Jake and Travis Review: Traveler Beer Company (2013)
in which two old friends discuss three shandies from Traveler Beer Co.
Jake: Before we even crack things open — shandy. Shandies. Shandygaffs, according to Wikipedia. You familiar with the style?
Travis: Yes. It was first introduced to me years ago by a “Brittishmen” fellow, he mixed a Smirnoff Ice with a Budweiser, somehow making both awful beverages more palatable, and called it a “turbo-shandy” with a high-pitched pretentious laugh, I still hear it today. He further explained to my primitive American ears how “shandies” were combinations of beer and other carbonated fluids, or “soft beverages” I guess. The man was a walking pair of quotation marks. I hate him.
J: I’ve never even heard of them, to be honest, let alone had one (shandies, not Brittishmen). The only time I’ve seen the word “Shandy” is in the film A Cock and Bull Story, Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation of The Life and Times of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. I know you’re going to make fun of me for mentioning an independent foreign film right off the bat, Curran, but I also know for a fact that you loved his follow-up film The Trip, so don’t even front with me. What does the name “shandy” make you think of?
T: A tasty summer bev. But if we’re rolling with the free word association, which is what I believe you’re getting at, Christie, than it makes me think of “randy” which means sexually excited. And yes, shandies get me randy. There. I said it. Happy. Can we talk about the beer now.
J: Fine, I can see that you’re angry and/or randy. Let’s get on with this. This is a crazy press kit they’ve sent along. What have we got here?
T: A colorful press kit if I’ve ever seen one. And I’ve seen one. We have full page graphic images and words telling me about the beer, a really cool bottle opener, and.. moustaches.
J: What is with these fake moustaches anyway? Based on the colorful pages, these beers seem to be based around three moustachioed characters. When taste and smell are so closely related, do you think it’s a good idea to stick an adhesive fake moustache right under your nostrils before tasting some brew?
T: Yes. Especially when you are in need of a crafty disguise, in a pinch, amidst a grand caper, or such as a long-con, which, as you may know, we so often are, perchance, on, right now so don’t blow our cover, dude. Be. Cool.
J: You’re way more down with this than I thought you’d be. Looking dapper, which is not a surprise, but I thought you might blow off the whole whimsical moustachery thing.
T: Dude, I’m so down with the moustaches. So down. They are a little itchy, but I’m not going to whine about it. Quit whining about it.
J: What is going on today? Your “randy” and “angry” seem very closely related. I don’t know if I should calm you down or lay you down, you know what I mean? Like, on a bed? And are we gonna fight for this sweet bottle opener they included too?
T: Oh. We’ve been fighting. This is totally a fight. (I am going to win.)
Curious Traveler Shandy
“The Curious Traveler is our take on a classic European shandy that has been brewed for generations. We started with an American craft wheat ale, which delivers a crisp, light body. We then added fresh lemon and just a touch of lime to bring out a bright, juicy citrus aroma and flavor.”
J: First impressions? What’s this taste like to you?
T: Summer. It hits every mark that my brain registers as a seasonal brew. Light, wheat, sweet, sparkling. The beer is as tan as you’re trying to get. You’re on a porch, you have a cold glass bottle, and sunglasses. Your feet are up.
J: They started with a wheat ale — what do you think of the beer-to-fruit ratio?
T: Nailed it. I prefer wittes or heisffeweissbicss styles, as they say in books. The citrus notes don’t dominate, they just sort of drop in to party. It’s crispy on the tongue. I don’t toss around the phrase “hop profile” often or ever, but if I were to log into HopBook, I’d find the Curious Traveler linking to lemons, limes and maybe some grapefruit. But not making a big thing about it. I’m reminded of Allagash White. You see the bartender put a lemon wedge on the rim, and you have to remove it. This beer has enough already. You need not improve it. This happens too often.
