2K: The worst beers
Three Chinese beers
Now that I've passed 2000 beers I figured it would be interesting to go back and look at which of these beers were the absolute worst beers. Many craft beer lovers think the worst possible beers are the mass market brands like Budweiser or the local national giant, and pour scorn on any industrial beer that is low on taste. I'm no fan of these beers myself, but there are things that are worse than having no taste, or some hints of off-tastes.
The first category of worse beers is the infected ones. These are beers where other sugar-eating micro-organisms besides the yeast added by the brewer have gotten into the beer and run riot on the sugar in it. This can happen easily, as the air around us is full of organisms of this type. The exact result of such an infection will depend on which specific organism got into the beer, but very often it will give the beer an acidic, vinegary character. How strong this is varies a lot, from barely detectable to so overpowering it makes the beer undrinkable. This happens now and then, and the resulting beers often make crap industrial beers seem fantastic by comparison. However, this is just a production error, and other batches of the same beer most likely will not have this problem, and so I'm skipping these beers.
What I'm after here is the worst beers that are, as far as one knows, roughly the same from batch to batch, and yet still taste truly awful. And, as I said above, being bland and boring is not the same as being awful. To qualify, a beer has to really taste worse than, say, water. One would think that such beers wouldn't exist, since nobody would buy them, but actually they can be found, if you search long enough, and here's my collection of five worst beers so far.
5. Yanjing Alcoholfree
Yanjing is a local industrial Beijing brewery. I've tried 6 of their beers, and given them 2.2-1.0 on a 5.0-0.5 scale. The 2.2 rating was a local version of the Münchner Hofbräu pils. Not very impressive. The worst of their beers, at 1.0, was definitely their alcohol free beer.
|Small white lasting head. Pale yellow body with ongoing carbonation. So at least the apperance is OK, even if it is a little pale. Very faint aroma, what little there is is rubbery and chemical. The taste is flat and empty, followed by watery rice and cardboard. The mouthfeel is chalky, as if they stirred chalk into the beer. A stale taste lingers, with a touch of maize. Also feels a bit sourish. Dreadful! A real drain-pour. (0.355l can, rated 2006-06-07 in Beijing.)|
4. Castel Beer (Senegal)
Groupe Castel is a French drinks company producing wine, soft drinks, and beer, with interests in most of the world. One of their brands in "Castel Beer", which is produced in parts of Africa, central Asia, and so on. This particular beer is one of the three commercial ones produced in Senegal (all by the same brewery). It's probably made under a license from Groupe Castel, but couldn't really be described as a terribly successful effort. I guess the rating speaks for itself.
|Medium white head, mostly big bubbles. Yellow body. Intense aroma of rubber and sweaty dried-in socks. Imagine walking around the Sahara for two weeks in the same woolen socks and same rubber boots; at the end of it they would smell like this. Dry chemical intensely rubbery taste, densely chalky, with powerful cardboard notes. As if they dissolved the cardboard box the rubber boots came in, and used that as well. This is seriously unpleasant. It grates on me in a major way. I don't think I would ever finish a bottle of this. I could, but I wouldn't, unless I were dying of thirst. (0.33l bottle from PeterA, via KnutAlbert.)|
I got hold of this bottle via an American RateBeerian living in Senegal, who was on a visit to Oslo. Knut Albert had somehow discovered that he was coming, and since Knut Albert was out of town, I met Peter in the lobby of his hotel, exchanging plastic bags full of bottles. Peter got quality Norwegian microbrew, and we got ... well ... we got three beers like this one. (That was the deal all along, of course.)
3. Stary Melnik Bezalkogolnoe
Another alcohol-free beer, this time from Russia. Stariy Melnik (which means "old mill") is a brand made by Pivovar Moskva (that is, Moscow Brewery), which is owned by the Turkish Efes Group. I've also tried their pale lager, which is well below average, but certainly drinkable. The same cannot be said for their alcohol-free product.
|Big white head quickly shrinks into a thin ring. Pale yellow body with some carbonation. Vaguely sulphurous chalky aroma with something I won't bother to identify, because this smells horrible anyway. Taste is chalky watery bitterness initially. Aftertaste is watery bitterness. Very unpleasant. I can't imagine that anyone would enjoy this. It reminds me of what you vomit when you have only water in your stomach. (0.5l bottle, rated in Moscow, September 2006.)|
2. Grans Bare Fotball
This is from Norwegian low-cost brewer Grans. The name translates to "Only Soccer" in English, and is typical of how Norwegian brewers try to differentiate their products from each other: by means of the label. Inside the can, the stuff is usually mostly the same cheap pale lager. Except for this one, which was unusually horrible. I notice that nobody on RateBeer hated it as much as I did, so I may just have been out of luck with the can I had. They've stopped making it now, I'm happy to say, so there's no way to verify this.
