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Lagers all taste the same, says blind-tasting study

Using European pale lagers, researchers gave volunteers blind samples of Budvar, Heineken and Stella Artois but found they could not tell the difference.

“They cannot distinguish between three major competing beer brands,” the report says. “Our results suggest that brand loyalty in this market is likely to be driven largely by marketing and packaging, and not by the underlying sensory properties of the competing products.”

In the study 138 volunteers, aged 21 to 70, were given three blind samples of the beer, 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 research was carried out by Johan Almenberg, Anna Dreber, of the Stockholm School of Economics, and author Robin Goldstein.

In their report Hide The Label, Hide The Difference, 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 flavour.

“I think basically what we’re looking at is a commodity industry – the products are interchangeable,” said Goldstein, who is also author of The Beer Trials. “It also means that the beer industry has perfected pale lager beer.”

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.

“They have a good product, a good manufacturing method and it can be sold at a good price,” he explained. “So if you’re in a bar and they don’t have the lager you usually drink, have a different one. They will pretty taste much the same.”

Sean Lewis, author of the book “We Make Beer”, which will be published next month, said the finding was good news for beer lovers.

“It means they (the global brewers) are probably doing their jobs right if they all taste the same. They’re aiming for a specific flavour profile and they’ve got it down at this point.”

Download the full report here