Do you like fruit flavors in your beer? Or are you one of those holier-than-thou purists who can’t accept change or progress or god-forbid a step outside of the box you’re confined in, you poor, poor sap?
J: Forgive me, sir, if we do not define progress in the same way. I suppose you think a symphony could be improved by throwing in a few electric guitars and dubstep beats, not because they’re inherently better but just because they’re different and new.
Listen, I like fruit flavors in beer. We mentioned this in our last review, in fact — when we were still on speaking terms, before we had to have our representation set up this little tete-a-tete in a train car in Compiègne — when we talked about the subtle blueberry flavors of ABC’s Blueberry Ale. But I also like beer that tastes like beer. Are we cool?
This isn’t beer, exactly, but a shandy. It tastes a lot like a summer beer to me, particularly Geary’s Summer. A little citrusy, a little cake-y. A little sticky. How do you like the sweetness? Too sweet? Could you drink a couple in a row?
T: Absolutely. I possess a strong sweet tooth, so a couple of these dudes don’t bother me at all. It might be too sweet for some people. But not me. It’s the most “sessionable” choice of the press kit. Give me a cooler full of them and meet me at the beach. Then drive me home after. I will want to drive, but don’t let me. I noticed you make a face just now. Too sweet for you? You ever going to pick this beer up again? What if I threw one at you, on this beach I’ve mentioned, without warning. You’d still catch it, right?
J: I would catch that beautiful spiral, then I would spike it like an American football, and we would laugh at the cultural juxtaposition between European beverages and the grandstanding American style of football, and then we would open a couple more and toast. Yes, it is sweet for me — a little too sweet to be sessionable. I feel like my delicate stomach would get a tummy ache if I chugged a few. BUT. It’s not a chugger. It’s one to sip, in the sun, and it tastes kind of like sunlight, which is appropriate. I will meet you at that beach. I will take your keys. We will tan.
Time Traveler Shandy
“Time Traveler is a beer truly ahead of its time. A vibrant wheat beer brewed with real strawberry for a subtle yet complex flavor.”
J: How bout them strawberries?
T: We’re back to fruit again. And again, I am betting I’m “for it” and you’re “meh.”
I believe the shandy style inherently allows additional flavoring. The strawberry is great. It doesn’t feel forced, or too sweet, like you’d imagine strawberry-flavored candy. This is Strawberry for Adults. I don’t entirely agree with “Subtle yet complex” because, well, it’s strawberries. But they are mad tasty. Very sweet. Again, maybe too sweet for some [re: you]. The carbonation makes me think of soda pop again, but it’s a beer, and my mind is doing two things at once, but I like it. Because beer.
J: Listen, I get what you’re saying, but these aren’t beers to me — essentially, they’re mixed drinks. They’re supposed to taste like something mixed into a wheat beer, and to come in expecting anything else is foolish of me, like going to an XFL game (you remember the XFL?) and expecting them to play by NFL rules. Whole different game, friend.
I like wheat beers, I like strawberries. I’m not sure I like them in one glass. Give me a carton of strawberries and a beer to sip on while I eat them. Am I splitting hairs?
T: Oh man, that is a good idea. But, akin to the XFL, better in theory. I think a strawberry shandy is an incredibly awesome idea, like the XFL was. But, like the XFL, it was not the National Football League. Which would be strawberry flavored beer in this metaphor. A different game. Different rules. Hotter cheerleaders.
Did you ever pick strawberries as a child, and get your fat fingers all red because you ate so many?
J: You’re trying to win me over with sentimentality. I am back there, in that field, back then, but also right now, in my mind. And you are the one whose fingers are fat. I kept these babies lean.
This looks the same as the first one — according to the notes, these are all based on the same beer with the same malt and hops. Do you feel like they’re trying to pull something over on us, like simply adding different varieties of crystal lite to the same beer?
T: First, that’s disgusting, you’re a troglodyte. Second, it’s Cristal. Third, no.
