From my "Random Slice of Life" file . . . experiences, advice, happenings, and glorious results of a misspent youth.
A Warning to My Fellow Beer Drinkers
I'm generally not a picky man when it comes to beer. I've never really developed a "loyalty" to any one particular brand or label, which can probably be traced back to my years as a beer-can collector during the '80s and '90s. Lord knows, I drank some absolute swill in those days for the sake of putting new and interesting cans up on my shelf! I retired from can-collecting in the late '90s, but to this day, I still enjoy checking out new and interesting brews. I am far from a "beer snob"—I can enjoy a cheap, mass-produced big-name "corporate" beer just as much as an expensive, limited-edition micro-brewed IPA, especially on a hot day.
When people ask me what my favorite beer is, my standard line is, "When I can afford it, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. When I can't, Pabst Blue Ribbon." Over the years, there have been very few beers that I simply couldn't stomach, but I recently made a new addition to that list: "BOXER Lager," from Wisconsin's Minhas Craft Brewing Company.
BOXER: A Skunky Mistake
Though BOXER has apparently been available throughout the Midwest for several years now, I had never heard of it or seen it here in New Jersey till about three weeks ago, when I stopped at my favorite beer store and found it on a shelf in the cooler under a colorful shelf tag screaming that it was "ON SALE!" because it was "NEW!"
Not Worth the (Cheap) Price
The price was a reasonably cheap $3.99 for a six-pack, which seemed like a good deal for a supposed "craft beer" to me, so I picked up two sixes. After taking the twelve beers home and properly icing them up, I popped the top on my first can, and once I got a whiff of the stuff and inhaled the skunky aroma, I immediately knew that I'd made a mistake.
How to Describe BOXER
I've had some difficulty trying to accurately describe BOXER's taste, so let me tell you a quick story. Back in my college days, my drunken friends and I drank a lot of Stroh's—which was terrible, but we loved it anyway because it was cheap, of course. It also was the first beer we'd ever seen that came in a 30-pack rather than the traditional case of 24.
Anyway, after one particularly intense Stroh's marathon, I was gazing at the half-full can in my hand and observed that "Stroh's" spelled backward was "Shorts." I said this seemed appropriate because the beer tasted like it had been filtered through someone's shorts. (Twenty-plus years later, my friends still claim that I "ruined" that beer for them forever by making that comparison.) I was reminded of that night when I took my first few sips of BOXER—because, you guessed it, this stuff tasted like it had been filtered through someone's old pair of boxers.
"Yuck" does not even begin to describe the taste of this fizzy, yellow, watery swill. This was supposed to be "craft beer?" The fellas at the Minhas Brewing Company must be using a very loose interpretation of the term "craft."
BOXER Tastes Worse With Each Sip
When I drank my first can of BOXER, I honestly couldn't tell if I liked it or not. It had a weird, overly sweet flavor going in and a bizarre metallic aftertaste when swallowed. My first impression was, "Ehhh, it's kinda lame, but it's not the worst thing I've ever drunk." But as I moved on to the second and then the third cans, the true horror of BOXER Lager began to take hold of me.
The beer's syrupy sweetness became more pronounced with each sip, and the aftertaste became even more sickening, so it became progressively harder to drink with each subsequent can I opened. By the end of the third can, which I literally forced myself to finish, I was thinking, "Dear Lord, this stuff is awful...and I have nine more of these @#$%'ing things!"
Some of you are probably asking yourselves, "Why didn't this guy just pour the other nine down the sink and go buy some good beer?" which is a perfectly reasonable question. The answer is that I simply cannot bring myself to waste any beer, no matter how bad it is. In other words, if I paid for it, dammit, I'm gonna drink it!
Letting the Beer "Breathe" Helped—a Little
The remaining nine BOXERs sat in the back of my fridge untouched for several weekends before I felt brave enough to give it another try. It was a warm Saturday afternoon, and I'd spent much of the morning moving furniture around, so I definitely needed a beer—any beer. Grimacing, I decided to try something different.
Rather than drink directly out of the can, I cracked open a BOXER and poured it out into a pint glass. I found that by letting it "breathe" for a minute or two, BOXER became slightly more palatable (You'll note I said "slightly'). Don't get me wrong, it was still pretty awful, but at least it was slightly less awful. Using this "pour and breathe" method, I was able to finish off the remainder of the twelve-pack over the next couple of days. When I tossed the last empty can into my recycling bin, I said "good riddance" and vowed that this demon brew would never darken my door again!
Rating on Beer Advocate
After doing some online research on BOXER, it would appear that I'm not the only one who can't stand this stuff. On Beer Advocate, the "go-to" authority website for beer nerds, BOXER currently has a rating of 59 out of 100 (which translates to "awful"), and the majority of its user reviews are absolutely vicious.
"Hard to drink" is a common complaint, while other users attacked its "sour, wet vegetable smell" and compared its taste to "rotten bananas." Wow! At least I know I'm not alone in this! I have resolved that from now on, I will be bringing my smartphone with me into the beer store, so I can check the ratings of any new and unfamiliar brews on Beer Advocate before doing any more blind buying. I do not wish to make this mistake ever again!
BOXER's main selling point seems to be its rock-bottom price. Lots of breweries offer their wares in a 30-pack nowadays, but BOXER goes all of them one better by offering a 36-pack (!!) which can be had for less than fifteen bucks at most retailers. I can't fault them for giving beer drinkers more bang for their buck, but I can only imagine how hard it would be to try to plow through 36 cans of this slop. BOXER's target market must be binge-drinking frat boys who will drink anything, because their taste buds have been completely deadened. Unfortunately for BOXER, it's been a long time since I was a binge-drinking frat boy!
I think I've made my feelings on this beer perfectly clear by now, but just in case you come across BOXER Lager (or its counterparts, BOXER Ice and BOXER Light) at your local beer store, do yourself a favor and treat it like you would treat an explosive device: clear the area immediately! Give me some Olde English 800, Steel Reserve, Crazy Stallion, Milwaukee's Best Ice, or any other cheap crap beer you can name, and we'll party till dawn, but this stuff is of the Devil. This has been a public service announcement from the Cheap Beer Baron. You've been warned!!
© 2014 Keith Abt