Blue Collar Brews 

The continuing explosion of regional microbrews and the ever-increasing variety of imports have given beer drinkers a mind-boggling number of choices. But when it comes to market share, a few big brands still rule. Made in a style that is meant to have the widest possible appeal, consistency and value are their hallmarks. And while heavy stouts, powerful porters and rich ales have their place, when you've just finished mowing the lawn on a hot summer's afternoon, nothing sounds more refreshing than a tab popping open on an ice cold can of beer.

So set aside your elitist attitude and celebrate this Labor Day with an all American beer. We tried a bunch of brews straight from the can, and while the similarities outweighed the differences, we did have our favorites. Here are the top four picks listed in the order of their finish (The descriptions in quotes are from panelist Dodds Hayden.)

1. Coors Original

The common denominator of all the beers we tried was their relatively sweet flavor (we are a nation of cola drinkers after all). Colorado's finest edged out the competition with its light malt, kiss of hops and clean finish. It had the crispest carbonation with very fine bubbles. "Dark bar, drinking around the pool table after work with the paving crew."

2. Rolling Rock Extra Pale

The best balance of the bunch with its soft sweetness matched by dry hops and a very pleasant, sour malt finish. Reminded everyone more of an imported lager, but its Pennsylvania roots are completely American. "Golf cart, back nine, mid-afternoon on Saturday."

3. Pabst Blue Ribbon

Less of everything: sweetness, hops, carbonation, but in this case, less is more. A very quaffable style that has really caught on in the Northwest. "Dad giving you a drink of your first beer--all the good, all the bad."

4. Budweiser

The King of Beers may not have been crowned as the number one pick this time around, but it still proves worthy. The sweetest flavor profile of the top picks, but with a nice, clean hop finish that makes it the quintessential American brew. "Cut-offs, flip flops, an afternoon at Lucky Peak." :

This week's panel: Jeff Crockett, Idaho Wine Merchant; Dodds Hayden, Hayden Beverage; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Kevin Settles, Bardenay.

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