Photo | facebook.com/FairhopeBrewing
The temperature is soaring, and the local beverage news is just as hot. Here are five things you need to know about drinking in L.A. this summer.
Fairhope Brewing makes NA canned soda: Last week, Fairhope Brewing released something unprecedented: a canned soft drink, sans alcohol. This is the family-friendly taproom’s first foray into canning sodas, and their first nonalcoholic beverage release. Other breweries in the U.S. are known for their sodas (Abita in Louisiana makes root beer and vanilla cream soda, for example), so craft soda could become a healthy stream of revenue for Fairhope if customers take to it.
Their first release is Blueberry & Lemon, the same flavor combo that appears in the brewery’s popular Blue Steel sour. The soda contains lemon juice, white sugar and natural blueberry flavor. It is caffeine-free and exclusively available in the taproom, in singles to drink on-site or in four-packs to take on the road.
A vineyard grows in Fairhope: In other Eastern Shore developments, Southern Grove Vineyard is making progress on County Road 32. When I reached out to the owners a few months ago, they said they were not ready to discuss the project, which they are billing as a “vineyard/winery.” But they’ve now put signage advertising the vineyard at the edge of the property, and roughly 20 acres of it is zoned for agriculture. We can assume they will grow muscadines on the vines — those native grapes are the only species that thrives in this environment and resists local plant diseases.
But, theoretically, the winery portion of the business could import juice from other grape-growing states or countries and make a variety of wines from that, locally. Alas, grape vines take up to three years to bear fruit, so we may not hear much more news about this until 2025. Follow their Facebook page (@southerngrovevineyard) for updates.
The flavor of Summer 2022: … is Mountain Dew Baja Blast. Earlier this year, Mountain Dew tightened its death grip on America by releasing a line of hard seltzers featuring flavors like black cherry and Baja Blast. You may recognize Baja Blast from its cult-like following at Taco Bell. There, it is sold in a bright green-colored slushy form, without alcohol.
Local breweries seem to have caught the highly caffeinated Baja buzz. In May, Gulf Shores’ Big Beach Brewing released Bayou Blast, “a certain fast-food restaurant’s exclusive tropical lime soda-inspired sour.” Then, in June, Old Majestic graced the public with a Berliner Weisse they named Not Baja Blast, presumably to avoid trademark issues. “Sometimes you make bad taco-related decisions at 2 a.m.,” the brewery posted on social media to promote the release. “And sometimes you get the stupidest/greatest idea to make a beer taste like Baja Blast (allegedly).” Both local versions are neon-hued like the O.G. version, and Big Beach even offers their beer in slushy form.
The drink of Summer 2022: … is beer slushies. Big Beach doesn’t just offer Bayou Blast as a refreshing slushy; they have a rotating menu of frozen alcoholic beverages including a watermelon-coconut sour and a light frosè-strawberry libation. Downtown’s Braided River also has been churning up beer slushies to draw daiquiri-loving customers inside. There, the flavor changes daily and ranges from cherry-vanilla sours to mango-strawberry sours to margarita-inspired frozen ales. And they serve them with a red-striped paper straw to bump up the charm.
To turn beers into slushy form, most recipes call for simple syrup to sweeten them up, plus fruit juices or purées to give them a tart kick, and then an hour of chill time in the slushy machine before they’re ready to be poured. You can try it at home by mixing up your flavored beer recipe of choice, pouring the liquid into an ice cube tray, letting it freeze and then pulverizing the cubes in a blender.
Braided River collaborates with Opelika distillery: While you’re picking up a beer slushy at Braided River this month, peek into the production space to catch a glimpse of a collaboration in the works. Right behind the glass, the brewery is aging its Seize the Night coffee stout in a single-malt whiskey barrel, courtesy of John Emerald Distilling Co. in Opelika.
Interestingly, in Opelika, John Emerald Distilling is doing the inverse — aging its single malt in a Seize the Night barrel. (Braided River doesn’t typically store its beer in barrels, but last winter they barrel-aged Seize the Night, made in conjunction with Carpe Diem Coffee & Tea, and released it to the public; John Emerald is using that barrel.) In mid-September, the brewery and distillery will release the beverages simultaneously. There will be a barrel-cracking party at Mobile’s The Haberdasher, another at Auburn’s The Hound and two more at Opelika’s Whistle Stop Bottle & Brew and John Emerald.
Braided River cannot host the release in its own taproom because whiskey will be involved. The Haberdasher event will be open to the public, 21-plus. Tickets are not required. Follow Braided River’s social channels to stay informed about the party (@braidedriverbrewing).
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