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Is Walgreens’ new beer Big Flats any different from Old Style or PBR?

In a blind taste test, Chicago beer experts try to pick Big Flats out of a cheap-beer lineup.

The latest so-cheap-why-not-drink-it beer is hitting shelves at an unlikely source: Walgreens. The ubiquitous Deerfield-based drugstore chain has entered the booze market with Big Flats 1901, priced at $2.99 for a sixer. The private-brand lager—made by the Winery Exchange, which also does private-label alcohol for Trader Joe’s—has already been mined for laughs by Stephen Colbert. “Big as in the quantity you can buy with the change between your couch cushions,” he said on The Colbert Report. “And Flat for both the taste and the position it’ll put your body in.” But how does Big Flats stack up against très chic value brews Pabst Blue Ribbon and Old Style? A panel of Chicago beer cognoscenti submitted to a blind taste test of the three beers. The conclusion: Big Flats stands tall alongside the hipster faves.

Keith Stocker
Qualifications
Chicago Beer Society member, home brewer
Mistook Big Flats for
Old Style
Big Flats tasting notes
“You can get some adjunct malts of corn and a hint of barley. No real discernible hop. The taste kind of disappears right away. Decent carbonation. For people who drink beers in the Old Style and PBR realm, you’re really not going to be able to tell
the difference.”

Heather Shouse
Qualifications
Time Out Chicago senior eat & drink correspondent, longtime author of TOC’s Beer Geek column
Mistook Big Flats for
Old Style
Big Flats tasting notes
“Unlike Old Style and PBR, it’s the only one that had any discernible hop to it. Definitely better than PBR, which smells like the Mutiny.”

Joe Kelly
Qualifications
Guitarist and vocalist for “Chicago’s most notorious party band” Beer Nuts, wrote the song “Blow Me for Beer”
Mistook Big Flats for
PBR
Big Flats tasting notes
“Not bad! It doesn’t have that piss aftertaste you get with some cheapo beers.”

Herb Rosen
Qualifications
Beer Nuts bassist, Liar’s Club owner
Mistook Big Flats for
Old Style
Big Flats tasting notes
“For its price range, it tastes way better than a dog’s ass! I have to drink a 12-pack first, though, to see what kind of a hangover it gives me.”

Beer Nuts plays Double Door’s St Patrick’s Day show with the Shitkickers and the Crombies March 17 at 8pm. $10–$20.  

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