Trader Joe’s is a store full of secrets, delicious food you can’t get anywhere else, and a ton of cheap wine we got sommeliers to rate for us. And since TJ’s is a haven for cheap booze, we decided to give its beer the same treatment. We bought every single one of its beers — with the exception of its gluten-free beer, for obvious reasons — and got Ethan Osborne, the head brewer of the fantastic Denver brewery Great Divide, to taste them blind and rank them. There were 29 of ’em, but only a few are totally worthy of replacing Two Buck Chuck as your go-to booze to buy from dudes who wear Hawaiian shirts.
Taste-test ground rules
All beers were given to Ethan in a tasting glass without him seeing the label, and he was asked to rate them on two criteria: taste and whether or not he’d order another one. Is this 100% scientific? No. Is this 100% a great way to learn if you should buy one of TJ’s beers over another? Of course. Bonus: all of these 29 beers cost $40.37 before tax — you can stock up.
29. Jumping Cow Amber
Amber ale, 5.5% Price: $1.17 “Good malty aromas in here, but it’s just bitter with no malt to actually back the bitterness up. It lingers in your mouth. Very little flavor.”
28. Boatswain IPA
American IPA, 6.7% Price: $2.49 “A really astringent bitterness followed up with zero malt and too much carbonation.”
27. Peter’s Brand Classics
Dutch-style pilsner, 5% Price: $1.34 “Smells like a mass-produced American light lager. Very, very light. Very little flavor. Bland. There’s really not anything going on.”
26. KBC Blueberry Ale
Wheat ale,4.6% Price: $1.17 “That one is super fruity. I’m getting Sweet Tarts, Froot Loops, fruity candy out the ass. Pixie Sticks! You know those chewy, sour gummies you’d eat as kids? They were like pieces of spaghetti that were sour. That is exactly the smell I’m getting here. I was expecting a sour, almost. I guess this is an IPA? I’m not crazy about it. There’s not enough malt to balance the beer out.”
25. Josephsbrau Vienna Style Lager
Vienna lager, 5.7% Price: $1.17 “Nice red-orange hue to it. Fairly light, malty aroma. I don’t pick up many hops on the nose. Certainly an ale — a bad attempt at a pale ale.”
24. Name Tag Classic Lager
American pale lager,5% Price: $0.67 “A little bit of cardboard taste. Kinda stale. Bit of an unpleasant finish — kinda lingering.”
23. Oranjeboom Premium Lager
Euro pale lager, 5% Price: $1.34 “Kind of a nutty aroma. Bland. This is a pilsner, I’m guessing. Very, very light pilsner. Very little hop character aroma.”
22. Boatswain Chocolate Stout
American stout, 5.4% Price: $2.49 “Definitely a lot of dark malts. From looking at the beer. It looks like it’s thin and over-attenuated — not enough residual sweetness left over in there. Bad head retention.”
21. Josephsbrau Dunkelweizen
Dunkelweizen, 5.2% Price: $1.17 “Based on the smell, I’m guessing this is a dubbel. Definitely Belgian-style. I get a fair amount of dark fruit in there, with some light spice. Not one of my favorite styles.”
20. Josephsbrau Bohemian Style Lager
Czech pilsener,5% Price: $1.17 “Another light beer — a fair amount of flavor for being light though. Got a bit of hops, a little bit of malt in the backbone. The body’s almost there, but it’s just a little short of where I want it to be.”
19. Trader Jose Premium Lager
American adjunct lager, 3.8% Price: $1.09 “Picking up a little cardboard. It’s a little oxidized. Tastes like a Mexican lager. Still has that refreshing, crisp, clean flavor, but it tastes like it’s been on the shelf a little long.”
18. Stockyard Oatmeal Stout
Oatmeal stout,5.2% Price: $1.17 “Very dark in color. I’m going to have to assume it’s a stout. Definitely get a combination of roasted chocolate malts and black malts. Low head retention. It’s got a bit of that dark malt astringency that typically comes with a stout. I still would call this too thin. You get malts, but it’s attenuated too low. There’s not enough malty backbone to really back up the flavors in the beer. That’s why you get that nice aroma, or that nice initial flavor, and then it kind of evaporates in your mouth.”
