One of the great things about craft beer is that it forces you to reexamine your understanding of what exactly even constitutes beer. It’s a given that you’ve looked beyond the pale fizzy macro lagers you drank in high school (I’m going to grant college you a little bit of credit here—just be cool and go with it), but at a certain point you realize there’s a whole world beyond Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Brooklyn Lager, too. There are crushingly bitter Double and Triple IPAs, outrageously rich Imperial Stouts, and mouth-puckeringly sour American Wild Ales among many, many more confounding styles. This weekend, consider one of the following newly released boundary-pushing beers, one of them light and fruity, the other… the opposite. Although I guess habanero peppers are fruits?
Sixpoint made news recently when they began releasing their flagship beers—which I’m slowly realizing no longer includes my personal favorite offering of theirs, the sadly underrated Righteous Ale—in 6-packs of 12oz cans, eschewing the 4-packs of 16oz tallboys for which they’d been known. But then just a couple weeks later, they release Rad, 3.2% ABV “summer crusher” sold in… 4-packs of 16oz cans. Sixpoint describes Rad as an “ale brewed with fruit juices,” which seems like an understatement: in fact it drinks more like fruit juice with a shot of wheat beer dropped in. They haven’t said exactly which fruits have been added, but you’ll get what seems like a huge dose of grapefruit, along with some orange and maybe peach? And lemon? I don’t know, but it’s a little bit tart and awfully refreshing. Admittedly, I don’t see myself drinking a ton of it this summer, but it could certainly come in handy at the odd backyard/rooftop bbq. Or, better yet, your next backyard/rooftop brunch.
Westbrook Mexican Cake
All the way over on the other side of the spectrum, like, literally as far away as you can get from a 3.2% ABV “ale brewed with fruit juices” is Mexican Cake, a 10.5% ABV Imperial Stout brewed “with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon, and habanero peppers.” The super-limited annual release is on the pricey side–a 22oz bottle will set you back around $20 if you can find it (tweet at me if you’d like help tracking some down)–but it’s worth every penny. When I opened my bottle, I swear the entire room filled with this crazy, warm aroma of cinnamon and vanilla. When you taste it, you’re immediately confronted by tons of bitter chocolate, which gives way to the gentle warmth of the cinnamon, followed by a substantial kick from the habanero. As with any habanero-infused beer, the heat from Mexican Cake builds as you work your way through the bottle. After the first sip, you’ll think, “Pff, no big deal.” Ten ounces later, you may find yourself reaching for a glass of water.
Follow Mike Conklin on Twitter @MikeConklin.