Serious Eats: Drinks
Drinking the Bottom Shelf: New Michelob Ultra 19th Hole Light Tea & Lemonade
Bottom Shelf research director Emily and I live in a very small state that we haven't left in several months. We don't have much by way of summer travel plans, either, since the time and money budgets are being squeezed by a friend's out-of-state wedding a few weeks before our own out-of-pocket wedding (tentative honeymoon: six week working cruise on a Russian fish processing ship). But we still need to figure out a way to swing some lounging into our lives ASAP, schedules and dollars be darned, because lately we've been overworked to the point of dementia.
I will be the first to admit that I'm not unduly busy by normal healthy adult human standards, but I am a very delicate machine that requires far more rest and recreation than I've been getting. Few things are more tedious than listening to someone talk about how hard he works, so I'll keep this part brief, but let's just say all those strawberries in the fridge didn't teleport here from the farmer's market. This column didn't (quite) type itself. The dishes in the sink weren't born dirty. And don't get me started on the fresh stacks of underwear and library books. I need a break.
As for Emily, she works like a regular person, and recently like a regular person running a short-staffed department. She's getting a bit burned out in the more traditional way, and while she has yet to match my stupidity in terms of putting the pepper grinder in the freezer or asking our next-door neighbors of 13 months what floor they'd like on the elevator, she did have something of a meltdown yesterday morning.
She had a 7:30 a.m. meeting, and since it was raining she couldn't take her bike and instead had to rely on Boston's abysmal public transit system to get the three miles to her office. That means she had to set the alarm for approximately midnight to allow enough time to brush her teeth, comb her hair, and get to the bus stop. There was no reason for me to get up with her, unless you count heroism, which is what forced me into the kitchen right before she left so I could give her a hug and a pep talk: "You look pretty decent, all things considered. Remember to get eggs and beer on the way home."
Then just as I was about to get back to the business of sleeping I remembered that I'm in charge of breakfast preparation. Due to the aforementioned egg shortage and time constraints, I did the only reasonable thing and tossed a banana at her back. She turned, looked down at the banana, and said in all injured seriousness, "Why did you throw an apple at me?" Few of you have met Emily and I know I'm biased, but please trust me when I say she has a very firm grasp of fruits, colors, and shapes. At her best, she can even distinguish between a regular apple and a Granny Smith apple. So the banana confusion can only be attributed to mental exhaustion. The woman needs a break, and I'm just the man to provide it.
After a restorative nap and an autopat on my thoughtful back, I went to the liquor store to find Emily an appropriately soothing and leisurely after-work drink. I didn't have the means to whisk her away someplace relaxing for the 12 hours until she had to report back to duty, but I figured I could come up with some liquid approximation of the good life.
I was all set to go in a tropical direction, but then I noticed the new Michelob Ultra 19th Hole Light Tea & Lemonade hanging out among the various Ices and Teas and Blasts and Coolers in the not-quite-beer section. Neither Emily or I are golfers, because we're not ridiculous walking parodies of the entitled life (in that one particular way), but I hoped she'd regard this golf-themed drink as a lightly boozed symbol of better times. If an afternoon of golf is marketed as the ultimate temporary respite from the pressures of whatever's pressing on you, then Mich Ultra 19th Hole should be just the thing for an overworked research director with no real vacations on the horizon.
The golf imagery strongly suggests this is targeted toward mature men, which is curious given that most "malt beverage alternatives" aim a little more toward the ladies and/or the youngies. It also has "light" in the name and is part of the lower calorie Ultra line, so that's another angle (19th Hole has 140 calories per 12 ounces, which is not particularly light considering the meager 4 percent ABV; it's roughly in line with noted sports nutrition drink Guinness on both counts). Anheuser-Busch is telling distributors 19th Hole is a "great opportunity to capitalize on outdoor drinking occasions," so we tried ours on our 20-square-foot balcony as soon as Em got home from work.
It tastes more like tea than lemonade, which is to its credit since the lemon element is sour and chemicalized, whereas the tea is fairly bland but not at all gross. There's a tiny hint of honey and also a little dirt, and overall it's utterly acceptable. It's almost completely flat and goes down very smoothly, and if you like low-end canned iced tea more than you like beer, this could certainly be your stuff.