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Fancy a coldie? Our expert tasters rate 46 premium beers.
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  • Updated:30 Jul 2007

03.Girls night out

Do women like different beers from men? It seems not. Our two female experts told us they considered and tasted the beers in the same way as the men, and their scores didn’t stand out as different. As well, our lay panel was 50% female and statistically their overall scores were no different from the men’s.

The biggest loser?

Is beer fattening? Of course it is if you sink too many, but it’s less fattening than plenty of other drinks. On average, a 375 mL glass or bottle of lager gives you 580 kJ — a lot less than you’d get from a Mojito (about 950 kJ) or a Vodka Cruiser (about 850 kJ per 275 mL bottle).

Low-carb beers, such as Pure Blonde and Michelob Ultra, can be marginally less fattening, but regular beer is only about 2% carbs anyway. Most of the flab-forming kilojoules come from the alcohol. If you’re worried about a beer gut, you’re better off going for low-alcohol beer — or cutting out alcohol altogether!

What about the average punter?

It may (or may not) surprise you that the experts rated the two mainstream beers included in the test (Victoria Bitter and Tooheys New) higher than many of the more expensive imported beers. Full marks to the brewers of these standard drops for producing quality beers at an affordable price.

Many regular beer drinkers would probably agree, but the experts are trained to ignore personal preferences and judge the beers on quality alone.

So, how do the rest of the experts' scores relate to the preferences of ordinary beer drinkers?

To find out, we recruited 10 non-experts (five men and five women) who just enjoy a good beer. We gave them 18 of the beers to taste (10 lagers, four pilsners and four ales) — beers the experts thought were particularly good or bad, and a few in between.

Their verdict?

  • Our lay beer buffs generally favoured the same beers as the experts, with one notable exception — most of the non-experts liked Little Creatures Pilsner, while the experts gave it the equal lowest score in the test.

Drinking in style

All beer starts off with four basic ingredients:

  • Water
  • Malted grain (usually barley)
  • Hops (for bitterness, flavour and aroma)
  • Yeast (to ferment the malt)

From these four ingredients (once only three — hops were first included just a few hundred years ago), and since the time of the pharaohs, brewers all over the world have created a vast number of different styles of beer. But there are still just two basic types: lagers and ales.

  • Lagers are fermented with a yeast that works at cold temperatures, relatively slowly and at the bottom of the vat (‘bottom-fermented’). This type of deep fermentation allows the flavours of the malt and hops to come out.
  • Pilsners are lagers with more intense hop flavours.
  • Ales have more intense, complex and fruity flavours that come largely from top-fermenting yeast that works quickly at near room temperature. They’re matured for a shorter period than lagers.
  • Stouts are darker ales made from malt that’s been roasted at higher temperatures than for lagers and ales. This gives stouts a deep, rich colour and fuller flavour.

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