A family member recently shared her experience with the mass marketed cider-beer hybrid “Redd’s Apple Ale”, and how horribly disappointed she was. It’s been increasingly difficult to avoid the obnoxious TV spots for the MillerCoors-owned brand, and I’d rather have curious drinkers try anything besides an over-hyped beverage that’s an affront to the craft movement, so here are three alternatives to the macro-brewed fakery.
Redd’s Apple Ale was launched with a massive ad campaign at the 2012 Superbowl as a way to capitalize on the quickly growing cider market, (even though the brew is not a cider.) The brand is getting a huge push ($30 million spent on marketing the brand in 2013) from their corporate overlords (the same people that brought the world Blue Moon and Leinenkugel’s), and the marketing must be working because sales of the hybrid are up even in the face of a trove of horrible reviews (the beer has a 10-out-of-100 score on Ratebeer).
Update 1/17/14: Redd’s now offers a Strawberry flavored version of their ale, and so we’ve recommended some craft-brewed strawberry-ale alternatives!
Don’t Drink This:
Brand manager of Redd’s Apple Ale, Andrew Zrike, says of the brew:
By blending the flavor of apples into a golden ale, Redd’s Apple Ale is the perfect choice for the times when you want a refreshing and sweet alternative to your everyday beers.
The pro beer writers certainly don’t agree. The “Beer man” Todd Haefer on the USA Today website says this of the brew:
The beer is supposedly a golden ale with “natural apple flavor,” as it states on the label… And don’t forget the other ingredient listed on the label — “caramel color.” Really? There are breweries that still do that?
To its credit, Redd’s does have an OK apple flavor, but more in the realm of grocery store sweet apple juice. It does not taste like biting into a fresh apple. The beverage fails miserably in the ale department, with no head and no hint of malt or hops. Its profile is more like a cider. In other words, a beer for those who don’t like beer.
So, what should you do if you want “a refreshing and sweet alternative” to a more traditional craft beer? Here are a few alternatives to “buy[ing] a sixer on a whim and wonder[ing] what to do with five-and-a-half undrinkable leftovers.”
Ale with Apple Flavor – Unibroue Ephemere
Lauded Canadian brewery Unibroue is best known for their Belgian-style ales like La Fin Du Monde and Terrible, but they also produce a white ale that uses apple must. Now, this is a brew that is refreshing and a little sweet. The beer has a huge green apple aroma that follows through on the palate with a lingering finish of spices. The beer’s light and approachable flavors make it one of my go-to beers to transition people from common ciders to craft beer.
Real Craft Cider – Woodchuck
Looking for a real hard cider that isn’t too sweet and actually tastes of apples? Thankfully there are a few good options (with more cideries launching), but my long-time favorite is Vermont’s Woodchuck Cidery. They offer a deep line-up of ciders ranging from the tart Granny Smith cider to rich, boozy Farmhouse Reserve versions, and the cider is easy to find in LA bottle shops (though we only very occasionally see it on draught.)
Mead or Cyser – B. Nektar
Cyser is one of those weird hybrid beverages that have been popularized by the homebrew community, and B. Nektar is a (fairly) new meadery from Michigan that makes a Apple-honey-cherry combination they call Zombie Killer. Full disclosure: I haven’t tried this particular beverage, but I’ve heard good things and I have tried B.Nektar’s Black Fang honey wine – and loved it. Black Fang is a mead with blackberries, cloves, and orange peel and it was remarkably light and drinkable without being cloying or unbalanced. at about $8 for a 500ml bottle, the B.Nektar brews are a touch costly, but they are really tasty and I look forward to trying some more.
Where Are the Brewed-in-California Options?
A Canadian brewery, a cidery from Vermont, and a meadery in Michigan – hardly options that fit into the “drink local” approach we advocate on Beer of Tomorrow. There are surely some California options that would make suitable alternatives to Redd’s Apple Ale, but the three options I presented above play in to the beer-cider hybrid nature of the MillerCoors frankenstein.
What would you suggest as a craft alternative to Redd’s?