[OSBURN ON TAP] What About Flavored Beers?

What’s the deal with flavored beers? It seems like the biggest trend in recent brewing is the flavored beer. What’s a flavored beer, you say? It’s taking a nice honest brew like pale ale or wheat beer and adding a fruit (or other) flavor to it. I’ve tasted many styles and brands that have had fruit flavors added in during the brewing process. Some are really good, not overly sweet and still retain a great deal of their original flavors, but others are a cloying mess. I don’t like pouring a beer into my glass only to realize that it tastes more like blue raspberry gum than beer. I don’t need to be afraid that my tongue is going to turn neon blue after a pint.

It really doesn’t matter if it’s a small craft brewery or a giant conglomerate, adding flavoring is the hip new thing. What should you think about this? Is this bad because more and more brews are being made that don’t really taste like beer, or should you be happy that more people who wouldn’t otherwise imbibe are giving beer a whirl? I think neither answer is completely right, but we should be happy that there are more styles available on the market and be thankful that not all of them are terrible.

One of my favorite beers to enjoy on a summer day is Magic Hat Brewing Company of Vermont’s #9. I’ve written about this Apricot flavored pale ale many times in the past and it fits in this category nicely. It’s also a good brew to compare (in my opinion) which fruity (or other) infused concoction is a hit or a miss.

Since I am in no way a beer critic and since this column is more about getting people to try new things than to shun them, I hope you will understand that each of you should make up your own mind as to whether or not you want to try the beers mentioned.

I’ve grouped some well known and some less-than well known beers into two categories: the hits and the misses. Not all of the hits are amazing and not all the misses are repulsive, it’s just a lot easier to continue my earlier trend of either hating or loving flavored beer.

The hits are beers that aren’t overly sweet or don’t have an overwhelming flavor that takes away from the overall taste of the beer. I want beer that tastes like beer, that’s why I drink it. I’d drink Smirnoff Ice if I wanted to drink something that tastes like a melted Popsicle.

The Hits (It’s all sunny and fun here):

Magic Hat Brewing Company’s #9 – This refreshing (4.6% ABV) Pale Ale is flavored with apricot, but isn’t overly sweet or cloying. You can still taste the beer under the fruit.

Ithaca Beer Company’s Apricot Wheat – Ithaca’s apricot offering (5.0% ABV) is very similar to Magic Hat’s, except that it’s a wheat beer instead of pale ale. It’s slightly sweeter and I still wouldn’t suggest drinking a whole six-pack without something else in between.

Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Brown Shugga’ – Lagunitas, of California, has been known to push the boundaries with their brews. Brown Shuggah (9.5% ABV) is no exception. This American Strong Ale smells like brown sugar and has a slight brown sugar flavor to go along with its high alcohol content. It’s best to only have one or two of these bad boys.

Harpoon Brewery’s UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen – This wheat beer (5.10% ABV) is pretty much just the normal UFO (unfiltered offering) with the addition of natural raspberry flavoring. The raspberry flavor doesn’t overpower the underlying yeasty flavor, so this one still makes it into the hits.

The Misses (This is where it gets rough):

Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat – This one (5.2% ABV) was close to being a hit, but as I said before they can only be hits or misses. This is a miss because I can’t even finish a whole bottle without wishing I had some pretzels or potato chips to even out the cloying cherry flavor. It’s just a little too sweet and not enough beer for my liking.

Miller Chill – This beer (4.10% ABV) tastes like lemon lime soda. If you’re into that, pick up a sixer of these bad boys. I think they are more directed towards the Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Twisted Tea set. That’s ok by me. If it gets more people trying out beer then I’m happy. I just don’t have any desire to ever have one of these again.

Anheuser- Busch Wild Blue (blueberry lager) – I don’t even know what to say about this one without sounding like a jerk. I have no idea why this is so high in alcohol (8.0% ABV), but maybe that’s what the Budweiser people think craft beer fans want. They are wrong. Craft beer fans don’t want a high alcohol beer that tastes like raspberry Kool-Aid.

Regardless of how bitter I just sounded, it’s best to know that beer, like anything, is mostly about personal taste. Give any of these brews a try and see which ones you like and which ones you don’t.

And now for something completely different:

*I wrote about the TV show Three Sheets about a year ago. At that time, the travel show featuring comedian Zane Lamprey traveling to various spots around the globe trying out various drinking customs was on MOJO HD. That channel has since ceased operations and the show was on hiatus for a few months. Lucky for you, the show is back on the air as of July 20th on FLTV (Fine Living TV, check local listings). A new episode will air every Monday at 10 p.m. This season, episodes include New Zealand, Tanzania, Lithuania, St. Martin and Cape Town, Hawaii, Iceland, Poland, Barbados, Panama, Namibia, Tuscany, Barbados, Tahiti, New Castle, Hamburg, Lesvos, and Amsterdam. Check it out; it’s hilarious and very informative.

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