Distilled: Port Republic, cheap beer’s nadir

By
From the August 15, 2013 edition

While perusing my local big box grocer recently I came across something unexpected. I was attempting, with poor results, to find good beer. That’s usually what happens when you’re in the market for both general sundries and beer. Anyway, I did find a beer that caught my attention — Port Republic.

Most are probably unfamiliar with Port Republic. I certainly was, and the only reason for intrigue was this generic beer’s price — $.99 for a 24-ounce tallboy! That’s cheap. Yes, tallboys of mass-produced American beers are usually cheap, but a dollar?

After a week or so of serious contemplation (yes, I actually think about these things), I had to find out how bad is Port Republic beer. I returned to the grocery with a plan: I’d get one tallboy of Port Republic, one of Budweiser and one of PBR for a blind taste test.

Unfortunately all of the Port Republic lagers were sold out. Was it so good there was a huge run and the store couldn’t keep i in stock? Or just that this grocery store was closest to campus? Slightly disappointed, I modified my strategy and chose Port Republic Light, Bud Light and Natty Light, all for a whopping $4.27 plus tax.

After my lovely assistant poured three pints so I wouldn’t know which was what, my taste test began. After sipping the three, it was quickly apparent which one was Port Republic. First and foremost, it was terrible. Secondly, Port Republic has a more pungent, not particularly pleasing, aroma. Bud Light and Natty smell fairly blandmatch the taste.

My Bud Light andNatty guesses were incorrect; I had them reversed. This shouldn’t be surprising, unless you routinely drink one or the other. (Upon closer inspection, Bud Light has the smallest hint of sweetness, which isabsent from Natty.)

But back to the Port Republic, a cheap beer with all the trappings of a cheap beer. It’s poor—not bland like the other two, but ratherfoul. I’m still curious about the full-strength Port Republic lager, but not enough to spend $.99. Then again …

Photo by Meghan Ralston