I am a novelty whore. I voluntarily ate both spawns of the Doritos Locos Taco. I actively sought out (and drank!) Rogue’s Voodoo Donut Maple Bacon ale and DuClaw’s Sweet Baby Jesus Peanut Butter porter. If it’s unorthodox for the sake of oddness, chances are very high that I will want to try it. Once.
Beer gadgetry isn’t something new. The ancient Egyptians had kegerators built out of crudely dug clay ditches and special insulated pots. The Vikings turned pelts and animal horns into particularly badass drinking vessels, because screw regular old cups. In the dizzying whirl of the information age we’ve got Beer Keurigs, beer-chilling rods, flavor-infusers, pressurized growlers, and now, beer enhancing goo:
OnTap Liquid Beer Enhancer – Pale Ale
Makes 18 “beers” – $4.99
Here’s the idea: You’re a craft beer person, out gallivanting in the social wilderness like craft beer people are apt to do. You somehow, against your best efforts, find yourself in a place where there is no craft beer, and you’re super bummed about it. Your friend offers you a Miller/Coors/Bud light from the overstocked cooler and you cringe; even the idea of all that the corn or rice adjunct burns the back of your tongue. But fear not! In your pocket is a little white egg of brownish-orange goo that can save you from the tragic blandness. A few squirts and that faded yellow becomes decadent amber, the fizzy weak flavor becomes an orgy of delight happening directly on (top of) your tongue.
It’s a solid premise. Make not so good beer into OK beer so that you can force it down without too much gagging or too many audible “ughs.”
Unfortunately, the proposed premise is not properly perpetuated by the product.
Don’t Knock it ’till you try it; then knock it
I tapped (get it!?) my neighbors to find some beer that needed enhancing. After digging through their fridges like some classless drunk, I managed to score an MLB themed Budweiser, an amazingly engineered Miller Lite (with Punch Top™ for extra flow), and a classic can of Pottsville’s finest Yuengling Lager.
I didn’t waste any time. I jammed one of my good kitchen knives into the Miller Lite Punch Top™ and let that baby flow, smooth as buttercream frosting, into my glass. Then I squirted a generous blast of OnTap Pale Ale goo into the beer, using the instructional video as a rough guide.
There are no instructions with this stuff. There should really be some instructions. It says to “always dilute in a full glass of beer,” but that’s like an omelette recipe that says, “maybe add some eggs or something.”
I think I used too much. Got too zealous with my squeezing. The Miller turned from well-hydrated-piss yellow to a pretty decent amber color. The pure white head was tinted sort of orange, but not in a gross way. It certainly looked more appetizing.
And then my nose, like a catcher taking a 105mph fastball to the ribs, caught a whiff of what it smelled like. Stale malt, bananas so old they’re completely black, party-favor lip gloss. Maybe some over steeped Darjeeling in a rusty tea pot. Nothing beer-like. Definitely nothing enhanced.
The taste was horrible, with special emphasis on the “horr” part, as in its flavor was the horrifying result of a horrific bargain with a cosmic horror. It was mainly malt, but behind that there were clear notes of potting soil, burlap, and shrimp toast. It was in no way appetizing, and actually made me not like beer for one very, very, very brief moment.
But, I had used what seemed like a lot of this stuff, so I attributed the overwhelming badness to user error. Maybe it’s not compatible with MillerCoors products and I missed that in the extensive documentation.
I gave it another go. This time with America’s favorite pale-lager and America’s favorite pastime.
I used a lot less, but got pretty much the same deal. Yellow to gold. Smells so alien they belong in a H.R. Giger painting. Tastes like eating chemicals off of a factory floor. I couldn’t finish either beer and ended up breaking one of my hardcore beer rules: I poured them down the drain, saluting them as the washed out into some Potomac river tributary.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think I’d prefer to drink either of these beers without trying to make them better. At least they are shameless in their roles as tasteless vehicles for alcohol.
I didn’t even bother adding any goo to the Yuengling. I drank it quickly, with purpose, as a palate cleanser. Best Yuengling I’ve ever had, except for maybe the one I had at my wedding reception.
After about an hour of puzzling over the smells and tastes, putting little droplets of the goo concentrate of my fingers to study it, I realized what this stuff is. It’s liquid malt extract – the kind that comes in big cans used by homebrewers – watered down to a point where it can be squeezed out of a little bottle. I have no real proof of this of course, but the similarities are uncanny.
There is so much more to beer than malt. Even kits that use malt extract are boiled for at least an hour and have hops and other goodies added to them. Beer is the culmination of the brewing process; it can’t be faked or “enhanced” or recreated with chemicals and colorants. Without each step, done carefully and skillfully, the end result is not beer. Some weird thing wearing a beer mask, trying to talk and act like beer maybe, but definitely not real ale or lager.
I sort of admire this company for trying something new, but unfortunately, I can’t recommend this stuff. If you’re forced to drink something decidedly uncrafty, just smile and be a cool dude about it. I’d rather be the guy grimacing every few minutes than the obnoxious guy who has to inject all his beer with mysterious liquids to make them “good.”
Better to put the $4.99 this stuff costs towards a six-pack of real pale ale.