As your humble columnist, I feel as though I've tried my best to steer all those who read my article towards beer bliss. Even in my piece discussing the finer points of malt liquor, I made an honest attempt to distinguish those brews that rose above the swill and reached some sort of relatively elevated status.
But what about the beers that thrive in the seedy underbelly of the beer world—the ones that lurk in triangulated Solo cups and cake the floors of social houses? Should they not get their day in the sun?
In many ways, these unseemly characters of the brewed realm had their pageant in the form of Ivies, which is a kind of Oktoberfest for cheap, watery, it'll-get-you-drunk beers. But who stands above all in disgusting disgrace?
Apparently, it depends who you ask. I had a swig of a particularly heinous Keystone Light at Pinestock this weekend, but others had different opinions. The guy at Rite Aid, for instance, proclaimed "Steelies" (Steel Reserve) as the worst of the worst, while many others declare a deep resentment for the beverage known as "Beast Ice" (Milwaukee's Best Ice).
I decided there was only one way to find out: scour every gas station and corner store, assemble the usual suspects, convene some beer enthusiasts and take part in a highly-scientific blind testing to find the worst beer out there.
To ensure our preconceived notions would not cloud our judgment, each of the six beers (Natural Light, Natural Ice, Milwaukee's Best Ice, Keystone Light, Miller Lite and Bud Ice) were placed out of sight, and a highly trained specialist deposited specific doses of each chemical into labeled receptacles for analysis by the panel.
As with all extremely technical research programs, all of this was done with the background of a particularly rousing Mexican soccer game in Spanish, courtesy of ESPN Deportes. Each member of the taste taskforce was asked not only to give a full flavor profile, but also to attempt to identify which particular brew they were hesitantly imbibing. The results are as follows.
For the most part, the majority of the beers just seemed to blend together into a mix of watery waste. Keystone Light, my three-legged horse in the race, came with the trademark skunked smell and taste, while Miller Lite brought its own rancid aroma to the party, along with what only Liam Killion '11 described as "a slippery mouthfeel."
Bud Ice was fairly refreshing given the horrendous competition, and Natural Ice had the proud distinction of having the perfume of hydrated urine. But all in all, these beers were about what we expected—terrible.
Perhaps the real surprise of the evening was Natural Light, a staple of college campus debauchery across these fertile plains. Initially, I had thrown this beer in as a kind of control. It is so ubiquitous and iconic that I guessed it would be equally innocuous and an easy target for identification. Certainly it has a negative image as a figurehead for lackluster libations, but I generally considered it to be pretty average in the grand scheme of things.
Under the intense scrutiny of our blind tasting, however, the results were striking. Not only did some comment that it smelled like it had been sitting out for days, but the aftertaste was one of the worst in the whole bunch; analogous to some strange, artificial chemical (Liam said potting soil because he thinks he's some sort of sommelier). No one picked it out because it was so astonishingly awful.
Perhaps Natural Light simply doesn't warrant such fine attention and can be a suitable option in situations where interests are drawn elsewhere, but I will never look at it the same way.
There is, however, no question which beer arose from the pile of tall boys to claim its rightful title as worst beer. Milwaukee's Best Ice. It was the first beer sampled, we later found out, and after this truly atrocious contender there was really no contest. In fact, it wasn't even close. The initial essence of dirty tap water gave way to a delicate staleness, with a finish that must be experienced for oneself. I myself probably drank about three sips of this potent brew, and even that was a struggle.
Going into the tasting, Beast Ice was the favorite from initial polling, and it did not disappoint. We bankrupt college students can't always afford to drink the finest, and I understand why people may fall into the embrace of a Natty, or even a Keystone, but whatever you do, stay away from this stuff.