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About The Beer Trials

America is in the midst of a beer renaissance. Craft breweries are popping up across the country, more imported beers arriving on the US market than ever before, and great local beer is now available around every corner, from back-road pubs to neighborhood grocery stores to tasting menus at cutting-edge restaurants.

The modern landscape of beer has been reshaped, and The Beer Trials is its new roadmap.

At the heart of this new book and website is a ratings guide to 250 of the most important and widely available beers in the world, from craft brews to macro-lagers. Each bottle in The Beer Trials gets a full-page review and rating based on a rigorous set of blind tastings by beer experts led by Seamus Campbell, one of the world’s 96 Certified Cicerones (beer sommeliers). The 320-page Beer Trials book is built around an ambitious but accessible reference guide, a whole body of text that’s not available on the website, which takes readers on a down-to-earth tour of the world’s major beer styles, flavors, and regions.

The Beer Trials is the brainchild of consumer advocate and Freakonomics contributor Robin Goldstein, whose previous book, The Wine Trials, surprised consumers by showing a lack of connection between price and quality and became the world’s bestselling guide to inexpensive wine.

“In a world in which superpremium wines or liquors can set back consumers hundreds or even thousands of dollars per bottle,” says Goldstein, “beer offers unmatched value. Many of the world’s most sought-after beers set you back less than an average bottle of supermarket table wine.”

Only eight of the 250 beers reviewed in The Beer Trials cost more than $5 per 12-ounce bottle equivalent, and 11 of the 21 beers receiving the book’s highest rating cost less than $2.50.

Goldstein’s longstanding interest in the relationship between value and taste led him to the beer mecca of Portland, Oregon, where he recruited co-author Campbell to bring together a panel of his fellow beer experts and blind-taste a broad swath of the world’s most popular beers. The results of those blind tastings are revealed in The Beer Trials, and some of them might surprise you.

While some of Belgium’s vaunted Trappist ales, for instance, scored sky-high marks, others turned out to be disappointing, and one Canadian beer beat most of the Belgians at their own game. America’s most popular imported beer, meanwhile, went belly-up in blind tastings.

The authors’ blind tastings yielded some low-brow surprises: a certain high-alcohol malt liquor that seemed quite at home in its brown paper bag—you might well have drunk it from a 40 in your college days—did surprisingly well in the blind tastings, scoring a 6 out of 10, while the so-called “Male Ale” won an impressive rating of 7. As for the beer you might know more affectionately as fermented form, while Mexophiles can see how Anheuser-Busch’s foray into beers featuring “natural lime flavor” stacks up to the pride and joy of Sinaloa.

And if you think you know your favorite brand pretty well, you might want to think again: the book reveals the results of a blind tasting experiment, run by the The Beer Trials co-authors, in which beer drinkers performed no better than chance at distinguishing between major pale lager brands—a result that offers some insight into why those mass-market beers spend so much on advertising.

The Beer Trials is now available at local and national bookstores, food and wine stores, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, IndieBound, Powell’s Books, and everywhere else books are sold.

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