Saturday, August 25, 2012

040. Shiner Prickly Pear

I was visiting my wife's cousin last weekend and found a surprise in her refrigerator: A new variety of Shiner beer that I had never seen before: Shiner Ryes & Shine. It was an interesting brew and I'm definitely going to write more about it in the near future. What caught my eye was the statement at the bottom of the bottle's label: Brewer's Pride Craft Brew No. 2.

What the heck? I had missed No. 1? No way, I thought. Unfortunately, the universe replied, "Way..."

The beer came as part of a Family Reunion six pack. This is what Shiner calls its sampler pack. It's also the only place I know to regularly get their Kosmos beer. So when I was at Wal-Mart in Tomball, Texas tonight, I decided to look for a Family Reunion pack so I could pick up a bottle of Ryes & Shine for this week's review.

Alas, I was to be denied... and rewarded. They didn't have Craft Brew No. 2, but they did have Craft Brew No. 3: Shiner Prickly Pear.

I don't only drink beer...
A pretty good fruit beer.
Although I probably am a beer snob, that's not all I drink. I love a good margarita with my Tex-Mex food, and seldom turn down a glass of red wine (whites okay, but I prefer more hearty flavors). I've even spent many a night in the desert drinking wine coolers and there was that one night I helped down a pitcher of cosmopolitans during that Sex & The City marathon (the less said of that the better). So, even though I do quaff the occasional fruity beverage, I'm almost never a fan of fruit infused or flavored beers.In fact, to this day I still have nightmares about the Belgian Cherry Ale I drank one night back in college (shudder).

So, to be fair, I wasn't expecting much from this beer when I popped the top of the 12 oz. bottle and got a super-strong noseful of fruity aroma. To be honest, it smelled more like Kool-Aid than prickly pear. Now, even though I'm from El Paso and have eaten more than my fair share of prickly pear (even picked some fresh off the plant, but usually I ate it in candy or preserves), I'm not all that familiar with the different types of prickly pear, nor am I a big fan. As it's presented here, I would say that the flavor of prickly pear in this beer is a cross between a peach and a sweet grapefruit. It's pleasant with hints of citrus tartness.

Thinking now about my prejudices toward this beer, I'm actually surprised that I'm giving it such high marks. I think that, as far as fruit beers go, this one is really good.

The aroma was strong and a medium pour delivered a very lackluster head (as you can clearly see in my photo): Barely one finger and that faded pretty fast. I added a second bottle to the mug and gave it an aggressive pour (right into the middle of the mug) and actually did generate a healthy caramel-colored head of almost three fingers. But this faded very quickly, leaving more lace than I had expected... it hung around a decent amount of time but soon vanished without a trace.

The carbonation was extremely light, but the color was a wonderful crystal-clear honey color -- a delicate golden brown that was very inviting. The color was a pleasant surprise -- I guess I was expecting something with a pink hue, to be honest.

The flavor was crisp and fruity sweet, especially in my early sips when it was ice cold. The fruit stole the show, dominating the hops and malt in a very unpleasant way, making it seem very one-note. As it warmed, though, the hops began to come through and tame the dominant fruit and helped it find some measure of balance. As it warmed above 50 degrees, I was finally able to taste the hops, malt and it developed a good mouthfeel that I enjoyed.

From the Label: This small batch brew is the third our Limited Edition Brewer’s Pride Craft Brew Series. A combination of Citra and U.S. Golding hops gives this refreshing lager its citrus flavor and floral aroma. The brew’s signature tartness comes from the fruit of the prickly pear, a cactus native to our brewery’s landscape that’s hearty, rugged and unmistakably unique —qualities we surely appreciate.

Final Thoughts
I didn't eat food with this beer, so I'm simply speculating here, but I think this would be a good match with a sweet pork barbecue. This is one of the better fruit beers I've tasted (I would expect nothing else from the Little Brewery in Shiner), but I'm not a fan of them and this one didn't win me over to the cause. It's kind of like me and oatmeal cookies. To me, the best oatmeal cookie on planet earth would probably still come in second to an average chocolate chip cookie. It's just a matter of preference.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:

Type: Fruit Infused Beer
Color: Crisp, clear light brown
Aroma: Fruity -- almost like Kool-Aid with an undercurrent of hops
Hops: Cowering in fear beneath the fruit
Malt: Slightly bready undertaste
Head: Light brown, quickly fades
Lace: Medium
Carbonation: Light
Temprature Sweet Spot: Fruity: Below 45; for more hops bitterness drink at above 50
ABV: 4.9%
My Rating: 6 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth a Sip:

The Beer Advocate guys were pretty positive about this beer, but all agreed that the fruit was so strong that it dominated the beer. After that, it was simply a matter of whether they liked being dominated in this way:

Another good review:

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