The pandemic has upset the apple cart of everyday life, impacting school, weddings, restaurants, sports, and even beer. Yes, beer! It’s no longer possible to spend lazy afternoons lounging at taprooms, sipping flights of fancy liquids. People are stocking up and heading home, cold cans providing comfort in a world gone crazy.
Only my beer choices are reassuringly normal. In addition to supporting my local breweries, I’ve filled my fridge with pilsners, pale ales, and IPAs from Bitburger, Sierra Nevada, and Firestone Walker—certified tickets to happiness, not disappointment.
In the Before Times, I would’ve gladly glugged every offbeat ferment. Glitter beer? Lucky Charms–inspired IPA? Spaghetti sauce–inspired sour ale? Bring it on. American brewing’s hallmark is boundary-free experimentation. If brewers can dream it, they can probably brew it.
It’s also a smart marketing move. Breweries can temporarily rise above a crowded market with gimmick beers, novel baubles to sprinkle around social media. Bull testicles in beer! I can’t believe it! What will those wacky brewers dream up next?
These beers injected levity into modern living, playful stunts and distractions from the nine-to-five drudgery. But do we really need distractions right now? In other words, is this the right moment for a mustard-inspired beer?
Late last month, Oskar Blues Brewery released French’s Mustard Beer to celebrate National Mustard Day, one of those made-up culinary holidays designed to get you to buy a specific food or beverage. (National Mustard Day is the first Saturday in August, should you care to add the date to your digital calendar.)
I reacted to the beer’s announcement with a big shrug. The classic French’s mustard has never been my favorite, nothing but puréed smooth, bright-yellow zip. I prefer to paint my hot dogs with condiments of great character: gritty brown, sinus-clearing spicy Dijon, or horseradish-infused mustards. (No ketchup, please. That’s for kids.)
Moreover, brewing beer with mustard seemed jarring. How do you incorporate and complement that twangy note? Oskar Blues built a beer based around a smooth wheat ale, then seasoned it with lemon, tangerine, key lime, lemon, and judicious squirts of French’s mustard. The recipe read like a Hawaiian vacation where you’re only fed ballpark hot dogs, but you can’t judge a beer on label alone.
With expectations lower than a reservoir during a drought, I filled my glass with glowing yellow liquid capped by a fine foam crown—that’s the wheat talking. I took a sniff, bracing myself for nostril-stinging vinegar tang, but the citrus sung loud and bright. The smooth beer drank lightly tart, the mustard’s spicy zing balanced by that bowlful of tropical fruit.
Reader, I consumed the entire beer. I did not crack another. As an experiment, the beer was a blazing success. It was not as bad I feared, but not good enough to crush by the six-pack. (The beer is pretty boss with a hot dog, however.) This is a common quandary for gimmick beers built around marketing campaigns. The messaging and storytelling are more enticing than the liquid itself. Oskar Blues did a bang-up job, but the greatest success of French’s Mustard Beer is that we’re discussing it during dire times.
Mustard beer is proof that we’ll relish any opportunity for delicious distraction.
Want to brew the beer? Here’s the recipe.