What's With The Slice?

Bev Blackwood - Good beer doesn't need a slice of fruit.

I am a big fan of the sampler set, yet there’s one thing that always makes me lift an eyebrow when I see it, as I did on my recent trip. The dreaded “lime sidecar.”You know what I mean, the wedge of lime, orange or lemon perching on the rim of the glass. 

The beer in question was billed as a “Mexican Amber” which would suggest a Vienna Lager style beer, albeit a bit light on the toasted malt character, a- la Dos Equis Amber. I know it’s traditional to add a wedge of lime to Corona, but let’s face it, you have to do something to a macro beer whose primary selling point is that it’s bland, fizzy and yellow. A craft brewed amber should have enough malt backbone to make adding additional flavorings pointless. Even so, if the brewer’s intent was to make a Lime Amber, do they not have the skill to get the flavors into the beer? To my eyes (and palate) the lime wedge was nothing short of a marketing gimmick, to sell the “Mexican” aspect of the beer.

Of course, the good folks at a certain brewery would have you believe that a slice of orange should accompany their witbier, yet the whole point of making a witbier is to put the citrus IN the beer by way of the dried orange peel.Shoving an orange slice on the glass is simply decorative (and reinforces to the uniformed drinker that they should taste orange in the beer. I.E. it’s the power of suggestion).

My point is that brewers can include anything they want in their beer. Unlike wine, which is limited to a single (albeit widely varied) ingredient, the brewer can pull in ingredients from the spice rack, botanicals, seasonal fruits, vegetables, even livestock (do a search on “cock ale” if you don’t believe me) to get the flavors they want in their beer. To me, the lime wedge suggests some failing in the beer itself, that it’s somehow not interesting enough to stand on its own. Don’t get me wrong, if you want a lime wedge in your beer, ask for it! I won’t stop you. What I will do, though is question the quality of the beer, the skill of the brewer and the cultural implication that anything Mexican is best served with a slice of lime. 

The first time I ever made a spice beer for Michael, it required a copious addition of cinnamon and nutmeg, not just once, but twice. We had tasted the beer and the flavor was overwhelming. We called him up to question the wisdom of the second addition. Turns out, that was exactly what he wanted.By the time that holiday ale was packaged and distributed, he explained, it’d be right where he wanted it, since spices fade fairly quickly. The one thing he didn’t suggest though, was that we try it with a slice of lime.

The Author:

Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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