Bargain Beer Taste Test

Like all great enquiries, Mobile Bay magazine’s latest effort to enhance intentional living in our fair city using all the tools of scientific methodology required a visit to Maddog’s Party Stop on Cottage Hill Road.

A little background: While it’s the magazine of record in these parts for gracious coastal living, Mobile Bay still considers itself a vital source of news for matters of everyday living, particularly in the absence of a daily newspaper.

Thus, when big box retailer Costco came to town and one of our sharp-eyed art directors noticed it was selling beer for 45 cents a can under the nom de plume “Kirkland Light, ” it was clear a professional investigation was in order. Was a beer that sells for roughly what most stores get for bottled water a game changer for those seeking to fill a cooler with suds suitable for a day of fishing, light yard work or throwing empty cans at the neighborhood kids? Or was Kirkland Light a rough and shoddy upstart, a shallow and brackish byproduct of the macrobrews already available at Circle K?

It was our job to discover the truth.

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Our scientific method: After acquiring the Costco samples, a runner was dispatched to Maddog’s to purchase four additional macrobrews. Bud Light, Natural Light, Miller High Life and Pabst Blue Ribbon were chosen to go head-to-head with the new arrival, Kirkland Light. Inside our test kitchen, lab techs wearing white sterile coveralls carefully marked sample cups for the three testers, chosen at random from the Mobile Bay staff.

The testers were to sample each of the five brews, then place their empty sample cups in a line that represented their most-favorite to least-favorite beer.  

Test #1: Marie Katz

First up was Art Director Marie Dueitt Katz, a Mobile social phenomenon in her own right and no stranger to brewed drinks of all descriptions. Her ratings, best to worst: Bud Light, Natural Light, Miller High Life, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Kirkland Light. She ranked the newcomer at the bottom of the barrel.

That said, she didn’t leave out the possibility that she might drive by Costco on the way home and pick up a case of Kirkland. There’s an element of Gulf Coast living that leaves room for inexpensive beer, she allows.


Test #2: Breck Pappas

Next up was ingénue Breck “Buzzkill” Pappas, an innocent-faced 25-year-old, but be not deceived. A world traveler, he has fraternity bearing and graduated from Sewanee, the University of the South, a true breeding ground for alcohol enthusiasts. He quarterbacked for their football team, he claims.

The Pappas placements: Kirkland Light, Miller High Life, Bud Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Natural Light. That’s right, the kid gave Mobile newcomer Kirkland Light the gold star.

Perhaps showing a daring beyond his years, Pappas then proceeded to make a “suicide” mix out of his leftover beer samples, which he proclaimed to be greater than the sum of their parts.

Test #3: Dave Helms

Last up was crusty newspaper veteran Dave Helms, a copy editor at PMT who conceded that he doesn’t typically drink beer for the taste. “I drink it because it helps me forget I’m a journalist in an exciting age of digital transformation.”

The Helms ratings: Miller High Life, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Natural Light, Kirkland Light and Bud Light. “Ironic, since I’m a Bud Light drinker, ” Helms remarked before passing out. He often sleeps under his desk to save on motel rentals.

The testers largely ignored the beer score sheets they were provided with, which encouraged the measurement of astringents, diacetyls, metallics and phenolics. They wandered off after the experiment to begin their weekends.

So back to the original question: Is Costco’s 45-cents-a-can light beer a game changer? Probably not, but you can certainly amaze your friends poolside with your knowledge of a good bargain on those long summer days when craft beer just seems like too much effort. 

Text by The Mystic Traveler

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