Serious Eats: Drinks
Bottom Shelf Beer: New Shock Top Flavors
For the first couple decades of my middle age I thought the one great advantage of getting old was no longer having to question every little thing every little day. I felt that I finally knew who I was and what I liked, so I didn't have to constantly reconsider pizza toppings and political parties like a 3rd-grader updating his friend-or-enemy list after each recess.
I drifted along happy in the knowledge that I was the sort of registered independent who was really a party-line Democrat and the sort of sausage-and-onion eater who was really into sausage and onion. The system works; I highly recommend getting some of your ways set in stone, lest you spend every morning trying to decide if you like butter on your bagel or tattoos on your neck. That's exhausting, and it creates too great a risk that one day out of boredom you'll end up with a dairy cow on your Adam's apple.
But despite my preference for having most of the day's decisions predetermined by the previous day's decisions ("I wore this shirt yesterday and didn't get struck by lightning, ergo it only makes sense ...") I have started to rethink my reluctance to rethink. For instance, last week Bottom Shelf research director Emily and I ordered pizza for dinner twice. I'm certain this was our first ever two-pizza week, and in addition to bringing us closer together as a family, it also taught me the valuable lesson that I like pepperoni more than I'd been admitting to myself. This is very important and will get its own paragraph, perhaps two.
I like pizza plenty because I'm not an idiot, but I might love it a notch less than most of my demographic (sloppy dudes who like to eat with our hands). This could be due to overexposure when I worked at a small town House-Of type place in high school. I loved that job for many reasons, the least fattening of which was because it allowed me to judge strangers based on mundane and irrelevant food preferences. I will soon write an entire book on this topic—I have a lot to say about school teachers and tuna melts—but for now I'll only reveal that my most ridiculous homemade bias was against pepperoni eaters. For some reason I decided that pepperoni was for assholes. I don't want to veer off the topic of veering off the topic of wheat beer, so I won't get into the whole theory, but know that my prejudice was as strong as it was dumb.
Where were we? Oh right, Shock Top; no wait, dinner last Thursday. Emily ordered while I was in the shower, and for some bold and beautiful reason she went with pepperoni and onion instead of sausage and onion. This wasn't an act of pizza aggression, because we'd never discussed pepperoni (remember, she's not a food blogger: she's into food more for the eating than the analyzing). We'd always just ordered sausage. Besides, I knew I didn't actively dislike pepperoni. I just fancied myself above ordering the stuff; it's so greasy and oily and obvious, said the sausage-chugger. Anyhow, long story longer, I preferred the pepperoni to the sausage we'd had two days prior, and now damned if my eyes aren't wide open to wheat beer.
My first Belgian white memories are from the summer of 2004, when Hoegaarden was the happy hour special at a few different bars in my neighborhood, which I enjoyed until some beer bully or another convinced me that Hoegaarden wasn't a real this or an authentic that or that without the nectarine wedge garnish it wasn't a proper, you see. Plus Hoegaarden's expensive during sad hours, so I tried to move on to Blue Moon, because I'd noticed that certain girls like Blue Moon and I like certain girls, so therefore, but of course it turns out that Blue Moon is Hoegaarden's inferior in every way, both real and pedantic, so then fall came and I just sort of forgot about wheat beer until very recently.
Now let's establish that there are a zillion kinds of wheat beer and they're not all Belgian or white or spiced; I'm glad we worked through that together. Now it's time to get into Shock Top, which is made by Anheuser-Busch to resemble a traditional Belgian witbier, with the orange and coriander and all that.
I'd somehow avoided Shock Top till last week, likely because I now live in a state without happy hour and what other than a half-price special could induce one to drink a Bud-brewed beer mascoted by an anthropomorphic orange slice with sunglasses and a wheat-made Mohawk? Research and a quest for personal growth, as it eventually happened. And now I can report that it's acceptable, a little bit beerier than Blue Moon, with the same simple spice and artificial-tasting orange plus a little bit of acidity.
I also tried the Shock Top Raspberry Wheat, Lemon Shandy, and Wheat IPA, which were all gross.
The raspberry tasted like Bud Light dosed with the raspberry syrup they use for 50-cent roadside shaved ice. The shandy is a lower-proof Shock Top (down from 5.2% ABV to 4.2%) with chemical lemon replacing the chemical orange and without the above-lauded beeriness. I'm ashamed to admit I was excited for the Wheat IPA, because what the hell is a wheat IPA, you know? Turns out it's Shock Top with slightly more alcohol (5.8%), no discernible hops, and a musty apple aftertaste.
So in summary, pepperoni is good, regular Shock Top is drinkable, and kinky Shock Top is bad for you.