As it happens, these mass-produced, ubiquitous lagers seem to be exactly the types of beers Mr. BeerNut wanted people to talk about in this month's session. "Nothing fancy" he said to my comment. He wanted the lowest common denominator beers. The pints (half litres) of plain. The everyday Johannes Seife beers. I didn't feel up to doing this important work alone, so I enlisted the help of my colleagues, many of whom could be classed as every-day, common-or-garden Pils drinkers.
I started by doing a small survey to get an idea of what brands were generally popular amongst my colleagues. Out of 36 responses, 23 stated that Pilsners would be their favourite type of beer. The top five (with the number of "votes" in parenthesis) were as follows:
- Becks (5)
- Krombacher (3)
- Bitburger (2)
- Veltins (2)
- Jever (2)
I then got nine volunteers for a blind tasting,where each person would be unaware of what beers were on trial. They would simply have to provide a preference order.
Armed with the list of the top 5 from the survey group, I duly bought a selection of Becks, Jever, Krombacher and Bitburger, along with a few bottles of Schwelmer Pils as a side-test. I've had Schwelmer in the past, and to be honest I didn't think much of it, but according to ratebeer, it's number 21 in the list of Classic German Pilseners. Shows what I know! I also found it a little worrying that there are so few actual German beers represented there, but that could also be a "style" thing. Oh, and before you ask, I couldn't get the higher rated ones at short notice. Organised? Me?
Getting the beers back to the office under great secrecy, the glasses were poured in a separate room and all wheeled in to the volunteers. Each person was given five glasses, labelled A to E, and a sheet on which to write notes (optional!) and, more importantly, boxes in which to write their order of preference.
The final tally of results came out as shown in the table below.
What was really interesting was, of course, that Schwelmer came out on top, with a clear swing between those who had it in first and second choice, and the two people who thought it was "muffig"; musty or stale. Also surprising, to me at least, was that Becks did fairly well, and I suppose it was heartening that of the people who stated that Becks was their favourite before the test, one chose Becks as his number 1 in the blind tasting, while another colleague had it as her second choice. Of course there were upsets such as my pal, who said Jever was his favourite pils if he had to drink pils (he's really a Landbier man) giving Jever a number 4 in his preferences. Of course the post-test argument there was that it tastes better from the tap, but that's a familiar sound to my ears!
The final order of preference, simply calculated on the number of each preference rating, is as follows. with 1 being the highest preference and 5 being the lowest.
- Schwelmer Pils (2.2)
- Becks (2.6)
- Bitburger Premium Pils (3.0)
- Krombacher Pils (3.2)
- Jever Pils (3.8)
Special thanks to Albert, Andreas, Antje, Christian, Ingo, Marco, Marko, Markus and Richard (an Englishman who probably misses a good bitter) for volunteering!