Edit ModuleShow Tags

From the Archives: The Great Blind Beer Taste-Off in 1981

Back when San Diego craft beer was nonexistent


Published:

In 1981, we hosted “The Great Blind Beer Taste-Off,” in which 11 “experienced drinkers” tasted 16 light and dark imported and domestic beers. There were no San Diego craft beers in the story, as it was still about eight years before pioneer brewery Karl Strauss would open its doors. Candidates were listed with their country and ranged from Anchor Steam Beer (USA) and Pilsner Urquell (Czechoslovakia) to Albani Porter (Denmark). “All of the beers tasted are normally considered to be premium or superior brews,” wrote J. Lee Anderson. “When a beer of the quality and popularity of Michelob comes in dead last in a taste test, you know there is some heady competition.”

The beers were judged on their “body, head, color, nose, a positive presence of hops or malt, and plain old flavor.” Nowadays, being judged on your body, head, and nose sounds more like a beauty pageant. The lexicon was less anatomical for a blind taste test we conducted in 2017, when our connoisseurs sipped a whopping 34 beers from four categories (Hoppy, Belgian-Inspired, Malty, and Freestyle) and ranked them based on aroma, taste, finish, and overall balance.

With the boom of craft beer, San Diegans have developed a sophisticated palate as well as a vocabulary—brush up on the jargon in our feature story this month (page 100). We talk about flavor, style, satisfaction, and mouthfeel. But back in 1981? “The comments of our cognoscenti ranged from sweet to scatological.” Coast Walk co-owner Don Allison called Anchor Steam “silently commanding.” Molson’s (Canada) was deemed “tapioca in a bottle” by artist-writer Mike Dormer. Pat Shea, a former Charger and co-owner of the bar Sweeney O’Shea’s, said Negra Modelo (Mexico) reminded him of “Tijuana Jail, 1964.”

By the 15th beer, however, fellow former Charger and bar co-owner Walt Sweeney said, “It all tastes better at closing time.” Mission Beach “housewife-bartender” Tobie Jones said, “Taste buds gone!”

As for the winner? Anchor Steam rated highest and, it was noted, priced at only 83 cents per 12-ounce bottle at Chip’s Liquor in Pacific Beach (today Chip’s charges $1.83 per bottle). Chip’s then-owner Adek Firestone said he stocked “225 imported beers and all the domestic brands we can get. We still don’t have Stroh’s from Detroit, but we’re working on it.” They still didn’t have any San Diego beers either, but San Diegans, thank goodness, were about to start working on it.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Inside a San Diego Home with Southern Charm

A young family puts personal touches on a turnkey home in Santaluz

San Diego Room Revamps You Must See

Three interior designers sound off on how they turned a single room into a stunner, plus tips to make your spaces pop

Vote Now for Your Orangetheory Winner!

Winners will be announced at our Sweat event on May 12
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Vote Now for San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018
    From burritos to bottomless mimosas, you choose San Diego’s best eats and drinks in 90 categories
  2. Personal Stories are on Display at the Museum of Man's 'PostSecret'
    Frank Warren collects deep, dark secrets for this community arts project
  3. The Best Burgers in San Diego
    These burgers are food critic Troy Johnson's finalists for the best in San Diego
  4. The Best of North County 2018
    Our annual list of what we’re loving above the 56, from bites and brews to shopping, wellness, and arts and kids’ activities galore
  5. 31 Best Places to Live in San Diego
    Five local homeowners share their advice, tips, and tricks on how they sealed the deal
  6. Has Anything Really Changed Since Ballast Point Sold to Constellation?
    More than two years after the acquisition, misinformation and misunderstanding still abound
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Vote Now for Your Orangetheory Winner!

Winners will be announced at our Sweat event on May 12

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags