Every day, the line between beer and cocktails blurs a little bit more. Cocktailians are more open to including beer and breweries are pioneering canned mixed drinks. But there is an uncomfortable middle ground that’s yet to be settled—an uncanny valley where beers and cocktails begin to masquerade as one another. In this strange land sits Great Lakes’ new Buckin’ Mule, a beer that imitates the Moscow Mule with undeniable aplomb. While a more cerebral drinker may wonder if this beer is a sign that brewing ingenuity has gone too far, I can’t help but enjoy this spicy chimera from Cleveland.
Appearance and Aroma
Don’t expect the golden amber of the typical Moscow Mule. Buckin’ Mule is a classic-looking beer, a crisp toasted brown that you would expect from a cream ale. It’s also not nearly as fizzy, and the head disappears hasilty after being poured. The scent, however is a cocktail-friendly combination of malt and lime. The ginger comes through smelling like candy, adopting the sweet malt of the base beer. It doesn’t go very far, though. By the time you’re halfway through the beer, the aroma mellows until it’s almost indistinguishable.
It’s easy to discern which side of the beer and cocktail divide Buckin’ Mule falls on. This is first and foremost a beer.”
It’s easy to discern which side of the beer and cocktail divide Buckin’ Mule falls on. This is first and foremost a beer. It’s a rich ale with a bright pop of grapefruit-y hops as well as some ginger and lime stirred in. That’s not to say it’s enjoyable—there’s a great satisfaction in being able to get the essence of a cocktail in a different form—but calling Buckin’ Mule a “Moscow Mule ale” feels like an overpromise.
Being the best of both worlds is a best-case scenario, and reality rarely works out that way. Such is the case of Buckin’ Mule, a beer that falls short of its beverage-bridging ambition. If you like beer, you’ll probably enjoy Buckin’ Mule, but if you’re looking for a low-ABV alternative to the ginger beer cocktail, you’re better off just halving the serving of vodka.