Quite some time ago, I realized I was getting close to having 5000 followers on twitter.
Accordingly, I tweeted that, should I reach that milestone within the next week, I would purchase and drink the variety mix pack from Shock Top and record the experience. People seemed enthused by the idea of a beer snob drinking Shock Top.
I reached 5000 followers the next day.
For those who don’t know, Shock Top is a beer that is marketed as a “Belgian Stye Wheat Ale” but is in fact liquid garbage. First produced in 2006, the beer is made by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, a marketing company that controls roughly a third of the world’s beer; however, this beer is rather dubiously marketed as a craft beer. It actually says on the can that it is from “Shock Top Brewing Co.” and, in bars, it is typically positioned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV to compete with craft beer among consumers who don’t know any better. I once enjoyed a considerable amount of traffic on this very blog back in September of 2014 when I managed to get my hands on a marketing brief prepared by Canadian Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV subsidary Labatt that suggested they were planning an expensive, intentionally misleading ad campaign to promote Shock Top in Canada as craft beer after market research revealed how many of the beer’s drinkers were misinformed about the beer’s origins.
The original Shock Top is something like a Belgian Witbier–in much the same way that the Olive Garden in the Magic Valley Mall in Idaho is something like Tuscan dining. Originally released as Spring Heat Spiced Wheat in 2006, the brand was a rather transparent attempt by ABI to release a shitty witbier that would compete with Blue Moon, another shitty witbier, this one created by Miller-Coors with the obvious purpose to trick dumb people into thinking they were drinking craft beer and to compete with the growing small brewer segment. Here in Canada, Shock Top, the beer marketed as a product of a non-existent craft brewery in St. Louis, is actually brewed in Labatt’s facilities in London, Creston, Edmonton, Montreal, Halifax, and St Johns. Blue Moon is marketed by Molson-Coors in Canada as “Belgian Moon” because a Toronto craft brewery hilariously bought the rights to the name Blue Moon in Canada. In a pinch, you might also drink Rickard’s White if shitty witbier is your thing as it seems to be essentially the same beer, but with perhaps a different ratio of butt beer.
But I digress. You came here to read about me drinking this shit.
True to my word, but admittedly delayed, I purchased the Shock Top variety pack sometime ago with a view to fulfilling my promise. Mercifully, the variety pack contains just the Belgian White, Citrus Radler and Crisp Apple varieties of Shock Top and does not contain any of the Shock Top’s further bastardized spawn of “beers” that now includes Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat, Shock Top Raspberry Wheat, Shock Top Wheat IPA, Shock Top Lemon Shandy, Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat, Shock Top Chocolate Wheat, Ginger Wheat, Pretzel Wheat and Shock Top End of the World Midnight Wheat. I’m not making this shit up.
Anyway, let’s dive in. First up. The “classic.”
Shock Top Belgian White
This beer actually doesn’t smell awful and it’s got a not-unattractive cloudy straw appearance.
There are fruity, white grape aromas and the head hangs around for a disturbingly long time. I do note some vaguely alarming sediment chunks that can probably be attributed to how long I’ve put off actually opening these beers. I’m being kind. I’m stalling. I’m a little nervous. Let’s drink this.
The flavour is something akin to “Weissbier Lite.” I don’t really know what I’m tasting because the flavour dissipates rather quickly. There’s some really muted citrus and barely perceptible biscuit, and then it’s just…gone. There’s a slight astringency in the finish. I don’t know. I was expecting cloying disgustingness, but instead it’s just kind of…whatever. I feel a little disappointed somehow. Having positioned this beer as a macro-villain, a pseudo-craft imposter with a kajillion dollar budget to take on good beer, I was kind of expecting more. My stomach starts to rumble, but I’m pretty sure that’s just psychosomatic. I finish half the can and there’s a vaguely snotty, I’ve just-been-eating-shitty-candy taste in my mouth for a while, but nothing worse to report. I drank Shock Top. I lived to tell about it.
