As much as I love heavier, fuller bodied beers and the cold weather that warrants drinking them, I must admit that I have a soft spot for crisp, summery brews and patio weather. Something about sitting out in the sunshine, particularly if there is a grill nearby, with a bottle of something delicious and refreshing just seems to make me enjoy a beer that much more.
Needless to say, I get a bit excited every time a see a new summer beer come out. I've got my favorites, but am always on the lookout for something new. When my wife spied a six-pack of Shiner Ruby Redbird, the latest summer seasonal offering from Spoetzl, I got kind of excited. The promise of a refreshing summer beer, tingling with the lively flavors of grapefruit and ginger, was intriguing. I envisioned a galvanized beer tub, a lawn chair and something spicy on the grill - more or less my idea of heaven.
I settled in at my mother-in-law's house, eager to give this beer a shot as we waited for pizza. As I poured, strident ginger aromas jumped out at me, as clean and bright as the caramel-tinted amber color of the beer. Hidden in the background, I swore I detected a hint of vanilla, reminiscent of the clean smell of fresh royal icing. I asked my wife if she smelled it, too. She came over and sniffed, then laughingly pointed out a Vanilla Cupcake-scented candle burning on the mantle a few feet away. I (not so) silently cursed the candle, and my mother-in-law, and took my beer into the other room.
The vanilla smell disappeared, and further investigation revealed some fruity notes, a bit like apple juice, but with the slightly fermented edge of hard cider. There was also a slightly musty funk lingering around the periphery. Really, the aromas were as advertised. I would have liked to pick up more citrus, and maybe a bit more of the ginger's spicy edge, but on the whole, it smelled light, vaguely fruity and delicious.
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The first sip seemed to be much the same, with the fruity and ginger elements coming up front and making the beer seem like it was going to be sweet. It isn't. In fact, it's far drier than I would have imagined, which, in itself, was kind of nice. The ginger comes through clearly (though, oddly, without any hint of bite or spice), and some mild grapefruit aromatics come in that weren't apparent before.
For all the punchy ginger aroma, though, there's not a lot of flavor in general. Overall, the beer just seemed kind of flat, in flavor and in feel, despite the relatively high carbonation. I'm left with the impression of biteless ginger-beer, diluted with too much ice and left too long on the kitchen counter. It's weak and wan, a pale imitation of what I'd hoped it would be. That lightness, along with a relatively low 4%ABV, would certainly make this a very drinkable beer ("sessionable" in BeerNerd-ese) beer. It did drink a bit better on the second bottle, colder and not poured into a glass. Overall, though, I'm left unimpressed, and still looking for this summer's backyard beer. Any recommendations?