It was on the evening of November 9, 1997 when America’s foremost beer genius created his most inspired offering of all time. On that Sunday, Homer Simpson walked into Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart and asked Apu Nahasapeemapetilon for that “beer with candy floating in it.” Unfortunately, he was dejected to learn... he’d only dreamt of SkittleBrau.
In the two decades hence, several legitimate candy-packed beers have hit the market. At The Answer brewpub in Richmond, Virginia, adjunct madman An Bui has made a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup-infused stout. In 2014, Long Island’s Barrage Brewing Company first made a batch of a Snickers brown ale using six pounds of broken-up “Fun Size” bars. St. Paul’s Urban Growler has created a cult hit with their candy corn ale.
“It started as a joke three years ago when we needed to come up with a fall beer,” co-owner Deb Loch told the Star Tribune.
Well, I like jokes. And so do many bloggers who, over the years, have figured out that producing an actual, tangible SkittleBrau would make for good viral #content. Unfortunately, all these folks simply dumped Skittles into humdrum macro-lagers. Even when Austin BeerWorks cheekily made a professional version just last year, they only utilized a light session ale as the base, with Skittles floating inside the cask.
With Halloween just around the corner, I thought I could to do better than that. I wanted to make the world’s best candy-packed beer, one that would make Homer proud. I wanted – no, I needed to figure out what was the absolute best beer style for SkittleBrau.
So, I hit up Duane Reade, grabbed a few bags of Skittles, and took them home to see if I could find the ultimate pairing of craft beer and candy-coated goodness.
Used: Hofbräu Original
It only seemed right to start with a beer that was actually a “bräu.” This Bavarian brewery’s quintessential lager fit the exercise to a T. They’ve brewed their “Original” beer since 1589; while Skittles Original have been produced in the U.S. since 1982. Hofbräu Original is slightly grassy with heavy notes of white bread. Skittles Original features grape, lemon, lime, orange, and strawberry. Together, it kind of works – with Hofbräu’s banana-y esters bolstered into a fruit cocktail. Homer was onto something!
6 out 10
Used: AleSmith Sublime Mexican Lager
Corona and other Mexican lagers have a long history of needing some fruity shit floating in them to taste even halfway decent – would an artificial lime (and oranges, etc.) work just as well? Indeed! Higher-end takes on Mexican lagers have become red hot in America of late, and AleSmith’s salvo into the style is quite good. The sweet, corny beer is mild and inoffensive and serves as a swell base for a sack of sucrose. An eponymous collaboration with the band that had that one guy who died, SkittleBrauing the beer was indeed... sublime.
7 out of 10
Used: Cisco Madaquet Double IPA
New England-style IPAs are by far the hottest style in beer today and I was bullish about how they would perform in this test. The reason these hazy beers are so popular is because they are so drinkable – you like fruit juice, you’ll probably like ’em. I was hoping SkittleBrauing a NEIPA would turn it into a candied mimosa of sorts. Cisco is not exactly a beer geek darling, but people are sleeping on their Madaquet, the new-ish release is as good as a lot of cans people are standing in line for these days. Unfortunately, the Skittles infusion muted Madaquet’s tropical flavors, instead bringing forward much more bitter notes. I got a Lupulin sting in the back of my throat, and drain poured this 'brau, bro.
3.5 out of 10
Used: Devil’s Backbone Pumpkin Hunter
’Tis the season. It only seemed fair to SkittleBrau a pumpkin beer what with Halloween en route. I don’t hate pumpkin beers like most people, but I don’t love them either, and I hardly expected this maneuver to work. But actually... it was kind of good! If pumpkin beers are really pumpkin pie beers – lacking “real” pumpkin flavors, instead heavy on pie spices – injecting some fruity candy into the mix worked. Instead of being overpowered by cinnamon, clove, and allspice, the strawberry, grape, and lemon sweetness balanced things out. One of the better pairings!
7 out of 10
Used: Redstone Meadery Sunshine Nectar
I’ll be totally honest with you: I had some mead lying around the house and figured “What the hell?” Now mead isn’t beer per se – it’s honey wine – but red hot purveyors like Schramm’s and Superstition have become superstars amongst the beer cognoscenti. Redstone, out of Colorado, is an older producer that is less ballyhooed. Many people can’t handle the sweetness and viscosity inherent in many meads, but I’m guessing folks that fuck with SkittleBrau don’t much care about that. The honey wine acted as an almost neutral conduit for the Skittles, turning the liquid into the sort of sweet syrup you might pour over some shaved ice. If you like that sorta thing, then this combo ain’t bad.
5 out of 10
Used: Blackberry Farm Classic Saison
I expected saison to be an unexpectedly good pairing, especially courtesy this world-class Tennessee purveyor. A spicy style backed by yeasty esters, it seemed like it would integrate well. Not in this case. The SkittleBrau smelled wonderfully sweet on the nose, but Brettanomyces notes in the underlying beer completely overwhelmed any candy tastes. I soldiered on, hoping it would improve, but by the bottom of my sample glass I had a syrupy, yeast-chunked mess. Gross.
2 out of 10
Used: Boulevard Berliner Weisse
SkittleBrauing a sour beer might seem like an offbeat pairing. But then you remember that, sweet syrups have long been added to traditional Berliners. Aha! The corn-yellow Berliner Weisse turned orangish almost immediately and was a sunset pinkish hue within minutes. (By the way, I should note that Skittles turn completely white within seconds, no matter what beer they are infusing.) Perhaps the astringent acidity of a Berliner is better able to strip a candy’s artificial flavors and integrate it into the beer, but no other SkittleBrau experiment infused quite as well. The candy notes balanced the Berliner Weisse’s tartness beautifully, giving the liquid a Sour Patch Kids-type quality. A total home run and our top pairing. Does Apu sell sours???
10 out of 10
Used: Hardywood Raspberry Stout
Stouts that seem more fit for a Cheesecake Factory menu are all the rage now – with adults preferring fudgey, vanilla-laced flavors over the roasty, espresso notes of the past. Surely we’d all love a little more artificial sugar in there then! Aware of this Richmond, Virginia beer’s high alchohol content and intensity of flavor, for this experiment I doubled the amount of Skittles as well as the time of infusion. Ultimately, it didn’t matter, nothing would allow the Skittles flavor to break through the cocoa nib and jammy raspberry adjuncts already there. A good beer, but one more potent than even fructose-laden factory-made candy. Taste the rainbow indeed.
1 out of 10
One final note: by the end of these SkittleBrau trials, I felt sick to my stomach.