Pomegranate Raspberry–Flavored Beer

Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus and Pomegranate Raspberry

By: Anheuser-Busch

I Paid: $5.79 for six 12-ounce bottles (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 1stars


Marketing: 2stars

The bottle claims it’s 4.2 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), and it looks for all the world like an American pilsner. But close your eyes, and what do you taste when the new Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus hits your palate? A generous interpretation would be lemon-lime sparkling water. Less generous: a light beer/7UP shandy (also called a Panaché). As for the cactus, goodness. It’s not the most vivid ingredient even in the real world, so if you’re able to detect it when you drink this macrobrewed stuff, mazel tov.

If the Lime Cactus flavor is a venial sin against the beer gods, then the Pomegranate Raspberry variety crosses the line into “mortal” territory. The stuff smells like raspberry Kool-Aid. No kidding! Sparkling Kool-Aid, perhaps, but it’s a dead ringer for that watery, slightly tangy, profoundly artificial taste of summers long gone.

There’s something to be said for a beer that’s heat friendly and good for chuggin’ after a couple of hours mowing the lawn. But, when your adult beverage is in danger of being beaten up by a plastic bottle of SunnyD, it’s time to reassess the way you’re drinking.

Schlitz

By: Pabst Brewing Company

I Paid: $5.49 for six 12-ounce bottles (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3stars


Marketing: 4stars

There have been desperate runs on the reintroduced 1960s-formula Schlitz beer in Milwaukee—but why? Is it pure nostalgia? Regional bad taste? Poor planning?

An aggressive marketing campaign arguing that beer, women, and cars were better in the old days—and that Schlitz, at least, is back in high form—has raised some eyebrows.

Schlitz was long advertised as “The Beer that Made Milwaukee Famous,” and it once commanded a leading share of the national market. A late-1960s “innovation” that allowed for faster fermentation has been identified by brewing experts as the beer’s “jump the shark” moment—tasters bemoaned a decline in flavor and a chemical aftertaste. By the end of the 1970s, the brand was moribund.

So what happens when a classic brand gets back to basics?

It turns out that the retro-formulated Schlitz lager is—drumroll here—not too bad. It’s got a mellow, moderate, caramel-kissed taste, which results in a fairly clean flavor. While it’s a bit watery, it doesn’t totally lack a spine. It wouldn’t taste out of place in a bowling alley, but you shouldn’t be embarrassed to serve it to company, either. Sampled side by side with the well-respected Capital Brewery Bavarian Lager, the Schlitz came off as a bit thinner (bad) but easier to suck down (good?)—a tour de force for a big brew squaring off against a craft-brewed cousin.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.