With football season upon us — after nine months of it not being upon us — so are the football gatherings. Unlike hanging out for a couple of beers after work or on the weekend, tail-gating really isn't the place for craft beer. For one thing, you are drinking for too many hours on end; and for another, when it comes to filling the cooler, these things usually have a community chest rule. Tail-gating is the time for that old standby: Cheap Domestic Beer.
Fortunately, the explosion of craft beer has made the major brewers reflect on the variety of taste profiles they offer. In theory, that's a good thing, but in practice, they might want to stop thinking so hard.
Over the summer, I had a Schöfferhofer, a German grapefruit shandy that looks like a Fanta in the bottle but tastes light and refreshing and is just a little different. Leinenkugel's, out of Wisconsin, makes a popular shandy that's widely available in town. This, I think, is what Budweiser was attempting with the release of its Bud Light Orange. Given how tightly the Germans regulate beer production, Schöfferhofer doesn't use artificial flavoring. Budweiser isn't quite so picky, however. This is what happens when traditional brewing meets economies of scale and double entry corporate bookkeeping.
BLO wasn't even on my radar until the underage child of a friend (both will remain nameless) suggested I review the new Bud Light Orange.
"Is it good?" I asked.
"Oh, no," she said. "It's awful."
This piqued my interest because I remember my own comically low standards at 19. Being a professional at this by now — and something of a masochist, I thought, why not?
If you are expecting a burst of warm Florida sunshine and wholesome Vitamin C from BLO, go elsewhere. This tastes like a watery Tang, but without the childlike faith in its country's space program — or future. The orange flavoring is thin and industrial, almost Orwellian. Like Big Brother has already crushed our will to live and now he's just toying with us. Bud Light Orange is the Room 101 of beer.
I do like a hint of orange in a cocktail. Once, while having drinks with the Commander at Hog & Hominy, I thought up a concoction involving gin, a dash of simple syrup, and orange bitters. Served with a twist. We explained it to the bartender and called it a Comedian, because that made sense at the time. They were great, and we drank too many. As far as I know, the Comedian isn't on the H&H drinks menu; the bartender was just being amiable.
Bud Light Orange, however, failed to capture the same humor. The long-suffering Mrs. M. — a fan of regular Bud Light — was dubious when I showed her the six-pack, so I resorted to subtle and complex psychological warfare to get her to test this stuff with me. And some obvious pouting. After I'd pulled my shirt over my head, she looked down and said, "Okay, Chubs, get up off the floor and pour me that orange beer."
I used our wedding crystal because I'm such a romantic.
Mrs. M. thought it tasted like a Jolly Rancher and beer. I quote: "This isn't even a college girl beer. This is what a four-year-old would want with his Happy Meal."
Wise lady, that one. In fact, it doesn't taste like a Jolly Rancher and beer — just a Jolly Rancher. Were it not a Budweiser product, you'd be hard pressed to call it beer. Picture orange-flavored children's medicine without the benefit of the medicine.
I paired it with Brim's Seasoned Pork Cracklin' Strips (small on carbs, big on hypertension), not so much for a salty/sweet thing but to get the taste out of my mouth. Now we have four left in the fridge. If you want them, swing by; they'll still be here.
I'm going to go make myself a Comedian.