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Charleston brewers crown the best bottom shelf beer

Seven craft brewers taste test six macro-brews

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What temperature is this?" Ghost Monkey Brewery's Josh Parker asked, looking skeptically at a urine-hued glass. I suppose I should have expected questions like this. When you invite seven professional craft brewers into your office to do a blind taste test of six random, domestic beers, you're going to get some eye rolls. Needless to say, City Paper 's staff fridge isn't set to a cicerone's preferred 35–40°F for mass market light lagers. We keep it a nip-chilling 32°F and crime-scene clean.

But besides all that, our panel treated CP 's first Domestic Beer Blind Taste Test with the same reverence they usually reserve for clean glassware. Thank you, fellas. And after thoughtfully drinking possibly the cheapest flight of brewskis money can buy, they crowned a winner. But more on that later. Let's meet our panel:

Shane Cummings, Head Brewer at COAST Brewing Co.
Cummings worked at Pyramid Breweries in Portland, Or. before moving to Charleston. He worked as the lead brewer at Westbrook before joining COAST.

Michael Davis, Lead Brewer & Cask Master at COAST Brewing Co.
Davis calls Charleston a drinking city.

Collin Clark, Marketing Manager at Palmetto Brewing.
In addition to running the show at Palmetto, Clark is a certified cicerone.

Ryan Coker, Head brewer at Revelry Brewing Co.
Coker confesses he's got a special spot in his heart for bad beer.

Brian Cox, Head brewer at Oak Road Brewery.
Cox is a brewer by day, and an emergency room nurse by night.

Mark Fesche, Head brewer at Cooper River Brewing.
Fesche began his brewing career in 1992 with the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Or.

Josh Parker, Head brewer at Ghost Monkey Brewery. Parker and his partners built their own brewery in Mt. Pleasant.

JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek

Beer No. 1: Miller Light

Shane Cummings, COAST: It's very dry, like someone left a cup out over night. I'm guessing Rolling Rock.

Mike Davis, COAST: I'm getting a lot of red apple licorice.

Collin Clark, Palmetto: God, it tastes like college and bad decisions and 8 hours on a boat and not being able to get back to shore.

Ryan Coker, Revelry: Green apple flavors. This tastes like anything after a hangover.

Brian Cox, Oak Road: I get a little light spicy, earthy hop note, little corn. There are graham cracker notes, no body.

Mark Fesche, Cooper River: One word — corn.

Josh Parker, Ghost Monkey: It's yellow. Gotta be Bud Light. Gotta be.

Beer No. 2: Budweiser

Shane Cummings, COAST: This one is oxidized.

Mike Davis, COAST: This is straight green apple. I don't know what's worse, this or Anthony Weiner.

Collin Clark, Palmetto: This is far past its born on date.

Ryan Coker, Revelry: Round one was better. This is Bud light.

Brian Cox, Oak Road: There's a weird chemical aftertaste.

Mark Fesche, Cooper River: I'm gonna guess Old Milwaukee.

Josh Parker, Ghost Monkey: The aftertaste is pretty weak. Maybe it would go good on a boat when you forgot water.

JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek

Beer No. 3: PBR

Shane Cummings, COAST: It tastes like old, stale hops.

Mike Davis, COAST: The alcohol shines through.

Collin Clark, Palmetto: There's definitely a cheesy, alcohol bite. Grassy, but like grass that has sprouted up from the curb.

Ryan Coker, Revelry: It's skunky, tastes dirty. I'd guess PBR.

Brian Cox, Oak Road: It's like real moldy cheese. Very skunky.

Mark Fesche, Cooper River: Old Milwaukee on this one.

Josh Parker, Ghost Monkey: It's pre-skunked. I'd say it's recognizable as beer. It wishes it were Heineken.

Beer No. 4: Natural Light

Shane Cummings, COAST: You could drink a bunch and not throw up.

Mike Davis, COAST: It's way too dry, almost too much yeast. It does have that bite. I would call this Bud Light.

Collin Clark, Palmetto: It has an acid taste. This takes the lead for me because of the absence of flavor. If you pull this out of a cooler and its 32 degrees, you're not gonna taste anything.

Ryan Coker, Revelry: No hops, no aroma, green apple. It's kinda nothing.

Brian Cox, Oak Road: This reminds me of seltzer water. I get green apple, but it's so much lighter.

Mark Fesche, Cooper River: It has a champagne-like mouthfeel.

Josh Parker, Ghost Monkey: This is the cleanest one. It's my new number one.

JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek

Beer No. 5: Miller High Life

Shane Cummings, COAST: If I had to give this beer a tagline? Shit beer that we like to drink #blessed.

Mike Davis, COAST: I get floral spice.

Collin Clark, Palmetto: It's not the worst you can do. It's one shelf up from the bottom.

Mark Fesche, Cooper River: Coors. Easy drinking, light flavor. I would drink it at a baseball game.

Ryan Coker, Revelry: It's gold and not strong. Seems to have some hop. It tastes like beer. I would drink it with Mark at a baseball game

Brian Cox, Oak Road: I say Coors Light.

Josh Parker, Ghost Monkey: That's sweet.

Beer No. 6: Michelob Ultra

Shane Cummings, COAST: It's almost nothing. It's brosé.

Mike Davis, COAST: Oooh banana. It's like doughy gas in my mouth. I guarantee it's a Coors product.

Collin Clark, Palmetto: Really heavily carbonated.

Ryan Coker, Revelry: It's quite nondescript for me. It's a light varietal. Not sure if it's spelled Light or Lite. Not enough oomph to be a Bud Ice.

Brian Cox, Oak Road: Really fruity, definitely banana. Very spritzy. It's almost like a light banana hefeweizen.

Mark Fesche, Cooper River: This is an all day beer.

Josh Parker, Ghost Monkey: It's yellow. Nondistinct and inoffensive. If I invited people to dinner and didn't want them to stay all night, this would be the choice.

After careful deliberation and some jovial shit talking, six out of seven of our expert beer nerds came to the same conclusion: Miller High Life really is the champagne of beers. And why not? There's something special about that dirty corn aroma. It had the most flavor and drinkability. So there you have it. When Charleston's top brewers need a break from the triple-hopped IPAs and sour goses, they choose to live the high life.

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