In the beginning there were lagers and ales and it was good. Styles begat sub-styles. Sours and smoke beers. Aged hops and dry hops several generations of begats later we have glitter beer leading to the current craze of brightly colored smoothie beers that you need sunglasses to look at like image above from local Arcadia brewery Mt. Lowe Brewing.
That is not all, we also have acronyms RTDs and FMBs. Ready to drink cocktails and flavored malt beverages. Purists have decried hard seltzers as a sweetened dumbing down of the beverage palate at worst or a fad that will die out at best, but a more positive spin is that these categories allow for fertile creative ground.
Starting with cocktails, Zaddy’s gin based drinks come in 12-ounce cans, but these are spiked with seltzer for a lower alcohol (4.5% ABV) version of classic recipes like G&T, Corpse Reviver and Gin Fizz. I preferred the bolder flavors in their Gin(ger) Fizz and the fennel in their Reviver. Traditional cocktail meets lower calorie and sessionability.
Beer slushies are another avenue for creativity. Micheladas have been around for a long time and we don’t give a second thought to beer and ice cream pairings, but the slushie gets a bit shunned. Granted Bud Light Seltzer Ice pops are an abomination but if pastry stouts can be a “thing,” why can’t other dessert options be explored? Perhaps a Kriek inspired iced version or an icy Radler.
Smoothie beers have also come under fire, but have found many fans. Yes, they might explode due to a combustible mix of fruit sugar and time. Yes, they might not be the most subtly flavored drinks, but it is a rabbit hole to follow. Basically, a smoothie beer is a kettle sour or Berliner Weisse base with the common denominator being an extremely large amount of unfermented fruit puree.
The question to ask when speaking of these alternatives is not why but who. Who might taste a slushie or smoothie or seltzer and then be intrigued enough to have a sour and then move on to wild ales? The key is to get curious drinkers in the taproom and show the whole range of beers and cocktails. One can be a fan of cider, Russian Imperial stouts and hard seltzer. Beer is not an either/or, it is AND.
Speaking of creativity and outside the box thinking, Homage Brewing based in a super tiny space in Pomona has been making some excellent and highly sought after fruited sours and saisons and now they have a second location in Chinatown near Highland Park Brewery’s second location.
The space is outdoor, indoor and upstairs with really large fans chopping the air above as well as a DJ station. One other unique attribute is that you may notice fruit boxes in the cooler along with the kegs. That fruit, be it strawberries, blueberries or grapes, is a key component of their beers like the super popular Purple Robots that I saw bottles of on practically every table.
Their beer menu is broken into three parts, dominated by the Saison and Wild section, but I would suggest trying something from the dark beer and hoppy/lighter groups as well to see their full range.