Working my second job at a beer store has been one part blessing and two parts problem. The effort provides me with supplemental income, which is great, and it gets me out of my house and forces me to put on pants. I’ve made some good friends and it’s a generally nice change from the lifestyle I had for several years prior.
Countering that, I’m fatter now, and I end up with way too much beer in my house. The ongoing count is anywhere from 120-200 beers present at any given time, typically replenishing faster than I can drink them. Still, the consumption and study of beer is now part hobby, part vice by convenience, and part duty – we at the store like to have an answer when someone asks, “What’s this like?” which naturally means we have to try it all.
Most of what I bring home is good stuff. Craft beer, local products, and rare releases from some favorite breweries. But as a growing connoisseur of the craft, I also have a keen interest in the terrible corners of beer production. I like to try the spectrum of products, and for months have had my eye trained on a particularly awful-looking variety pack of Twisted Tea cans ever-present within the walls of our licentious establishment.
Fortunately, today was the day a variety pack went out of code. (And let me tell you, it takes a long time for this bullshit to expire.) We put the majority of the cans in the handy clearance crate where we offload past-date beers for $1 each (colloquially referred to as the “fuck-it bucket”) and I relegated one can of each for my own personal amusement. I have never previously experienced any products from this line, so I started with the basic Twisted Tea.
Cracking the tab, I already felt like a fatter, sloppier man. I raised the can to my nose, gently wafting the offering’s chemically-produced tea-like aromas. They say it’s made with “select teas,” whatever that translates to, but I can’t confirm or deny the presence of actual tea. The smell isn’t far from Brisk or some other pseudo-tea drink, but let’s face it — Brisk is iced tea as much as cat feces and grass clippings are a cheeseburger.
The flavor isn’t far off from a Brisk; the sweet and dry initial offering of whatever actual tea may be used in this concoction is combined with some medicinal lemon cleaner, swiftly followed by an uncomfortable metallic bile not dissimilar from the aftertaste following a painful empty-stomach vomit session. Nothing improves as time progresses, the warming of the product making even less enjoyable. If anything, Twisted Tea leaves you wishing it were, in fact, a Brisk tea — and if Brisk tea is the bar by which we’re measuring the quality of canned tea-ish beverages, that’s a shame.
Twisted Tea is basically the flavor of disappointment, yet exactly what I imagined.
Next up was Twisted Tea Raspberry, which, let’s face it, I was expecting to taste like Raspberry Brisk. Years ago, as a teenager with no palate or life experience, with an unfortunately high level of braggadocios overconfidence, and a diet comprised largely of Hot Pockets and Wendy’s chili, I would pound Brisk Raspberry teas like a zealot and exclaim “That’s Brisk, Baby!” as if I were the first and most hilarious person to ever connect an ad campaign with reality. Now, as an adult with a Gran Torino worldview and an obsequious dedication to my own preferences and rituals, I’d be hard pressed to recall the last time I consumed a canned raspberry tea. Maybe it’s something about the raspberry flavor being produced from beaver anal glands. I dunno.
Anyway, again falling short of my low expectations, Twisted Tea Raspberry does taste somewhat like Raspberry Brisk, if only the Raspberry Brisk were first laced with ground-up berry Tums and filtered through the pubic hair of an end-of-shift coal miner. Granted, I’ve consumed far-worse beverages (Frank’s Red Hot Malt Liquor?) but didn’t pay money for any of them (except Wild Blue, holy crap, what a painful abomination).
As to whether or not Raspberry is better or worse than its sans-raspberry brethren, it’s hard to say. It’s like having two different Taco Bell patrons fart on either side of your face while slapping you with unrefrigerated herrings as they ask you which Beach Boys song used a bicycle horn as a background instrument. The answer is just not important, though it’s “You Still Believe in Me,” the chorus of which is “I want to cry,” so maybe it connects after all.
Next up: Twisted Tea Half & Half. This was clearly derived by someone who despises the game of golf, as there’s no better way to dishonor the late, great Arnold Palmer than by sullying his namesake fluid mixture by incorporating it into the Twisted Tea line of canned beverage debauchery. “Hard Iced Tea with Lemonade Flavor” they write on the can — a delightful combination of non-things they attempt to disguise as real-things. This product smells exactly like standard Twisted Tea but somehow manages to taste even more deplorable. The ‘lemonade flavor’ element is so extraordinarily artificial that it’s a downright travesty. Literally all that is required to produce actual lemonade is water, sugar, and lemons. Seeing as this beverage has the first two ingredients in spades, it seems a short reach to include real lemon and not “lemonade flavor,” which is no doubt extracted from the drainage pipe of the little hand washing sinks in Bath & Body Works where you can sample the seasonal soaps. Surely this beverage could be weaponized for corrosive purposes.
Finally, the mack-daddy of Twisted Tea. The one I had been anxiously awaiting for over a year. The most illogical, disturbing, unfortunate variation of this product line: Twisted Tea Bourbon Barrel. “Malt beverage with select teas and natural flavors aged on bourbon barrel staves.”
For no sensible reason at all, the product smells like someone canned the liquid inside of Gushers and added an alcohol-based children’s cough suppressant. Taking a sip, the flavor which entered my mouth was the taste of pure self-loathing. I recoiled in agony like I had just fired a poorly-held shotgun that kicked back into my ribcage, but the reality was much more painful. This beverage retained a hint of its original “tea” self, with something more reminiscent of watered-down RC Cola and a bit of sweet barbecue sauce you’d find on a pork sandwich at a sketchy gas station. Having consumed so many fine, top-tier, actual bourbon barrel beverages, I perceive this as the beer equivalent of ordering pizza from the “American” section of a Chinese restaurant’s menu. It’s like going to see a cover band of The Machine, which is already a tribute band of Pink Floyd. It’s like Shredded Wheat, pickle, and meatloaf-flavored chewing gum – it just shouldn’t exist.
After a few sips, I decided the remaining contents of all four of these cans needed to visit the pipes under my home and wash away in everlasting harmony with the other suburban excrement flowing beneath the street. Godspeed, Twisted Tea, and good riddance.