The best of the worst

Low cost beer provides decent experience

CHEAP DRINK RESULTS in mediocre taste.

“What’s the worst beer you have?” I asked as I walked into Hoosick Street Discount Beverage Center. The clerk, who was fixing something near one of the large displays of beer, looked towards the display and said, “Ugh, we don’t have it,” but then he listed three other options: Keystone Ice, Natural Light, and Steel Reserve. I thought the last had the best-sounding name, so that was destined to be this week’s review specimen.

And “worst beer” it is not.

Yes, Steel Reserve 211 (High Gravity) scored a Beer Advocate score of 59, which is listed as “awful,” but the BA Bros score on the site gives the beer an 83, which is “good.” How do I rate? Read on to find out.

Pulling up on the stay tab of my can released the first scents of the beer into my kitchen. I immediately was brought back to the likes of Keystone and Bud Light; I was not particularly impressed. A pour into a glass removed someone of my initial frustration, however.

Steel Reserve poured a pleasant, golden hue with a thick layer of foam that lasted for a few minutes. The foam, unfortunately, refused to cling to the sides of the glass, and it died down to a scant covering, kept alive only by the constant bubbling from the bottom of the glass.

The first taste of the beer was much better than I expected, given my initial question to the beverage store employee. It was certainly watery, but it was definitely drinkable. I was expecting a harsh sip, but I was surprised to find that the beer was fairly sweet. The aftertaste, too, wasn’t terrible, with the fizz on my tongue leaving fruity notes akin to Shock Top’s Belgian White.

For a true review, I’d love to sample this beer from a glass bottle. Canned beers, by design, are going to be worse than their glass-packaged counterparts, as foreign substances from both the metal and whatever coats the metal can leach into the drink and change the flavor. Go find a bottle of Coca Cola packaged in glass, and compare it to the same thing in a 20 oz. plastic bottle; you’ll realize my point.

That all said, I’d rate the beer a 3/5, right around what Beer Advocate’s readers gave it. I don’t think that it deserves the term “awful,” but I would agree that drinking it for pure enjoyment is out of the question. It’s a cheap beer that would be fine for buying in bulk and serving at parties. While watery, it has some flavor that other inexpensive beers lack. That, in and of itself, gives Steel Reserve its score.