Today the Chicago Tribune Online ran a story on tasting Trader Joe’s beer.  They grouped the beer into the following groups: good, ok, less ok, and ick.  The article points out the little known fact that Gordon Biersch and Firestone Walker brew for Trader Joe’s.  Both of these establishments are well known and regarded in the industry.  In fact, Firestone Walker took the Mid-Size Brewing Company award at both World Beer Cup and GABF this year.   The Tribune author only felt a few of these beers to be good.

Well knowing the background of these brewers and having decent experience with Trader Joe’s beer I looked deeper.  One beer that caught my eye was Mission St. Pale Ale by Firestone Walker.  Well Beer Advocate’s community ranking gives this beer a solid B with at qucik glance ratings from D+ to A+.  So I headed over to ratebeer and see its score of 65 and overall 50 for category.  Ratebeer’s system generates a percentile score so it considers this beer to be at the dead center of it’s style.

As far as I am concerned, with the exception of my own opinion only two other ratings matter.  World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival.  Both organizations use strict style guides and blind tastings by experienced tasters.  This pale landed a Bronze at WBC 2010 in American Style Pale Ale and Gold at this years GABF.  Not too shabby for a beer with mediocre reviews.

How could a beer be regarded as one of the top beers in its’ style get mediocre reviews?  Personally I think it comes down to perception and taste.  When shopping in Trader Joe’s for cheap beer you do not expect to find good beer.  Secondly there is taste.  Many people love mushrooms I can’t stand the taste.  People need to remember what one likes another despises.

So in the end, take every review you read with a grain of salt.  If the review is very bad the beer probably is, but give things an open shot; mediocre might be your fantastic.  So many reviews are colored by brewery reps, people with vendettas or just plain poor taste.  Go out give it a shot, see what happens and maybe save some money making a great beer all the better.


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  1. […] were marks of status.  I learned differently and do not shy away from store brands anymore.  I have commented before on Trader Joe’s use of better brewers for their store brands.  Trader Joe’s contracted […]

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