Maybe this experience won’t be so bad. On to the next.
Shock Top Crisp Apple
This is intense. The second I open the can my den fills with the aroma of shitty shampoo. There is apple smell fucking everywhere suddenly. I have to look around to see if this can somehow brought a few friends I didn’t see come in. I feel like it’s in my skin. I dare to get my nose close and the smell is like the lobby of my high school before a dance when everyone has been pounding shitty, sweet-tasting alcohol to numb the pain of being an awkward teenager at a dance. I am in grade ten, drenched in cologne or air freshener and chewing gum in a vain attempt to mask the smell of booze from my teachers. I’m trying to avoid eye contact with my French teacher, Mr. Malone. I don’t want to put this beer anywhere near my mouth.
But for you, dear reader, I do.
I take one sip and I have diabetes. What the fucking fuck. This is just apple sugar. Have you ever popped a green apple Jolly Rancher into your mouth and then like 20 seconds in you went, “God damn, this is so sweet it’s giving me a headache,” and then you spit it out?
Imagine fifteen people did that, but instead of spitting it on the ground, they spit their collective Jolly Ranchers into a Bud Light. Let that shit steep for two days and you have Shock Top Crisp Apple. I need a gallon of sweet cider as a palate cleanser. This is beer for people who hate beer–and themselves.
I’m actually mad right now. Why is this allowed to be called beer? There is nothing beer-like about this. It is drinkable shampoo.
Shock Top Citrus Radler
I open some windows and conduct an exorcism to rid my home of the aromas of South Collegiate Institute’s foyer circa 1998. The urge to slow dance to Bon Jovi’s Bed of Roses fades, and I open and pour the next beer.
The appearance of this one is far more translucent than its predecessors. There’s no haze. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. The aroma is unmistakably grapefruit. It is virtually identical to my memory of grapefruit candy that I’d sometimes get from relatives at Christmas and so it is not altogether unpleasant. But I do feel that’s mostly related to nostalgia for a candy and probably not a good sign for a beer I’m about to drink.
It hits my lips and it is candy. Stirred in with the candy sweetness is also a crazy bitterness that is clearly intended to mimic the bitterness of grapefruit but it is super off-putting. The bitterness of a well-made IPA for example, typically falls somewhere mid to late palate,but this bitterness is all up front. It’s fucking nasty. There is no balance. This is clearly not bitterness imparted via hop additions and instead is something like putting your finger in your mouth, tasting disgusting bitterness, and then realizing you scratched your ear with that finger and just tasted ear wax (don’t act like this has never happened to you).
The finish is similarly off-putting and bile-like. I have three sips and burp and it’s like I ate one of those candies from my youth and then vomitted until my stomach was empty and only bile was left to vomit. And somehow it delivers all that at a sessional 2.4%!
This beer is so bad. I feel like my insides are getting sad. Every part of my body tasked with processing liquid–from the tip of my tongue to wherever my stomach starts to turn liquids into urine–is just disappointed in me. I feel my gut is saying, “You’re better than this. And I’ve seen you eat three hot dogs for breakfast.” Later tonight when I piss this out there’s a good chance my penis will just weep audibly. Why is this a thing? Why?
So, in case it wasn’t clear when I referenced my weeping penis above, this was a pretty rough night.
I didn’t actually finish a single beer tonight and I’m certain I’ll have a shitty hangover tomorrow. These beers are sugar water, inexplicably charading as “craft beer.” The best of the bunch, Shock Top Belgian Wheat, was only the best by virtue of not making me want to open a window (or a vein) while drinking them. To put things in perspective, yes, it’s just drinking some bad beer, but I honestly don’t think it’s an exaggerating to say that if, some day, one of my parents is in a plane that somehow manages to crash into a train that’s carrying my other parent, I’ll be at their joint funeral and think, “At least this isn’t the day I drank those three Shock Tops.”
When I hit 10,000 twitter followers, I’m drinking champagne.