In a world where beer is treated like liquid gold, why shouldn’t it sparkle? The irresistible edible glitter trend has arrived and brewers all over have twinkles in their eyes. Glitter beer gets its iridescent glow by adding luster dust to the brewing process or just prior to tapping. Think Goldschläger and that Mariah Carey movie—it sounds like a good idea at first, but is does glitter beer have any appeal beyond Instagram fodder?
Glitter beers began popping up across the U.S. in 2016 and 2017, thanks to breweries like Three Weavers in Inglewood, California and Bold Missy in Charlotte, North Carolina, which released a “Trapper Keeper” saison as a gleaming tribute to Lisa Frank. Last week, Solemn Oath Brewery of Naperville, Illinois debuted the Chicago area’s first glitter beer in a magical collaboration. Solemn Oath partnered with Whinny City Pony Con, a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic convention to put a shiny spin on its IPA.
Horse of a Different Color
If glitter beer is a head scratcher, try navigating a My Little Pony convention. Especially one where an “Old Chicago” theme inspired attendees to dress up as cartoon horses dressed up as flappers. Whinny City Pony Con founder Charlie Worthley, who is also a taproom regular, spearheaded the collaboration.
“I feel strongly that there's a place for everyone in the beer community,” says Andrew Mason, Solemn Oath’s Director of Beer Ops. “I'm glad that we were able to do something cool and fun for our Old Order Member (Solemn Oath’s special release loyalty program) Charlie, who is also one of the Whinny City Organizers.”
The “Bronies,” teenage and adult My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans, who packed the sold-out Solemn Oath beer tasting at the convention came in every shape and color. Rainbow manes and pony ear headbands crowned whimsically dressed men and women. Whether a Des Moines mom grateful to sip a beer during a weekend dedicated to her kids, or a suburban twenty-something who’s been traveling to My Little Pony conventions around the country since he was eleven, bronies agree that the community’s biggest draw is positivity.
Spend a while in the world of Bronies, and the connection to craft beer becomes more obvious. The DIY ethos, flair for the dramatic and creativity to put a pony-fied spin on anything recall the experimental attitude of beloved breweries. There’s also the cult following.
For Solemn Oath, adding luster was a no-brainer when it was time to pony up to the Whinny City collaboration beer. Edible luster dust, unlike the “non-toxic” variety of glitter is safe for consumption. Glitter beer is typically made in small batches and added to individual kegs to prevent the luster from invading the tank and brewing system.
"We had to approach it from a practicality point of view when it came down to timeline and beer availability,” says Mason. “We weren't going to be able to make an entire batch for our favorite bronies, but we could take existing beer and do something fun with it.”
Solemn Oath started with their Snaggletooth Bandana, an American IPA that already has some tropical character from the hops, and boosted the fruity flavor profile by adding pink guava. Then the magic happened—a few grams of edible luster was added to the finished beer right before packaging. Solemn Oath only added a tiny amount of luster to the volume of beer to achieve the desired “glitter level.”
The result is a hazy, shimmering beauty of a thing. The Whinny City Collaboration is an American India Pale Ale at 6.5% ABV. The cloudy consistency and sheen signal something that shouldn’t go in your mouth, but who can resist shiny things, especially when they are adorned in a label depicting a grim reaper riding a galloping pony against a rainbow burst background? Whinny City punches up the already approachable Snaggletooth Bandana’s fruit factor while the guava sweetness is cut by light hops. It’s an especially drinkable option for the IPA-apprehensive. The edible luster has no effect on mouthfeel or flavor of the beer.
The thing about edible luster is that dissolves. The good news is that it breaks down in your body so you won’t be peeing glitter. The bad news is that glitter beer doesn’t stay sparkly for long. The glitter beer served at Whinny City Pony Con’s beer tasting had already lost its luster. A glow was visible when holding the beer up to a light, but otherwise appeared merely cloudy.
According to Mason, adding the guava to the beer throws a pectin haze, which makes the glitter harder to see. “If it was a brilliantly bright beer the luster would be more obvious, but we were going for flavor profile with the guava and I didn't want to sacrifice on that,” he says. Perhaps the limited life this particulat unfiltered and unpasteurized glitter beer makes it even more enticing.