Well, at least according to Rate Beer these are the world’s fifty worst beers as rated by their members. Here’s the introduction to RateBeer’s list:
Below is a list of worst beers in the world as rated by the thousands of beer enthusiasts at RateBeer.com. Dare to try them? We don’t advise it. We provide this list in the name of beer education. We aren’t picking on the fat kid as much as we’re making a few big brewers accountable for their products that are more about beer hype and marketing than substance.
So one has to assume that by worst they mean ones that people generally don’t like drinking, worst in the sense of their popularity among beer geeks, worst in the sense of having very little flavor or worst in the sense of being made by very large companies with bad reputations among the fans of small breweries and specifically not in the sense that they aren’t well made. Because like it or not, most of the beers made by the big breweries are technically very well made, it’s just that a majority of people who are passionate enough about beer to go to RateBeer and rate the beers that they try tend not to like American-style light lagers and similar styles.
And most, if not all, of these beers were not sampled blind, meaning there was more than likely strong bias against them in rating them. Because also, like or not, many of the beers on this list are also some of the most popular beers in the world. No. 36, Bud Light, for example, is the highest ranked brand in the world according to the 2009 Millward Brown Optimor Top 100 and the second most popular beer brand in the world according to Plato Logic. I’m no fan of these beers personally and I’m certainly not trying to champion any of the ones on this list, but I do want to put this into perspective.
The World’s Worst Beers
- Halsnæs Poulsen / Halsnæs Bryghus (Denmark)
- Busch NA / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- O’Douls / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Gluek Stite Light Lager / Cold Spring Brewery
- Olde English 800 3.2 / Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Pabst NA / Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Hurricane Ice / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Sleeman Clear / Sleeman Brewing & Malting Co. (Canada) (Sapporo; Japan)
- Black Label 11-11 Malt Liquor / Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Natural Light / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Natural Ice / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Tooheys Blue Ice / Tooheys (Lion Nathan Co.; New Zealand)
- Michelob Ultra / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Milwaukee’s Best / Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Coors Non-Alcoholic / Coors Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Diamond White Cider / Matthew Clark Cider (England)
- Miller Sharps / Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Tuborg T-Beer / Carlsberg Brewery (Denmark)
- PC 2.5 g Low Carb / Brick Brewing Company (Canada)
- Jacob Best Ice / Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Coors Aspen Edge / Coors Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Bud Light Chelada / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Molson Kick / Molson Breweries (MolsonCoors; Canada)
- Bud Ice Light / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Genesee NA / High Falls Brewing Company
- Busch Ice / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Rockman High Gravity Lager / Sleeman Brewing & Malting Co. (Canada) (Sapporo; Japan)
- Molson Ex Light / Molson Breweries (MolsonCoors; Canada)
- Old Milwaukee Ice / Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Labatt Sterling / Labatt Breweries (InBev; Canada)
- Blue Ice Beer / San Miguel Brewery (Hong Kong)
- Hek Original Lager Blonde Beer (Blue label) / Groupe Geloso (Canada)
- Pabst Ice / Pabst Brewing Company
- Tooheys Blue Bitter / Tooheys (Lion Nathan Co.; New Zealand)
- Fosters Light / Fosters Brewing (Australia)
- Bud Light / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Busch Light / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Camo Silver Ice High Gravity Lager / City Brewery (Melanie Brewing Co)
- Tooheys Extra Dry Platinum / Tooheys (Lion Nathan Co.; New Zealand)
- Milwaukee’s Best Light / Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Pabst Extra Light / Pabst Brewing Company
- Molson Ultra / Molson Breweries (MolsonCoors; Canada)
- Camo 900 High Gravity Lager / City Brewery (Melanie Brewing Co)
- Matt Accel / Matt Brewing Company
- Adelskronen Mix Alsterwasser/ Radler / Feldschlößchen Braunschweig (Carlsberg; Denmark)
- Lucky Lager Force 10 / Labatt Breweries (InBev)
- Busch Beer / Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Schlitz Red Bull / Miller Brewing Company (MillerCoors)
- Molson Exel / Molson Breweries (MolsonCoors; Canada)
- Fosters Light Ice / Fosters Brewing (Australia)
There are some obvious problems with the list. For example, six of the beers are non-alcoholic (I marked them in blue). I know they’re trying to duplicate the taste of beer, but with less than 0.5% alcohol, I’m not sure they should be a part of this list. They’re designed for a very specific purpose, that is for people who can’t tolerate alcohol for whatever reason. A casual drinker would never choose one of these beers absent some specific need. For that same reason I’d argue that gluten-free beers should also not be on such a list, but there aren’t any on the list surprisingly enough. Also one of the items on the list, No. 16, is hard cider, not a beer at all. In the original list, Nos. 33 and 41, Pabst Ice and Pabst Extra Light, respectively, are attributed to MillerCoors, though they only brew them under license for Pabst, who owns the labels.
