For Euro pale lagers difference is in label, not taste: study

Tue Aug 12, 2014 6:07am EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - European pale lager comes in a variety of brands but research shows that whatever the make of the beer, consumers find it difficult to taste the difference between them.

“Consumers are largely unable to distinguish between different brands of European lagers in blind tastings,” researchers reported in the Journal of the American Association of Wine Economists.

In a series of blind tastings, economists Johan Almenberg and his wife Anna Dreber, of the Stockholm School of Economics, and Robin Goldstein, author of "The Beer Trials" and the upcoming book "Blind Taste," pitted Czechvar, which is sold in Europe under the brand name Budvar, Heineken and Stella Artois against each other to see if volunteers could tell them apart.

They presented three blind samples of the beer to 138 volunteers aged 21 to 70. Two of the samples were the same product and one was different. After tasting all of them, each volunteer was asked to select the one that was different from the other two.

The researchers found that the beer drinkers were unable to distinguish between the European lager beers and suggested that consumer loyalty was linked to marketing not flavor.

“I think basically what we’re looking at is a commodity industry – the products are interchangeable,” said Goldstein said in an interview.

“It also means that the beer industry has perfected pale lager beer, which is my favorite style of beer,” he added.

Global brewers such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Budweiser and Stella Artois, and Heineken have taken the world’s most widely consumed style of beer, a brew that has been around since the 1500s and perfected it, according to Goldstein.   Continued...

Men drink beer at a restaurant in Hanoi in this July 20, 2009 file photo.   REUTERS/Kham/Files