05 August 2011

Shiner Ruby Redbird

Irish folklore involves a lot of plots involving the geis, a rule or taboo specific to the hero. Generally the hero has multiple geasa that cause logical conflicts with each other. This means that the old scribes of Éire used the same plot device as Captain Kirk when he needed to make a computer self destruct in the original series of Star Trek. The most famous example probably comes from the story of Cú Chulainn. One geis says that he can't eat dog meat, and another geis says that he can't refuse free food from a woman. And normally there's nothing wrong with having these two rules in your life--to be honest, I'd add them to the Ten Commandments, and I don't think Moses or Charlton Heston would argue with me. But an evil old woman offers him some free dog meat, and he has no choice but to eat it and then die from his breaking of the geis. That's why Irish folktales make such happy bedtime stories for kids. (There are hundreds of arguments to be made here involving various strains of logic and religion, but there's no need to get into that right now. Suffice it to say that this gentile enjoys the creative arguments of the Talmud when it comes to interpreting the strict laws of the Tanakh.)

I was thinking of Cú Chulainn as I stared at the six pack of Ruby Redbird from the good folks at Shiner. I've never had anything from Shiner I didn't like, and I am a big supporter of their history and continued commitment to obscure European beer styles made deep in the heart of Texas. On the other hand adding red grapefruit juice and ginger to beer seemed like a silly gimmick aimed at the Mike's Hard Lemonade crowd. On the gripping hand, it's technically a premixed shandy, and thus traditional, and I've had a powerful craving for grapefruit recently.

Complicating matters is the fact that grapefruit is an important crop in Texas, and as a child I loved the bitter and acidic Texsun grapefruit juice in the can, which required the key to punch holes in the top lid. So we're supporting a local crop here. I decided to tempt fate and grab the sixer, just because I was so curious.

Shiner Ruby Redbird
$7/6 pack, 4% abv.

It's a lot better than it sounds, because it's not sweet or goofy. You get the full tang of the grapefruit and the sting of the ginger, without a bunch of unnecessary sweetness. At the same time, you don't get to appreciate much of the actual beer flavor, but somehow it all just works. I could even see myself dropping a sliced jalapeño pepper in there to add another dimension. I tasted this on its own during a sweltering Memphis afternoon, but a lot of the flavor reminded me of the various spiced lemonades that my Gujarati friend's mother would make when she came to town. And thus I will say that this beer would be absolutely perfect with Thai, Indian, or Vietnamese food. I was craving rich spices and exotic flavor combinations, and it's not often that you get a beer with the perfect acidity and spiciness to match such cuisines. Try it out, and let me know how it works for you.

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