If you were to walk into any medium or large liquor store today, in August, you would be confronted with a giant orgasm of Oktoberfest promotion. It’s a veritable money-shot of pale blue and white checkered flags, boxes, labels, balloons, and in one store, diamond shaped glitter (really, unnamed liquor store…glitter?). To this facial of corporate-and-craft-fall-beer while it’s still hot as balls outside, I say, HOLD THAT FUCKING LINE!
First, Christmas overtook Thanksgiving, and we fell back. Then, Thanksgiving came for Halloween, and we fell back. Now, Halloween attacks September, and Oktoberfest makes inroads into August, and we fall back! No more! After all, the last of the summer beers are still there. You don’t have to start drinking heavy before the weather’s right for it. There are also some year-round beers that work well in the late August heat. I’ve written about Einstök’s Icelandic Pale Ale, and that’s certainly the gold standard. But here’s another hot-weather gem: Traveler Grapefruit Shandy.
Traveler is an odd little beer company. First of all, they only brew shandies, and all their beers are 4.4% (not exactly “big beer” territory). Unlike most craft brewery sites you visit, their history seems a little shady (as does their corporate ownership), but a little Googling has cleared this up. When Magic Hat got sold, one of the founders, Alan Newman, hatched a plan with Jim Koch, of Boston Brewing fame (that’s Sam Adams, for the uninitiated) to start making craft shandies. They started with “Curious Traveler,” which I’ve never loved, but have since expanded in many directions. They even have a pumpkin shandy. Yes, you read that right, a fucking PUMPKIN SHANDY, which sounds like a dare, but which some people really love.
Earlier this summer as I sat in an outdoor bar, their special was “Illusive Traveler,” which is an alias the Grapefruit Shandy sometimes goes by. I was not excited, but it was a really good happy hour deal. I was happily stunned. It’s frigging delicious.
This beer, as you would expect, is pale yellow with an aroma that leaves no doubt about its flavor - pure grapefruit. It is not an overly beer-flavored beer, and it is super sweet. It tastes like grapefruit soda. And it is super refreshing, especially when it’s hotter than hell. Plus, at 4.4%, you can drink it all damn day.
And this is my most important point this month: it’s hot. We shouldn’t be drinking heavy, ready beer yet! Don’t just buy the shit they shove down your throat, even if that shit is actually delicious Oktoberfest beer. Oktoberfest is nearly a month away! By all means, buy your favorite harvest-themed beer. But buy it warm and stick it in a dark closet. While mother nature keeps the heat on, drink something light and refreshing today. Do it for yourself. Do it for all of us. Do it for ‘Murica!
Next month: Everything great about Oktoberfest.