I find the three choices an excellent mix. They did it right the first time. Too often you’ll see a brewery roll out a cross section of styles. Here’s our IPA, our porter, our wacky cask-aged coconut-almond double black belgian ale. Some are hits, some are misses. The Traveler guys picked one style, found ingredients that tasted good, and created varieties on that pattern. No bullshit. Hats off. Would you prefer they tried reaching more? Flexing more? Is this all just a game to you?
J: Point to you, Curran. 40-Love, or whatever they say in shandygaffland. I’m totally with you on the schizophrenic stables of a lot of craft brewers. It’s that novelty thing I was talking about earlier — just because something is different and new does not mean it’s an improvement. It seems I have been hoisted on my own pitard. Is this that long con you were talking about? Is this (us) just a game to you?
No, I wouldn’t prefer they reach more. They have picked their style and perfected it. I’m just not sure this is a style that I’m down with. It ain’t you, babe, Traveler Beer Company, it’s me. I came in expecting a beer — maybe with preconceived notions — and this is something different. (And, I’m sure you would argue, Curran, something more?) Now, this one’s called Time Traveler. Do you feel like you’re traveling through time?
T: Yes, back to a time when you had better taste. This lively discourse makes me fawn for the golden years of our friendship, not this masquerade that becomes more fraudulent each time you try to defend your awful opinion.
Tenacious Traveler Shandy
“The Tenacious Traveler is invigorating, breaking from the norm of traditional Shandys. A persistent fellow with a spicy disposition, TT is a bright, vibrant wheat beer made with real ginger and clover honey that delivers the perfect balance between sweet and spice.”
J: This one has ginger as a wild card, to make it a little spicier than the others. Is that okay with you?
T: Okay? OKAY??! This is the BEST ONE. JAKE. WHY CAN’T YOU GET ON THIS BEER’S LEVEL.
J: I AM DOWN. STOP YELLING AT ME, I CAN’T HEAR MYSELF DRINK.
Ginger for spice and honey for sweetness — how’s the combo? Do you wish they’d tried to go straight-up spicy for this one, or would that be too unshandygafflike?
T: Tenacity is the operative word, operating as an adjective, that is delivering this fine brew to my subjective reality right now. It’s refreshing, the ginger is snappy, and perfectly balances with the sweetness that was too abundant in the last two. I’ve known ginger beers that are too spicy, and the Tenacious Traveler puts them to shame. I… I almost want to say “mouthfeel,” that is how good my mouth is feeling right now. It looks good, it smells good. (You could probably ask this beer for advice in regards to the last two sentiments. Jake.)
Shut it down. Thanks for playing.
J: I like this one, okay? In our first review — in friendlier times — we talked about Angry Orchard Cider, and how much we enjoyed the ginger. I particularly mentioned the ginger, if you’ll recall. If those times haven’t been clouded by the impermeable cloud of rage that has become your life.
Yes, the first two beers were too sweet for me. But the snap and spice of ginger make this my favorite one. Still doesn’t taste like beer to me, but it has that sunshiney taste of something that I’d sip on a deck, or on a beach, remembering the times when we were friends. Maybe. I don’t know anymore. I don’t know if I’m sold on shandys, or us. Are you?
T: Like so many years ago with the Britannic shandy-alchemist, yes. Shandys are excellent. Imagine the first man who poured milk in his coffee, or listened to Dark Side of the Moon while watching The Wizard of Oz? Life is full of beautiful stand alone elements. But sometimes you discover the beauty of the blend. Things mix well. Like you and I. What would I be without you. I take it all back, Jake. You’re a smart, intelligent and aromatic friend. Let’s call the whole thing off, queue up some Braveheart, grab some beers and revisit the good times. I’ll drink some Tenacious Travelers, like a hungry angry baby, and you can purchase and sip on whatever local artisanal crafty micro-growler horsewater you’re pining about next week.
J: All is forgiven, old friend, for William Wallace, new drink styles, and Freedom.