Also, just as a matter of curiosity, here’s some additional interesting data I gleaned from the list:
- Anheuser-Busch In Bev = 12 (24%)
- MillerCoors = 11 (22%)
- MolsonCoors = 4 (8%)
- Carlsberg = 2 (4%)
- Fosters = 2 (4%)
- Labatt/InBev = 2 (4%)
- Pabst = 2 (4%)
- Sleeman/Sapporo = 2 (4%)
- Toohey’s/Lion Nathan = 2 (4%)
Country of Origin Distribution
- United States = 31 (62%)
- Canada = 9 (18%)
- Denmark = 3 (6%)
- New Zealand = 3 (6%)
- Australia = 2 (4%)
- England = 1 (2%)
- Hong Kong = 1 (2%)
- Light Lagers = 28 (56%)
- Ice Beer = 11 (22%)
- Malt Liquor = 7 (14%)
- Non-Alcoholic = 6 (12%)
- Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer = 3 (6%)
The Beer Nut says
Strange how many of them are from big brewers. I suppose, like everything on rating websites, it’s down to how accessible the candidates are to the membership. In my experience, small breweries make the worst beer. Big ones tend to make dull, bland beers, and it’s right and proper to be annoyed at them for not making good beer when they could if they wanted to. But the real stinkers I’ve met have generally been from small independent breweries, who perhaps haven’t quite got to grips with quality control.
That used to be true here, too, maybe 15 years ago before the great shakeout of the mid-90s. Before then it used to be pretty easy to find bad beer being made by a small brewery. You could walk the hall at GABF and not have much trouble finding a poorly made beer. But by and large that’s no longer the case. You can still find the odd bad beer, but it’s much more unusual than it used to be, which I think is a sign of our craft market maturing after thirty years.
Aside from the presumed bias against beers from large, industrial producers, NA beers, and so forth, one should also note the flawed assumption that most of these beers have attained some sort of reputation through either hype or marketing. A few key examples aside (Bud Light and Mich Ultra being the most obvious), there is very little marketing behind any of these products. Certainly not on the national or international level. I have never, ever seen an ad for Olde English or any of the Pabst products, outside of a sign in a liquor store window, advertising the low, low selling price. There’s certainly no hype behind any of these products. As the Beer Nut says, many of the worst beers I’ve had have been from small craft brewers. Some of those were of the hyped-limited-release variety.
Rex Harris says
I’m glad to see that Cruz Campo didn’t make the list……
Greg Clow says
Number 1 (Halsnæs Poulsen from Halsnæs Bryghus) seems to be there due to a glitch in the RB database. If you click through, all of the ratings (of which there are only 15) are up around 3 out of 5, but for some reason the average score is null.
Otherwise – I mostly agree with your stance on this. When I’m doing my ratings for RB, I try to take into account the style of the beer, and base at least part of my ratings of mainstream pale lagers in relation to other mainstream pale lagers. Enjoyment and personal taste also plays a role, of course, but I try to have some perspective.
Greg Clow says
Oh, and a couple of more things:
The N/A beers and the cider are there because Rate Beer allows them to be rated (as well as sakes), and this list is based on ALL entries in the RB database. Premium users can filter the best & worst of lists somewhat, so it would probably be possible to put together a list that leaves them out.
And as for the Pabst thing, they’re credited to Miller because RB generally lists contract-brewed beers under the brewery where they’re made.
Julie@Good Brewer says
I have to agree with your assessment that the list is most likely skewed towards a dislike of the big brews because the members who care enough to vote are the ones who look beyond ‘light lager’ for their beer preference. I have never understood how anyone can stomach a Bud in any form. It has a finish that has always made me gag. Yet, I do have high school friends that still buy it by the case load, and prefer drinking it to any IPA, wheat or other style of beer I might bring with me for the occasion. To each their own, I guess.
