Today, we dive into the uncharted waters of blind panel testing, shunning the conventional review approach. While my regular evaluations include factors like price, distribution, and label design, this blind panel test aims to eliminate biases induced by beer styles, brewers, ABV, and recipe details. Stripping away these preconceived notions, we embarked on an objective journey to assess 20 beers with a diverse lineup from Allagash Brewing to Stone Brewing.


The blind panel consisted of 8 participants, grouped into teams of 2 across 4 panels. Despite a slight bias of knowing they contributed a beer, participants faced the challenge of identifying their entry among the selection. The tasting event unfolded with obscured bottles and cans, assigned random numbers, and split into 4 groups. Each panel rotated through the beer groups, offering a fresh perspective on every brew.


As the blind samples unfolded, the first contender, shrouded in mystery, stumbled to impress. The lowest scorer of the lot, it was likened to an aged Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, though labeled as the Rogue Cold Brew IPA. The discrepancy between expectations and reality unveiled a lackluster execution of the coffee-infused hoppy IPA.


Moving to the next blind sample, perceptions oscillated between pilsner and blonde ale. Sierra Nevada’s Beer For Drinking (BFD) emerged from the shadows, presenting a straightforward, hoppy blonde ale. Despite mixed reviews, with points ranging from 3.5 to 5.5, the BFD showcased a clean profile and refreshing character, overshadowed by its intentional subtlety.


Deconstructing the blind panel methodology, it’s evident that while not perfect, this approach introduced an element of unpredictability. The lack of knowledge about beer style forced participants to rely on their palate rather than preconceived notions, resulting in intriguing evaluations.


The blind panel test fostered a unique perspective on each beer, emphasizing overall enjoyment rather than critical dissection. With only one credentialed beer judge among the participants, this informal event celebrated the diversity of preferences. Notably, the Sierra Nevada BFD, despite finishing lower in the tasting, stood out for its simplicity, catering to a broader audience.

In conclusion, blind panel testing provides a refreshing take on beer reviews, encouraging a more genuine assessment. The unveiled beers shed their labels, revealing surprises, and challenging participants to rely on their taste buds rather than preconceived expectations. This approach, while not flawless, adds a layer of authenticity to the evaluation process. Cheers to embracing the unknown in the world of craft beer!