Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trader Joe's Name Tag Classic Lager

Sandy and I could not do anything else other than look at each other and make a quizzical face. We were away for the weekend at a resort in Ohio this past weekend, at dinner Saturday night at the onsite restaurant, and when we requested a refill on our Sprites, our waitress brought them out...one at a time...in a Styrofoam cup...to pour right into our glasses...right in front of us. If we weren't the only ones there and would have been so obvious, we might have busted out laughing at the absurdity of it. I've never seen this before, and while a valid way to refill a drink, I suppose, it certainly made me feel a little more confident about our decision to pass up the "unbeatable price" and "tremendous value" of the time share spiel we had to sit through earlier that day.

Of course, the weekend wasn't a total loss. It's always great to have a little time away with your better half, and always funny when a buffalo almost gets its head stuck in your car window on a drive-through safari (true story). Plus, the fine citizens of Ohio have some privileges that we, the plebes of Pennsylvania, don't, like certain types of products available for purchase at Trader Joe's...uh, not that we did...the beer fairy came by again....yeah, that's it...

I shoulda told the beer fairy to not bother at all with the Name Tag Classic Lager. It's so bad that Trader Joe didn't even really put his name on it, though like the kid with muddy boots on standing on a messy carpet, it's obviously his fault. Look at the font used and the flower, and the familiar oval-shaped name tag logo....yeah, it's his. And it's bad. Listen, I went to Penn State, then lived near Pitt campus in Pittsburgh for a while, and have been flat-out broke at times, so I know what crappy beer tastes like. This, simply said, might be the absolute worst. The first ice cold sip I took tasted like literally nothing except a faint sickly sweetness at the end, which was kinda gross. Subsequent sips were tastelessly bitter and bitterly tasteless, if that's even possible. Finally, it got to the point where I could discern what this tasted like...precisely just like the metallic innards of the can. This putrid, super light, watery, nastastic spew was so utterly devoid of its own flavor it had no choice other than to absorb whatever it could from an aluminum can. To my memory, this was only the second beer I've ever tasted that, based on sheer nastiness, the remaining gulps were poured down the kitchen sink and not into my belly. This is terrible stuff, and to make it even worse, no hot chicks other than my wife appeared, no parties broke out, no one pointed out all the other "unmanly" things I'd done that day already (like stop and ask for directions at a gas station), no silver bullet train ran through the living room...nothing like that when people drink other crappy beers on TV. I just kinda sat there feeling numb and depressed over a horrible beer while making all sorts of grimacing faces. Sandy didn't have to taste it to know she wouldn't like it. Ugh. I think PBR or even something called Beer 30 Light that my younger bro mentioned to me the other night would be at least ten, if not twenty, times better than this. It's just that bad. At least it's cheap at $2.99 for a six pack, but I'm certainly more than glad we, uh, the beer fairy, procured us some other inexpensive TJ adult beverages, or otherwise the shopping trip would have been a complete disaster.

It's so bad, in fact, while deliberating a score, I seriously wondered if I should set a precedent by giving something negative Golden Spoons. But I can't do that, for two reasons. First, if this, or even this, doesn't garner a negative score, nothing can, even though I think this may be the absolute worst TJ's product I've tried yet. Secondly, some of this crap-veza might have a valuable use, and no, I don't mean giving the leftovers out to the random adults who insist on trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. I've found that bad beer often is a valuable ingredient when used in making a good crockpot full of chili, and as it's getting colder, I feel my first batch coming on soon. My brother and sister-in law, who also choked down a few gulps before ditching the can, pretty much agreed. For that, and that only, I think between the three of us we can muster a total of half a spoon from the three of us. For one of the very worst (if not THE worst) beer any of us ever tried, that has to be considered more than fair.

Bottom line: 0.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

12 comments:

  1. You had me at NASTASTIC, but then you had to top it with CRAP-VEZA - fabulous!

    But, PLEASE! Cooking with beer is like cooking with wine - if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it. Even bad chili would deserve better than this swill...8^)

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  2. Good to know! I'll pass it up when tempted. :-).

    Susan Cooper

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  3. "tastelessly bitter and bitterly tasteless" - nice!

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  4. I haven't tried this potion (I don't like beer), but may I offer a few comments on something at TJ's that I find rather appealing? This is the only blog I can find where consumers can comment on TJ goods.

    The Charles Shaw ("Two Buck Chuck") Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is a seriously good wine. So good that I have purchased four cases to lay down like a fine Bordeaux. That, in fact, is what this wine reminds me of: a nice Cru Bourgeois in the Medoc. Not quite as much complexity, no "cigar box" quality that I like, but excellent balance and elegance nevertheless.

    The defining characteristic of this wine, however, is that it gets better in the bottle for 3-6 days after opening.

    As I am single and drink only a glass of wine a day, a bottle lasts me about a week. I have a little and then cork it and immediately put the bottle back in the fridge (no special "vacuum cork" or anything.

    The wine is nice the first night, then is okay the 2nd-4th nights, but starting about night 5, the perfectly modulated tannins in this wine start mellowing, and the wine begins to taste like a nice Medoc from a good (not great) year, with fine elegance and balance. If I let it age the fridge long enough (6-8 days), sometimes this "old" C.S. 2009 begins to remind me of a favorite wine from long ago, the Chateau Nenin 1970 from Pomerol.

    This is entirely serious. I would say that if you can still find any 2009 Charles Shaw Cabernet at TJ's, by all means pick up a case and lay it down. I believe it will improve at least until 2015, and then hold there for several years.

    Best,

    Daniel Elasky,
    Fredericksburg, Virginia

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  5. So gratifying to see your low review of this beer. I luckily only bought 2 cans (love the ability to do that) for a camping trip and even ice cold, it was a chore to get through one. I disliked Simpler Times as well, the other 50 cent beer they sell. One thing I like about TJ is the ability to return items that are bad, in that you both can use the funds for something else, and they also get the message that the product is bad (if enough people return an item). I was told when I returned TJ English Muffin Toast that a lot of people had brought it back for being just a bad item.

    BTW, love the blog! been searching for a long time for this and sorry i was late to find it.

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  6. Wow I just bought a six pack of this beer this week and while I don't normally drink at all, I now and then I enjoy a good lager. The tag on the shelf below it said "so TJ's!"...I guess not so TJ's! Wonder if my dog likes beer? I don't even want to open it now!!!

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  7. I really hated this at first and then accidentally bought some more. In the winter, I don't drink cold beer so I had some at room temp - quite acceptable.

    The Mexican La Playa beer is very refreshing.

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  8. Consumer Reports disagrees completely, naming it in their October 2012 issue as "highest rated store brand" beer, calling it "very good." I bought some and found it to be quite alright, a bit on the carbonated side, but good flavor and 5% alcohol.

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    1. I just tried it and as far as taste goes, It's a lot better tasting than some of those pale ales and lagers brewed by craft breweries and costing 2 to 3 times more. It was a little on the sweet side but was not bitter at all! An excellent beer at a low price!

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  11. My friend says it's pretty good.

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