Drew Tries Stuff: Random Beer Edition

                Recently, a great event took place. In my quiet little hamlet of a suburb, something new arrived. Something unmistakable, an existence I could feel in my bones from when the last brick was laid until the electronic “Open” sign finally started to glow.

                Basically, a Specs opened not far from my neighborhood. In case that’s specific to my region, Specs is a big liquor store franchise known for good selection, fair prices, and high-quality options. Back before craft beer was a thing you could find resting on gas station shelves, Specs was the kind of place you went to try anything more exotic than a Bud Light, at least in small towns. So, when I saw one rise up along a close highway, my heart was thrilled.

                At the first chance I got, I swung through and picked up several of the oddest offerings I could find, expanding my horizons while also filling a cart with material for today’s blog. That’s right, we’re back to beer, only this time instead of doing soda, I’ll be reviewing the random ones picked up at Specs.


Blackberry Mead

                I’m doing today’s list in order of increasing oddness, which is why this relatively innocuous looking entry takes up the first section. The mead was one of those very fancy brands that insists on selling a 4-pack at full-price rather than 6 cans. I chose it anyway because I was looking for variety and it seemed like a unique combo I hadn’t tried before.

                Taste-wise… fine? This one really didn’t leave a strong impression on me. It was a little tart, a little sweet, just sort of there. Honestly, my strongest impression of this drink was that it left me super craving a Crackberry from Bishop Cider. That might be the better version of this: bolder flavors and a cleaner finish. Still, it wasn’t as if this drink tasted poorly. It was simply forgettable.

                I’d be more forgiving on the mead if they hadn’t priced themselves so aggressively. If you want me to pay full price for 2/3rds the amount of product, the quality had damn well better justify it. With Blackberry Mead, it definitely didn’t. In fact, one could say it cost even more, because I really did go buy some Crackberry after drinking these.

Rating: 2 drunks peeing outside a Taco Bell drive-thru, out of 5.


Pumpkin Cider

                I mean, I kind of had to, right? Last Drew Tries Stuff was about Pumpkin Spiced options, and now I find something similar, yet new, on my next trip hunting for material? The names was all I had to go on, but by this point I know what to expect when I see Pumpkin on a label. So, how was it?

                During winter, one of my favorite easy-to-make party drinks is throwing a bottle of non-alcoholic cider and some Fireball into a slow-cooker and setting it to Low. The combo smells nice, tastes great, and adds a real sense of wintery goodness to the celebration. Pumpkin Cider tastes oddly similar to that, and in doing so highlights why that slow-cooker cocktail works better than this canned version.

                Turn out, hot is better than cold for that flavor profile. Like many of you, I have taken ample ice-cold Fireball shots, but something about adding in the cider makes it feel wrong. You expect that flavor to feel warming, especially since it’s jammed with cinnamon, so when it doesn’t come something feels off. Also, carbonation is not this ones’ friend.

                This wasn’t a terrible drink by any means, there are probably some folks out there who might really enjoy it. As for me, I liked these about the same as the Blackberry Mead, all things considered. However, since this company at least had the decency to put 6 cans in a pack, they score slightly higher for not being dicks.

                Rating: 3 pitchers of penny-beer before passing out at the table, out of 5.


Shiner S’mores

                I truly did not know what to make of this one. Shiner is an odd duck, in terms of beer. A Texas brewery, there’s more than a little shared state pride in the beverage. You might start a fight ordering a Coors over a Bud, but its rare you see anyone talking shit on Shiner. Even our hipsters skirt that one, because some beer loyalties run deep. Instead of resting on that, however, Shiner almost seems to take pride in releasing unique, curious, frequently seasonal offerings. Last year they made a Holiday Beer that shifted through multiple flavors in one sip.

                All of that was to say that I wasn’t exactly blown away by seeing Shiner S’mores, since there was some precedent, but even for Shiner this was a step beyond. I bought it instantly, because you can’t see something like that and not try it, your sense of adventure will leave you for greener pastures. The only thing keeping me from tearing in right away was the temperature, something this special deserved to be served as intended. Using all the self-control I possess, I tucked it away to properly chill.

                After all that lead-up, when the first taste hit my mouth, I was confused. It tasted mostly like a dark, chocolatey beer. Good, but nothing noteworthy. As it turned out, this was another Shiner beer that changed as it lingered on the tongue. From chocolate there was a brief flash of graham cracker followed by a noticeable marshmallow note. Of all things, it was the char that came last, that taste you get when your marshmallow is just right up to the edge of being burned. That final flavor is what you’re left with, and although it probably sounds terrible, I didn’t hate that part. It really did remind me of eating something cooked over a campfire.

                This is one you should try just for the experience. As a beer, it’s okay – good depending on what you like. I killed off the whole 6-pack without trying, it’s a nice sipping beer for winter, just don’t try and do multiple of them in a row.

                Rating: 4 successful kegstand/somersault/dissertation combos, out of 5.