17. Boatswain Heavy Lift Vessel
American strong ale,7% Price: $2.49 “The aroma is kind of plain. It tastes like an attempt at a maltier beer that they still didn’t get enough malt into. I get a little bit of biscuit in there. A little bit of Munich malt. Too bland for my liking.”
16. KBC Porter
English porter,5.6% Price: $1.17 “Good roasty chocolate notes on that. A little hop character, but fairly well balanced. I’d say that this is a nice beer they’ve made. Not nice — I won’t give them that much credit. It’s a beer they made.”
15. Fat Weasel Ale
American strong ale, 7.1% Price: $1.09 “I get a bit more hoppiness in here. Better balance between bitter and malt. This is probably a pale ale or an IPA.”
14. Mission St. Hefeweizen
Hefeweizen, 5.2% Price: $2.49 “It has some Belgian esters, but it’s [overall] bland.”
13. Simpler Times Pilsner
German pilsner, 5.5% Price: $0.67 “It’s very clean, bright, refreshing. It is lacking a bit in flavor. [Pause] I’d definitely order another one.”
12. Boatswain Twin Screw Steamer
American double, 8.4% Price: $2.49 “Pale ale or an IPA, I’m guessing. Not enough malts to back up the amount of hops that are in here. Smells nice — pine, maybe some peach. But as far as taste, it’s a little more on the bland side than I would prefer.”
11. Trader Jose Dark Premium Lager
American amber, 5.3% Price: $1.09 “There’s some pretty strong Munich malt flavor coming out of this, so I’ve gotta say it’s a German-style beer. Some type of imperial lager. Finishes fairly clean. Not much hop aroma or flavor. Malt-driven, but not much malt driving it.”
10. Mission St. Brown Ale
American brown ale,5.7% Price: $2.49 “There’s a decent amount of malt there. I get a fair amount of chocolate in the back of it. This is fairly nice. It’s a mediocre beer with some chocolatey aroma and flavor.”
9. Black Toad Dark Ale
English brown ale, 5.3% Price: $1.17 “Nice roasty nose to it. Bit of chocolate malts in there. Clean — low hop profile. Smooth. This could be a Scotch ale.”
8. Simpler Times Lager
American adjunct lager, 6.2% Price: $0.67 “Definitely getting that lager taste. Very crisp, clean. [I think] that’s a malt I’m picking up.”
7. Josephsbrau PLZNR Czech-Style Lager
Czech pilsner, 5.4% Price: $1.17 “I definitely get some hop character in the background. It finishes clean. A bit bland, but it does finish nicely with some hops. The hops that come through that I get are fairly fruity, maybe a bit piney. A touch of grass in there.”
6. Trader Jose Light Premium Beer
Light lager, 4% Price: $1.09 “Got a pretty citrusy aroma. Definitely picking up hoppy flavors. A bit bitter. Decent amount of flavor for a beer [like this].”
5. Josephsbrau Heller Bock
Maibock, 7% Price: $1.17 “It’s refreshing. Lemon and lime notes. Definitely lemon-lime fruit is what I get with this.”
4. Josephsbrau Summer Brew
Kolsch, 4.8% Price: $1.17 “I get some nice lemon peel. Definitely an ale. Refreshing, light.”
3. Mission St. India Pale Ale
American IPA, 6.1% Price: $1.17 “IPA for sure. One of the best beers we’ve had. Very flavorful. Has a little malt to it. Fairly balanced.”
2. Josephsbrau Bavarian Style Hefeweizen
Hefeweizen, 5.3% Price: $1.17 “Definitely a Belgian beer. Getting some nice ester profile. Picking up hay, some spices — coriander, chamomile. For a Belgian, it’s clean. I pick up clove. I think it’s a hefeweizen. A good beer — it’s tasty.”
1. Mission St. Pale Ale
American pale ale, 4.6% Price: $1.17 “This is a nice pale ale right here. Smells great. It’s a pale ale or maybe a light hoppy ale. I get Centennials, maybe Citra hops used in there. Well-balanced. This is a nice beer. Tastes good — finishes crisp and dry. Big fan. I could drink quite a few of these.”Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.
Lee Bresloueris a contributor for Thrillist and could also drink a few of those Mission St. beers. Follow him to more obvious statements at: @LeeBreslouer.
The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.
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Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.
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