When it comes to getting tipsy and saving cash, few beverage options are as solid as the 40. When it comes to taste, however, well, your palate probably still remembers taping a pair to your palms and making a night of it in college. But what if the 40—in all its affordable glory—doesn’t taste, you know, all that bad? What if there’s a brand or two that are surprisingly good, or at least decent?
We turned to Jim Sacco, head brewer at Vinyl Brewing in Hammonton, New Jersey, to do a blind taste test with some of the most popular brands and figure out which is the best 40. Each received a score on a scale of 1 (terrible) to 20 (delicious). These are the results:
8. Colt 45
- Appearance: Poured straw yellow with a huge white, fluffy head that disappeared fast.
- Aroma: A hint of sweet fruit
- Taste: Super grainy. Corn sugar.
- Best Quality: Looked fantastic after being poured
- Worst Quality: Everything after the moment it was poured into a glass. Not pleasant at all, but it’s cheap and you will get ripped.
- ABV: 5.61%
- Rating (1-20): 3
7. Country Club
- Appearance: Poured with a really nice, frothy head. Golden in color. Looks good.
- Aroma: Skunky. Corn.
- Taste: Like someone pissed in a bowl of cereal
- Best Quality: The appearance was really the only nice thing about this one
- Worst Quality: Has a pretty strong metallic aftertaste that I can’t shake
- ABV: 5.86%
- Rating (1-20): 4
- Appearance: Pale straw yellow. Not much head on this one.
- Aroma: Has a beautiful gasoline smell backed up by malty sweetness
- Taste: The taste follows the smell but fused with alcohol. Skunky aftertaste.
- Best Quality: Tastes palatable until you actually swallow it
- Worst Quality: The aftertaste won’t go away. Kind of hard to finish a glass.
- ABV: 6%
- Rating (1-20): 5
5. King Cobra
- Appearance: Faintly resembles urine, but otherwise looks nice.
- Aroma: Smells exactly like a skunk
- Taste: Surprisingly bland considering the smell. Was expecting much worse.
- Best Quality: It left a really nice lacing on the glass.
- Worst Quality: Can’t get over the skunkiness. Might be able to drink more if it weren’t for the smell.
- ABV: 6%
- Rating (1-20): 6
4. Olde English “800”
- Appearance: Clear and medium golden. No head at all.
- Aroma: Smells like there was a ton of sugar dropped into my glass. Super sweet.
- Taste: Cereal grains and corn. Highly carbonated.
- Best Quality: It looks pretty in the glass
- Worst Quality: Too sweet of a malt taste to really enjoy it.
- ABV: 5.9%
- Rating (1-20): 7
3. St. Ides
- Appearance: Medium golden. Almost amber. Poured with a nice, foamy head that dissipated quickly.
- Aroma: Fruity. Not too assertive. Slightly boozy.
- Taste: Adjuncts are up front. Finishes clean and dry.
- Best Quality: Mouthfeel. Fairly easy to drink. Somewhat enjoyable.
- Worst Quality: Lingering cooked corn aftertaste
- ABV: 8.2%
- Rating (1-20): 10
2. Carta Blanca
- Appearance: Golden with tons of bubbles where the head used to be
- Aroma: Nothing too out of the ordinary. It’s what I would expect from an adjunct.
- Taste: Reminds me of a slightly sweeter Miller High Life. Quite pleasant to drink.
- Best Quality: For how sweet it is, the body is pretty thin, making it easy to drink and not offensive at all.
- Worst Quality: Just a little too sweet.
- ABV: 4.5%
- Rating (1-20): 11
1. Steel Reserve 211
- Appearance: Clear and light golden
- Aroma: Smells very sweet. Faint fruit notes.
- Taste: Smooth with almost a cooked corn aftertaste. Actually not offensive.
- Best Quality: Really easy to drink. Would drink a pint if no other beer options were available.
- Worst Quality: Aftertaste lingers
- ABV: 8.1%
- Rating (1-20): 12