- Coors (US) "The legend since 1873"
- Kirin Ichiban (Japan) "One of the world's most unique beers"
- Kona Longboard (US) "Island lager"
- Miller Genuine Draft (US) "Fresh draft taste/frescura y sabor"
- Pacifico (Mexico) "Imported beer/brewed in Mexico"
- Sapporo (Japan) "Irresistible to all ... masterpiece of the brewer's art"
- Singha (Thailand) "The original Thai beer"
- Spaten (German) "Premium lager"
Anyway, to the beers. The easy winner was Longboard Lager, but I wouldn't call it a ringer. It is very much brewed to be a mass market lager. It's the kind of beer I could hand to my father and he'd agree that it was beer. Perhaps rich and "European" tasting, but beer. It's got just 20 IBUs and 4.6% alcohol, and could never be mistaken for a pilsner. Yet it is very full in flavor, with a kiss of toast on a grainy malt bed and a bright, slightly lemony dusting of hops. (Full Sail Session Lager, by contrast, really isn't brewed to compete with these beers. My dad would politely have one and then head back for a can of Busch.)
The Japanese acquit themselves nicely. Kirin, which I have drunk very rarely, was hugely floral--Sally said Gardenia--and had a sweet honey malt base. It was lush and tropical. Sapporo started out tropical, with a touch of lychee, but then warmed into that classic very dry, toasty profile I associate with the Japanese.
Miller Genuine Draft is spritzy but a bit thin. When cold, it has a subtle white wine note (Riesling?) that fades into a more pronounced corny flavor as the beer warms. If you want to really get a sense of American beer and the effect of corn, Miller's your beer. Coors has more body and is crisper, but is fairly neutral on the palate.
Pacifico is surprisingly full-bodied in comparison with these others, especially the American beers. You think of hot-climate beer and you think crisp and light. The malts are toasty and I couldn't find any cereal malts with my tongue and nose; anyone know what the grist is? Singha beer (don't ask no questions, Singha beer, don't tell no lies) has a flavor that I pick up in many Asian beers all the way to India, and I would love to know what it is. It's a bit rough, a bit grassy. Singha is distinctive, but not in uniformly positive ways. Nevertheless, I am powerless to resist its charms.
Spaten was skunked. (Though I've had the beer fairly often, and it's a good one. Spaten Lager is not exactly a helles--it's fizzier and has less prominent malt character--but does have the density and richness you'd expect from an all-barley beer.)
The survey was by no means complete. Mexico and Canada were under-represented; Japan probably over-. But this wasn't a bad start. Perhaps I'll make another round, but perhaps not. At a certain point, you come to the place of diminishing returns.