis Pale Bock
- Nice light flavor, similar to a pale ale. Not
excessively hoppy, sligtly sweet. It would probably go well with
mildly flavored foods (although I drank it separately).
- Pete's Wicked Summer Brew
- A light, pleasantly flavored, but somewhat lame beer. It seemed
to be missing something -- perhaps in the combination of hops. A nice
summer beer; however, don't drink it with assertive food, as it
doesn't hold up well.
- Saranac Golden
- A standard, garden-variety pilsner that has hops that actually
stand out. Sadly, a bit too much; however, the flavor is good. It
stands up reasonably to strongly-flavored foods.
- Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
- A relatively standard stout with an interesting extra flavor,
which I believe was the oatmeal. Unlike other Samuel Smith products,
this one didn't seem to have a noticeable yeast flavor or sediment.
Pleasant, but the brewery makes better beers. And again, the beer
comes in a clear bottle. Not good, guys....
- Kirin Dry
- This beer is the one that started the dry beer craze in the US.
Of all the dry beers, it's probably the best. Decent flavor, slightly
underhopped, and (the dry feature) no aftertaste. This is not
something for those who like their beer to stick with them.
- Anchor Steam Beer
- This stuff has an interesting flavor; I'm not sure if it's the
steam brewing process, or their recipe. It's good, whatever makes it
taste that way.
- Samuel Adams Boston Lager
- Probably the best brew that Samuel Adams puts out. It's a good
basic lager, with a nice level of hopping, and decent flavor. Sadly,
it's nothing more than that.
- Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat
- The cherry flavor in this wheat improves the overall taste -- and
I don't normally like cherries! This is a pleasant wheat beer, with a
nice edge (not too strong) of cherry. For completely different
reasons, this rivals the Boston Lager for the best that Samuel Adams
makes. Much better than their Wheat.
- Harp Lager
- By itself, this is a really good beer that has too many hops in
the recipe. As an alternative other half of a Black and Tan, it is
better than Bass, as its flavor does something wonderful with Guinness
and makes a really good drink.
- Pete's Wicked Winter Brew
- This seems to be a desire to be different gone awry. Normally,
winter beers have warm spices, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves,
to add flavor. This one includes nutmeg, but also is trying to be
different by adding raspberries (a distinctly summer fruit, and from
the flavor added fresh). The raspberries are surprising, but detract
from the nutmeg. Removing them might be a good idea.
- Samuel Adams Cream Stout
- A reasonably thick beer -- and somehow Sam Adams overdid the hops.
It would probably stand up well to strongly-flavored foods -- perhaps
potent Indian or Thai sauces.
- Rolling Rock Bock
- Bock is a German medium-bodied beer. As one such, this was
decent, with a good strong flavor, and decent hoppiness. Nothing
really grabbed my attention about it, though.
- Saranac Black and Tan
- This tries to be a black and tan (Guinness and Bass (or Harp)
mixed) in one bottle. Unfortunately, it comes across as a
medium-heavy lager with the full complement of hops for a strong
stout. Hop lovers might like it better than I did; I thought the hops
were too strong for the weight of the beer.
- Saranac Adirondack Amber
- This beer is too strong on the hops, too weak in the malt. Decent
with food, not recommended by itself.
- Harpoon Ale
- A medium-bodied, but slightly thin and rather sharp beer. I
didn't like it that well -- it seemed to have an excess of some sharp
flavored hop and not enough malt.
- New Amsterdam New York Amber Beer
- A nice beer that really doesn't distinguish itself. It seems
technically correct, but without inspiration.
- Ballantine India Pale Ale
- An uninspiring hoppy pale ale. It does do well with food.
- Harpoon India Pale Ale
- Apologies in advance for this and the next two lame entries; I
don't remember much about these. Nothing in this beer really stuck
out in my mind; I need to try another one. (It's been a while.)
- Watney's Red Barrel Beer
- Nothing in this beer really stuck out in my mind; I need to try
another one. (It's been a while.)
- Belhaven Scottish Ale
- Nothing in this beer really stuck out in my mind; I need to try
another one. (It's been a while.)
- Samuel Adams Boston Ale
- Another fine product of the Samuel Adams line, and one of their
better ones. Nice flavor, but not amazing.
- Kirin Ichiban
- Ichiban means "number one" in Japanese, although I disagree with
their designation. Kirin Ichiban is a decent beer, although nothing
to write home about. Kirin Dry is much better.
- Red Stripe Lager Beer
- Turns out that the first Red Stripe I had was indeed skunked.
Without the skunky flavor, Red Stripe is reasonably good. It's a bit
thinner than I like, but I can understand this given the usual
temperatures of its country of origin (Jamaica).
- Commonwealth Brewing Company Boston Burton Ale
- This is an ale made to imitate the ales produced in
Burton-on-Trent, England. The style is largely based on reproducing
the extremely hard water found in Burton; this lends a strong mineral
flavor to the beer. I think the beer would have been much better
without the extra stuff in the water.
- Miller Velvet Stout
- One of the megabrewers finally put together something decent. It
has flavor beyond that of "yuck", good body, and is a little too
bitter. Miller finally let a brewmaster make something other than
their usual crud! Now maybe they'll stop making the slug-killer
entirely, and just work on improving this.
- Kappy's Premium Quality Beer
- An indifferent beer with a nice level of hops and relatively
assertive flavor -- I appreciate this. Indifferent beer that tries to
camouflage itself behind hops is annoying. Ones that let the flavor
come through at least lets you taste for yourself.
- A megabrewery does yet another respectable job (Plank Road is a
division of Miller). Icehouse actually acts like a real pilsner -- it
has a reasonable hop flavor, and a pleasant if understated malt flavor
that comes out as it warms. A competent, if uninspired, pilsner.
Keep up the good work, and stop making the slug-killer already.
- I was hoping that this was a good beer with an amusing name. I
was right about the amusing name part. This stuff is a pale imitation
of Budweiser in that it has more flavor than Bud (which doesn't really
say much for the beer). Other than that, this stuff is Budweiser,
including the strong visual resemblance to a urine sample.
- Decent beer, although it doesn't have enough body for me. Duvel's
disadvantage is that it is overhopped, nearly burying malt flavor.
- Ironside Ale
- My first impression of this beer was that is was very hoppy tonic
water. However, as it warmed, it got a very small hint of malt, with
the hop level staying about the same. Desperately in need of flavor.
- Post Road Pale Ale
- Post Road Pale Ale has far too many hops. Sadly, it doesn't have
much flavor either -- although I'm not sure -- the hops were a bit too
strong to tell.
- Olde Heurich Maerzen Beer
- An otherwise good beer that is missing something from its flavor.
Unfortunately, I'm not a brewer [I've taken up homebrewing since I
wrote this, but I'm not inclined to to go out and buy another bottle.
-MJB], so I'm not quite sure what's missing. If the brewers fix the
flavor problem, this will be a much better beer.
- Warsteiner Premium Verum
- The package for this claimed it was the Queen of Beers, and the
best-selling beer in Germany. Somehow I suspect that it is also from
the largest brewer in Germany, which means they have more opportunity
to find poor saps who'll drink anything. It has a bit more flavor
than Spaten Premium Lager (the other German beer on this list), but
not much. I suspect that the Germans drink anything respectable
before anyone has a chance to export it.
- Samuel Adams Wheat
- Thin, not much flavor. I've had far better wheat beers, and will
be trying to find others. [This one appears to have disappeared from
the Samuel Adams product line. -MJB]
- Crazy Ed's Original Cave Creek Chili Beer
- Very bad beer saved only by the whole chili pepper in the bottle.
This gives the otherwise Budweiser-equivalent beer an interesting
twist. Pleasantly warm for my level of hot tolerance. Extremely hot
for some other folks with no hot tolerance.
Bad news beers
- Oxford Class Amber Ale
- I'm not quite sure what this beer's brewmaster was thinking when
he produced this recipe. The beer smells slightly metallic, and
tastes that way as well. As it warms, the smell gets stronger, and
the act of drinking becomes more and more unpleasant. There's a
relatively strong sweet-malt flavor, as if the beer hadn't fermented
completely before it was bottled. This flavor sits on the tongue for
quite some time after drinking. All in all, a distinctly
strange beer. (A friend originally handed me the bottle and
said: "Here. Write something bad about it.".)
- Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 1992
- An indifferent beer, which would rank higher, except that the
brewers went completely overboard on the hops. This beer was almost
undrinkably bitter. My experience with Sierra Nevada Porter makes me
believe that all Sierra Nevada products are heavily hopped.
- Griffon Extra Pale Ale
- Looks like I found the Canadian equivalent of Budweiser. This
stuff came across as water with hops and a heading agent in it. There
was no discernible malt flavor. The hops got progressively less
pleasant as I finished the beer; this is one of those that degenerates
as it warms. Good thing I only got one.
- Spaten Premium Lager
- American Budweiser imported from Germany. I hope this is an
example of Germany's worst. If this is the best Spaten can produce
(as I would expect from the "premium" in the name), I don't want to
drink anything from them. And in a green bottle, yet. [I've
heard from a few people, and from reading Michael Jackson, that Spaten
Optimator is respectable. Eventually I'll try some. -MJB]
- Coronita Extra
- It's "Coronita" because it comes in small bottles. I figured that
I could drink a half-sized Corona, so I tried it. It ended up down
here because, you guessed it, Mexican Budweiser. Water with a heading
agent and minimal hop flavor. I've heard this type of beer
(American-style pilsners and their clones) called lawnmower beers.
However, I think that German wheat beers and Jamaican Red Stripe are
also intended as such -- drink those instead. Much better tasting.
- Kaliber Non-Alcoholic Brew
- I didn't ever think I'd drink a non-alcoholic beer. However, it
showed up at an office party recently. I ignored it, but my wife (for
some unknown reason) decided to try one. She had a little bit in a
glass, decided she didn't like it, and handed the rest to me. Bleah.
The beer has effectively no body, and the only noticeable flavor is a
faint stale hop taste. Guinness makes this -- and I'm of the opinion
that they should stop Real Soon Now. Don't bother.
mjbauer (at) mit (dot) edu