Craft beers win taste tests

Sam Adams, others outscore imports in blind tastings

July 19, 1999 - Samuel Adams lagers and ales resoundingly won blind taste-offs against worthy popular imports Heineken, Corona, Bass and Guinness at nine "Liquid Lunches" hosted by Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch in recent weeks.


Samuel Adams and other microbrewed beers fared just as well in separate taste tests conducted by Association of Brewers founder Charlie Papazian.

The Boston Beer "Liquid Lunches" for consumers and journalists were held in New York, Washington, DC, Minneapolis, Atlanta, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and Boston.

Koch was not surprised by the results. "I was proud that Sam Adams beers won over these great, world-class beers," he said. "But when you take away the fancy label and the big advertising budget, you lose the mystique of imported beer. When it comes down to the beer itself, beer drinkers prefer the flavor, balance, and complexity of Sam Adams over the imported beers, even ones from these excellent brewers."

In beer-to-beer blind tastings in each city, tasters were presented with unmarked glasses containing a Samuel Adams beer and its style equivalent in a leading import.

Using ratings forms and procedures approved by the Association of Homebrewers, the beers were scored according to appearance, aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel, and were then given an overall impression. The judges in each city were a mixed lot of beer lovers and beer neophytes, but the results were remarkably consistent and one-sided.

The 'Liquid Lunch' results

In 38 out of 39 tastings, Samuel Adams beat the imported competition (Boston Ale and Bass Ale tied in Denver): Samuel Adams Boston Lager was preferred to Heineken by 217 drinkers; 22 picked Heineken. Samuel Adams Boston Ale beat Bass Ale 160 to 84; Samuel Adams Summer Ale was preferred to Corona 193 to 46; and Samuel Adams Cream Stout was chosen over Guinness 129 to 64. (In cases of a tie, each beer was given a point.)

Papazian finds similar results

Papazian conducted his tests during a spring tour of the Northeast and Southwest, where he met often with homebrewers and other beer enthusiasts. "I have to tell you when they learned what they were tasting and saw the results they were very surprised," Papazian said. "Without the marketing behind it, when people judge with their pallet, we see they are preferring craft beers."

In Cambridge, Mass., at a Samuel Adams beer dinner, Samuel Adams Golden Pilsner beat Corona 25-4; Samuel Adams Boston Lager shut out Heineken 29-0 and Samuel Adams IPA draft bettered Bass Ale 23-5.

In a gathering at Rio Grande Brewing in Albuquerque, N.M., Rio Grande's Desert Pils and Grolsch tied, Samuel Adams Boston Lager outpolled Heineken 11-5 and Cabezon Stout (from Cabezon Brewing in Albuquerque) beat Guinness 12-4.

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