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Heinekens Again

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Heinekens Again

e.d. | Aug 7, 2001 12:58 PM

Several times in the past few months, Heineken beer has come under discussion on the boards here, and each time it has been often criticized for having off, skunky tastes supposedly because of its green bottle. Now I realize that by participating on these boards I’m like a little squirrel running with a herd of buffalo. So many people who post here are chefs, restraunteurs, and food critics that I am often in awe of their expertise. But still when I read something that runs counter to my experience it makes me wonder if maybe I need a tongue transplant—and the postings here about Heinekens have not seemed right to me. This is not to say that I think Heinekens is a great beer—it isn’t—but often in little restaurants where the choice may be Beck’s, Heinekens, MGD light, and Bud, for example, I’ve always thought Heinekens was the superior choice. And I’ve found Heinekens to be a remarkably consistent beer, always the same slightly sour bitterness on my palate.

So I’ve been thinking, and with me that’s always dangerous. First I thought about light pollution and that damn green bottle. But as I look at a case of Heinekens I can’t see any way for light to get to the green bottle. Do some folks out there think that Bud distributors insert some laser probes into the sealed cases to ruin the flavor of Heinekens? Seems pretty unlikely to me. OK, so maybe the bottles in the case are OK, but then they change. Well, I guess the bottles get some light when I open my refrigerator, but I’ve been informed that refrigerator lights go off when I close the refrigerator door, so that can’t be the problem. OK, maybe the Heinekens in cases are OK, but the ones in six-packs are bad. Well maybe, but my experience has been that Heinekens bottles have a consistent taste, whether I buy them in a restaurant or in a case to take home. So maybe, on sunny days in Amsterdam, the folks at Heinekens pile all their bottles of beer outside the factory just to skunk them. Not likely? OK, maybe they ship them over to the U.S. uncovered on the decks of ships. Well if we agree that this is unlikely, then the color of the bottle seems pretty damn irrelevant.

After all this reasoning, my brain hurt and I was no closer to an explanation. Then I was over at a friend’s house and happened to notice in his August copy of the leading consumer magazine that they had just rated beer. Guess what? Among imported lagers Heinekens came out first. Now before we conclude that this rating is based on prejudice, it should be noted that the tasting was a blind tasting (so they couldn’t see the green bottle or the label etc) done by beer experts. What’s more, while the tasting panel did fault many imported and domestic beers for staleness, skunkiness etc (including some Miller High Life even with its special hops), they found no similar problems with bottles of Heinekens.

So now I wonder why the Chowhound boards have been so consistently wrong. Perhaps one of the problems with Chowhounds, like other kinds of dogs, is that we run in packs. Maybe after someone we respect very much writes that a restaurant or food product is good or bad, we tend to think that way too or even discount our own personal experience when measured up against an expert. What do the rest of you think?

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