These are fighting words, I know, but I maintain that all beers taste alike – at least all beers of a kind. Sure, there is a big difference between Dixie Blackened Voodoo and Abita Purple Haze, but among all non-light common lager beers there’s not much difference.
Several years ago I even conducted my own taste test. I invited some friends who were adamant that they could tell one beer from the other. One boasted that he could always tell Dixie, which at the time was still being brewed in New Orleans, because it had more of a river water taste; Coors, on the other hand had a lighter mountain streams appeal. Bud and Miller fell somewhere in the middle of the taste spectrum.
I served the various beers in unmarked cups. Crackers were provided to equalize the taste buds. Each friend was asked to identify which beer was which.
My friends were all smug as they set about their duties. They were all males, after all, and no one should doubt their genetic beer knowledge.
There wasn’t so much beer served that any of them got woozy, but had they been, the results alone would’ve been sobering. They were all wrong. They couldn’t tell the river water from the mountain water, the hops from the barley. Truth is, by the time brewery water goes through a filtering process it all tastes pretty much the same.
Still, consumers, for various reasons, cling to their favorite beers. (I like Miller Light because my father did back when regular Miller was “the champagne of bottled beers.” I also remember a sign with that girl on the moon symbol that used to be along the Broad Street overpass.)
In the end it’s all about image: Corona-like palm trees on a Mexican beach and the All-American swagger of Budweiser, each steering us toward a cultural bias. But in a world of so many choices, sometimes biases are good things. They help us decide. Plus, there are other issues to be debated. Bottled or draught? Who serves it the coldest?
When it comes to selling beer, Dixie and Abita had it right. It is all voodoo and haze.