Truly, the present day is the golden age for beer drinkers. When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I can recall that beer varieties were fairly limited. The large breweries dominated (with comparatively few types put out by each individual brewery), and while there were imports, they were also few, with only a small number of different types of beer. Since then, a wonderful thing has happened—microbreweries have sprouted up seemingly everywhere, both domestic and foreign. And these microbreweries have embraced experimentation—it’s not uncommon for one brewery to make dozens of different kinds of beer. Stores have responded, too. Many have taken it upon themselves to stock dozens, or even hundreds of different kinds of beer. Often they even sell single bottles, so you can try out a new possibility without having to buy an entire six pack.
One of the best ways to research these innumerable beers, and help you find out which ones to try, is http://www.beeradvocate.com/. There are many beer blogs, of course, some quite good, but Beer Advocate (B.A.) seems the most comprehensive. Taste in beer is subjective, obviously, so I don’t always agree with their ratings (for example, I’m not big on stouts, while B.A. definitely is), but it’s hard to beat as a detailed, general guide. Although I have to admit, I do sometimes snicker at some of their member’s evaluations. They occasionally resemble the type of incredibly precise, adjective-mad, pretentious reviews of the most snooty wine taster, as they drone on about “head retention,” and scores of grains they supposedly can discern in the beer’s odor, or taste. But, this is a very minor complaint, as the site does its homework, and their enthusiasm and appreciation for beer is impressive. Also, their attempts to objectify a subjective practice appeals to the scientific, practical side of me. And hey, maybe their raters really can identify mango, pineapple, and grapefruit in the aromas, and tinges of earthy pine and vegetal sweetness in the flavors, and my nose and palate are just inferior.
But moving to the topic of today, B.A. also includes their bottom 100, of the most lowest rated, terrible beers. One of these (currently holding down the #17 spot) is Cave Creek Chili Beer, which literally has a chili pepper bobbing about in it. Seeing it at my local liquor store, I had a masochistic compulsion to purchase it and give it a go. You know how sometimes two good but markedly different foods or flavors combine to form a third, wonderful taste? This was most assuredly not one of these times. This beer was horrendous. The two flavors fight each other viciously, and the loser is the drinker. I could only manage about a third of it before I had to stop punishing myself and pour the rest out (and I felt sorry for the drain). I like chili (both the pepper, and the dish) and I enjoy beer, but the two together was an abomination. It makes me wonder, how many bottles of Cave Creek Chili Beer are sold to people trying to appear culinarily macho, or to those who were just morbidly curious, like me? As I’ve already mentioned, taste is subjective, but I have a hard time believing that there are many folks who drink this more than once.