|The small white head quickly disappears, leaving only a thin ring round the edge of the glass. Copper body, with some ongoing carbonation. Aroma is watery and unbalanced, but brings up many associations. Strong butter odour with roasty caramel notes and maybe a touch of wood and metal. It's really bad, but I'm saving the 1 in the hope that something worse will show up one day. Watery roasty caramel flavour with aftertaste of watery burnt wood and metal. Notes of butter, too. Some hops and bitterness are detectable. A really disgusting salty buttery metal taste lingers. Palate is buttery, and it feels like the beer leaves a metal butter film in your mouth. Overall, this is astonishingly bad. This is the first beer that has made me want to rinse my mouth afterwards. The initial taste isn't really as bad as the aroma, but the aftertaste is dreadful. Well. What can I say? It's kind of fun to rate, since the taste is so complex, but I would rather drink fermented well-used soccer socks. (0.5l can, rated June 2006.)|
1. Mongozo Banana
The world's worst beer
Mongozo is a series of beers with exotic fair-trade ingredients (banana, coconut, palmnut, quinoa) by Belgian brewer Huyghe. Huyghe are perhaps best known for their Delirium Tremens and Delirium Nocturnum beers, and while these are respectable, the same cannot be said for the Mongozo series. I'm happy to say I've only tried the coconut beer in addition to this, and that's enough for me.
|Small white head over hazy yellow body. Sweet banana aroma, initially fine, then followed by a disgusting papery, milky background with faint notes of licorice. The taste also starts out well with sweet banana, then lurches into a violent taste of wet toilet paper, licorice, metal, rotten banana, and, I swear, a whiff of shit. This is just absolutely dreadful. It fails to be boring in the same way that axe murders fail to be boring. I've only taken two sips, so I can't analyze the taste very well, but there is no way I am drinking any more of this. The aftertaste is long and horrifying, lasting several minutes before it gradually fades into blissful relief, kind of like the pain from a cigarette burn eventually wears off. This sets a new low for me. It's a shame it looked OK, since giving it a 1 for appearance would have made me happy. (0.33l bottle. Rated October 2006 and retasted today.)|
It sounds incredible that something could be so bad, yet be sold for years on end, and even exported to other countries, doesn't it? I thought so, too, so I bought it again for this blog posting, so I could recheck, and also take a photo of it. The aroma is bad, but bearable, just as the review says. The taste is horrifyingly awful. Bad enough, actually, to make me cry out loud. I only had one sip, and rinsed my mouth afterwards. Don't buy this beer, that's all I can say.
I've been rating beer (using RateBeer) for well over a year now, as a way to keep notes on what I've drunk, and how it tasted
Read | 2006-11-01 21:29
I wanted to make the 2K series quite long, with various lists of beers selected by different criteria, but I never managed to find any selections that inspired me enough to actually write the pieces, so we'll round off with the obvious one instead
Read | 2008-09-07 14:19
Ant S - 2008-07-02 04:18:43
Your description of Mongozo Banana made me laugh out loud - I will definately be seeking out a bottle the next time I am in Belgium, it will be an interesting benchmarking exercise...
Knut Albert - 2008-07-03 06:47:11
Amazing what we do for research, isn't it? I have steered clear of the Mongozo Banana and Coconut beers - my lowest rating is also a flavoured Belgian, this one being laced with cactus juice.
Boak - 2008-07-03 08:42:04
Spooky - the Spanish beer blogging world is focussing on the worst beers they've ever had at the moment...and I went for Mongozo Coconut beer. We've still got a Mongozo banana beer, waiting until we can find some poor sucker to give it to...
sveino - 2008-07-03 17:08:34
This is very enjoyable indeed. I guess it's kind of "it's dirty job but someone's gotta do it". Your five worst beers reminds me of a saying I heard from one of my student colleagues way back in time: "I nøden spiser Fanden fluer, men neiggu om'n drekk Lillehammer pils". I haven't tried Lillehammer pils and I don't even know if it is still produced. Maybe you have tried it and can verify or falsify the statement?
Lars Marius - 2008-07-04 06:02:34
Ant: It seems like the chief effect this blog entry will have is to make people try Mongozo Banana. That really wasn't the intention, but I guess I can see the logic behind. Anyway, hope you "enjoy" it.
Boak: Tastes differ, I guess, and I suppose we can all agree that the Coconut is not a good beer. From following the links on your page I see that the Beer Nut quite liked the Mongozo Banana. I'm stunned. Speechless.
Svein: You never know if the beer is good or bad before you try it, although I must admit that in the case of the banana beer I did have my suspicions. As for Lillehammer Pils, the original brewery closed in 1983, so I never got to try it. However, the brewery was restarted as a micro in 2006, and the new Lillehammer Pils is easily the best Norwegian pilsener I've had. Knut Albert has a report from our visit: http://knutalbert.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/lillehammer-bryggeri/
The Beer Nut - 2008-07-04 10:14:32
I sure did. It brought back memories of banana-flavoured sweets I used to get as a kid.
Funny thing, taste (and my apparent lack of it).
Marie Taschen - 2009-02-26 08:24:46
I haven't tried any of those, but banana-flavoured beer seems to be a real no-go! I personally dislike Guinness...nobody might understand, but I prefer "lighter" kinds of beer.
Tom Tom Navi - 2010-09-28 12:37:40
Well I dislike Guinness too. I think wherever you love it or you hate it, but banana-flavoured beer is definitely a nogo!