Blind Taste Test – Pale

OK, I can’t promise too much, Dirty Harry is on MaxHD and I’ve got a few Butternuts Pork Slap Pale Ale sitting in my mini-fridge. Oh man, those guys just robbed the bank. Poor bastards didn’t realize that Inspector Callahan was having a hot dog at Jaffe’s Kwik Lunch right across the street. He’s still chewing, after wasting two crooks. So badass.

By the way this Pork Slap, while not overly hopped has a beautiful caramel color with a slight murky cloudiness and a clean aroma of hops. The head is creamy with a beautiful clinging lace that leaves rings down the glass. The mouthfeel is thinner than most pales, it is not as aggressive as some of its other canned counterparts—like OB Dale’s—or even bottled Sierra Nevada, but it has a sweetness on the tip and sides of the tongue that eases any alcoholic bite that sometimes accompanies the higher ABV pales.

Sorry, back to the taste test. In August (I know, I know), my brothers, my dad, and I had a blind taste test of pale ales and IPAs. I spent some time collecting bottles and sixers and brought them all to Nantucket where the ladies were kind enough to serve us the samples in glasses so we wouldn’t know which was which. I am a self-professed die-hard hophead, so I was pretty eager to try a lot of the brews, but it is worth noting that we had a huge pizza dinner (courtesy of Foood for Here and There, for anyone familiar with Nantucket eats) and were over-served on meat-lovers’ pies and High Life.

The champagne of babies

The Champagne of Babies

Here are the beers, in the order we sampled them, with some of the more intelligent comments that we wrote down and an average of the points we awarded each out of 100. Note that Will was in a sling, so didn’t write a score and his comments were verbal–and particularly insightful. Remember, these are all quotes, I just didn’t want to put quotes around every sub-point. Enjoy, let me know what you think.

Here’s a ‘before’ look at this pleasant Nantucket summer experience. Nantucket Reds

  • Magic Hat Fat Angel
    • Good hoppiness and mouthfeel, overall poor finish. 68
  • Rogue Dead Guy
    • Good head-retention, hints of honey, cloudy, perfumed. Will described this as being “like French artillery: weak, and with no range.” 59
  • Lagunitas Maximus
    • Strong hoppy start but with a bitter, metallic, licorice finish. 57
  • Stone Double Bastard (courtesy of Kirk Struble from Westside Brewing Co.)
    • Dark head, high, ABV, “undrinkable, tastes like liquor”, “terrible alcohol taste.” 40 (Max gave this a “fail” so only Dad’s 30 and my 50 factored in here.
  • Cisco Indie Pale Ale
    • Fruity finish, peachy aroma, unremarkable. 54.3
  • Stone Coast Batch 420 IPA
    • Soft aroma, no floral hoppiness, thin and undistinguished. Will said it tasted like “dandelion soup.” 65
  • Tuckerman Pale Ale
    • Smooth, traditional, creamier, wheaty aroma, poor head retention. 75.3 (Harry just entered the stadium. Scorpio’s in big trouble. Here comes the “you tried to kill me” exchange. Harry makes a great shot across the football field to drop Scorpio.)
  • Middle Ages Wailing Wench
    • Good sweet honey finish, sweet hoppiness but low IBU and carbonation, nutty, honey-infused but pure. Will sez: “Like Pooh’s underwear”. 80.3
  • Harpoon IPA
    • No negatives but uninteresting, unbold, drinkable, good head retention but too lager-like. Will sez “like a Midwestern preacher’s wife.” 69
  • Red Hook Longhammer
    • No character, hoppy but too much tip of the tongue, unexciting but drinkable. 66.6
  • Cisco Whale’s Tale
    • Poison, nail polish, gone bad, meaty aroma, Velspar varnish, acidic. Will sez: “This fucking sucks.” 33 (Another “fail” from Max).
  • Anchor Steam
    • Copper, good head-retention, full and tasty. 82.6
  • Stone IPA
    • Acidic and fruity, perfumy after-taste, decent legs. 77.6
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
    • Soft, slow carbonation, professional and nicely hopped. 86

So there it is, the Davidson Blind Taste Test. I have to admit that I think sampling 14 of anything as assertive as IPA–especially after a huge pizza dinner–makes it difficult to discern a great deal. Also, the comments became decidedly shorter by round 10. A lot of these beers would be great on their own, in a proper pint glass, so my apologies in particular to Dead Guy, Stone DB, and Cisco Whale’s Tale (which we’re pretty sure was skunked. I had it on tap a few days later, and it was delightful). As you can see, the overall winners were Anchor Steam and Sierra. I would claim bias; being able to pick out Sierra should not be hard for this particular group. However, it was the last beer sampled and we were all about aled out at that point, so it’s pretty fair. A notable third and fourth place go to Tuckerman’s and Wailing Wench. Tuckerman’s was a bit lighter than the others which, after the gluttony that occurred pre-test, probably accounts for why we liked it. Wailing Wench will need a second visit. I saw some at the Union Square Whole Foods (where I got the Pork Slap) and will have to have further conversations with the beermeister there who showed the requisite enthusiasm. He chooses, orders, and stocks the beer and asked what I thought he was missing. I mentioned Dale’s which he said they’d had but were sold out and he offered to order something specially. Point being, a great selection with great prices, but I digress.

Anyway, it might have been a good idea to do the test in the afternoon with plenty of water to accompany. Will and I got overserved; here’s the ‘after’ photo. Sorry.



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