I had a bottle of really bad beer last night.
On the surface, this one appeared to be a potential winner. A high gravity anniversary beer from well-respected Unibroue, brewed just over 5 years ago. After a hard time removing the Belgian-style cork, I poured into three glasses to share with some friends. The carbonation was surprisingly low.
The aroma and flavor was pretty much terrible. I don't think any of us finished our glasses. To call it "sherry-like" would have been generous, it was really just terribly oxidized and tasted like cardboard (oh, and cherries too). I picked this bottle up at a beer store earlier this year, so I have no idea about its handling and storage up to that point. Everything I can see points to a failed cork, which is a common wine lover's lament.
On the complete opposite end of the bad beer spectrum, I recently had an extremely young example of a Minnesota classic lager called Grain Belt Premium. The glass fairly reeked of sulfur and butterscotch. It didn't surprise me much when I read this article from the mnbeer.com site shortly afterwards, explaining that the brewery was having trouble keeping up with demand. Another blog post I read recently notes a series of product recalls from big players on the craft brew scene, including Bell's and Goose Island.
Not to be a hater; I've definitely made some foul beer before. Perhaps the wost offender was a unintentionally sour porter. It was the dead heat of August in my basement, I was dry hopping with some unusual ingredients, and the surrounding brewing area was none too clean. When I went to bottle it I found that it had likely been infected with acetobacteria and had an unpleasant enteric taste. I tried everything to use that beer, mixing it with regular porter, replacing cooking vinegar with it, using it as a brine. The only thing that worked was giving it away to a friend of mine with very undiscriminating tastes (always good to have one of these as a homebrewer).