Beer Bulletin

Cheap, Cheap, Cheap

Premium lager at Walgreen’s?

By John Chandler January 28, 2011

Yes, I’m drinking at work again.

I was browsing at the Walgreen’s on 21st and W Burnside looking for sweat socks (Mother’s Day is coming!) when I bumped into a display for Big Flats, a lager that retails for a ridiculous $2.99 a six pack. Hell, that’s 1982 pricing! I am nothing if not diligent, so I went outside and panhandled for a bit and soon had enough coin to make a purchase.

Big Flats is a contract beer sold exclusively at Walgreen’s, and it’s churned out by the Genesee Brewing Company of Rochester, New York, which apparently has been doing business in one form or another since 1878. It’s brewed under the corporate aegis of Winery Exchange, "the leading corporate brand beer supplier for premium quality beers from the USA, Latin America, and Holland." They also provide custom libations for Costco and Trader Joe’s.

Beer Advocate lists Big Flats as an American Adjunct Lager, which means it’s mass-marketed, light on malts, extra carbonated, and contains adjunct grains, such as rice and corn, which are used as filler in the brewing process to cut costs. In other words, it’s Yankee cheap swill. It weighs in at 4.5 percent alcohol.

But at $2.99 for a sixer, how good does it really have to be? I chilled my Big Flats for a few hours and took it for a spin. It’s a light gold in the glass and it foams up and settles down in about two minutes. It’s lacking anything resembling a malty backbone, but has a not-unpleasant corny sweetness. I could drink about 14 of these things on a hot day (if I was between paychecks), hence the term "lawn mower beer." I’ll go along with Beer Advocate’s analysis, which awarded Big Flats a grade of "C." I’ve had worse beers—not exactly a ringing endorsement.

I do think, however, that hitching the word "Flats" to your beer is a colossal mistake. The Winery Exchange website claims the name "pays homage to the flat boats that traveled the area’s rivers delivering goods to early settlers." That’s fine, I love history as much as the next gink, but it still creates an unfavorable association in the mind of the consumer. How about $2.99 Lager instead?

My recommendation is to pick up a half case if you’re going to a barbecue at someone’s house that you don’t know very well and aren’t particularly interested in cultivating as a friend. What do you think drinking buddies? Can you think of an occasion when a fine $3 lager would come in handy?

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