Steve Altimari says
I guess my comparison would be the fictional site rate-burger which would probably have Mc’D’s in the bottom 10 for best burgers but I’m sure if looked at from the perspective of market share would be in the top 10, nuff said, after all we did have GWB for 8 years. Oops…..politics, beer and burgers…now that’s a No No.
I don’t know but I think I am with the nutty one. Maybe its because Canada is still a decade behind. And nothing against Ratebeer but for some of the picks this displays the problem of dislocation of beer from context. But that is more about methodology than anything. I don’t think we can criticize a beer rating aggregator for being a beer rating aggregator so much as know it only gets you so far.
Jay, there are still enough bad craft brews – including US ones – I would pass over on a hot day at a ballpark to get to the Milwaukee’s Best. It’s a cold discount ale while the bad crafts are “thanks for coming out” and a bit of advice about laying off the mega hopping (or Belgian yeast strains or oak casks for that matter) until you know a bit more. And there are a whole school of people who would not take a Magic Hat or Shipyard or one from Middle Ages due to the buttery goodness I quite like.
On the other hand, I do think the NA, Ice and lo-carb brews do share the “Doctor Frankenstein’s laboratory” mad scientist issues. Those are a whole separate class of experimenting than the seasonals gone mad.
There are “bad crafts,” of course, but I wouldn’t include “the mega hopping (or Belgian yeast strains or oak casks for that matter)” as bad beers, just ones you wouldn’t want to drink at the ballpark (and I probably wouldn’t want them in that context either) but that doesn’t make them “bad” any more than Milwaukee’s Best is “bad” for having vanishingly little flavor at all. To me, the only thing that makes a beer “bad” is having defects, being infected or being treated poorly so it becomes skunked or befalls some other similar calamity. Otherwise any beer free from defects can’t be called bad. (Even over-hopping isn’t a defect if intentional or called for by the “style”). All you can say about it is you don’t like it. That’s what RateBeer ratings should aggregate over time, people’s preferences. Theoretically, if enough people don’t like a particular beer the market will take care of removing it from distribution but, of course, it doesn’t really work like that. Many people believed (and still do) that Redhook ESB has too much diacetyl to style but customers liked that quality and so it only grew more popular for a time. In the end, I wasn’t so much criticizing Rate Beer as pointing out some observations about what can be learned from looking at such a list.
I understand why the NA’s and ciders (and sakes) can be removed, and I still don’t think it unreasonable to suggest that they could have been filtered out in a separate published list entitled “The World’s Worst Beers.” As you point out, they have the technology, why not use it and also fix the glitch with Halsnæs Poulsen?
Badly done unbalanced hops or sore thumb yeast or misplaced oaking is as big a fault as any. I do agree that big balanced hoppy, interestingly yeasted or carefully oaked beers are a different matter and are more like diacetyl – a matter of taste. Bad recipes are not a matter of taste. They a defect as much as faulty capping is.
Otherwise, we have to call everyone who picks up a pen a good writer.
I once saw a well-known author (can’t remember who now) on a late night talk show who said something to the effect of “writers finish, that’s what separates them from any old idiot with a pen.” At the time, that really resonated with me because I was still “aspiring” to write but could never quite finish anything because I was never perfectly happy with it. So I think we have to call “everyone who picks up a pen” (and finishes) a writer, but not necessarily a good one.
That certainly works. You are, if we don’t count the professional writing I do all day, certainly farther down the road of the writer than I am but I also have the files and files of notes. But, except for one story, they really are bad. I shipped all my notes to a pal who had the good sense to tell me the rest were crap. Saved me much time and gave me focus on that one other thing… that I still haven’t gotten to.
But what is bad beer? There must be bad craft beer or at least worse bad beer that does not deserve my attention. Allagash Victor was simply shocking to my system and made me question whether there may be tastes that I was inherently chemically never able to enjoy. But if I was being honest with you, I think it was just a bad recipe.
Josh: There’s much more to marketing than advertising. A beverage like Olde English has the muscle of SABMiller behind it in finding (or ordering) distribution, pricing, etc. They don’t need to advertise much as long as they’re on the shelves and cheap to buy for a sweet high.
And I agree with J, fortunately the days of many awful craft beers is behind us with the shakeout of the 1990s.
Sean Smith - Fat Paddler says
That Olde English 40 ounce is just vile. Can you really call Malt Liquor a beer????? I had a big night out in Buffalo when visiting the US and drank this stuff for a while and the next day i wanted to throw myself from Niagra Falls. I feel giddy just thining about it *gag*…..