Drinking in the workplace is SOP at the Chicago-based Beverage Testing Institute, an independent testing agency that’s fast becoming the Consumer Reports of potent potables. Director Jerald O’Kennard and his small staff blind-tasted about 5,000 different wines, beers, and spirits last year (see results at www.tastings.com).

On a recent morning, O’Kennard had just finished a flight of mead — yes, honey wine, as in Beowulf. He talked about the “Frankensteins and Mona Lisas” he encounters, praising an oak-aged cherry ale from Canada and a 2000 Jarvis Cabernet Sauvignon from California. As for the bad stuff, well, think bologna-flavored whiskey. “We see some things that should never have been made,” he says. As for nonprofessional imbibing, O’Kennard enjoys a glass of red wine now and then. But he and his fellow tasters seldom hit the pubs after a hard week of sampling. “We deal with the stuff all day,” he says. “After a while, you need a little break.”