SAN DIEGO - Everybody knows the big-name beers, but there are more than 2,400 breweries in the U.S. alone. Most are craft brewers, which means they're small and independent. Consumer Reports just sized up a couple dozen craft beers.
The experts at Consumer Reports conducted blind taste tests of 23 ales and lagers and found there were some distinct differences. The lowest-rated ale, Magic Hat, tasted like a peach-tea drink. But Consumer Reports rated 13 craft beers very good or even excellent, including several India Pale Ales, which tend to be more floral and fruity than a lot of other beers. They also have an intense, lingering bitterness.
Stone IPA, made by California-based Stone Brewing Co., is top-rated, with complex flavors, but its bitterness might be too much for some people. So could its price, at almost $11 for a six-pack. For much less, $7.36 for a six-pack, Shock Top Wheat IPA is a Consumer Reports "Best Buy." It's a little less bitter with a slight sweetness.
Some are upset with the Shock Top pick because the beer is made by Anheuser Busch -- the world's largest brewing company.
Prefer a lager? Samuel Adams Boston came out on top with a range of malt and hops flavors. A six-pack goes for $8.60. All three are good choices when your thirst is brewing this summer.
Thinking of brewing your own beer? More and more people are. Consumer Reports looked at one of the most popular home-brewing kits from Mister Beer. The kit includes a plastic keg and all the fixings. You just add water and brew your own beer in about three to four weeks. Tasters found that the process wasn't bad, but the beer wasn't that good. Maybe stick to the ready-mades!
Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website. Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.