My kid fell down the other day. She said she did, anyway. I didn't actually see it happen. Sure, I'm skeptical—the kid's a liar. Say, ask her what her favorite snack is. Did she say blueberries again? Well, she's never eaten a blueberry in her damn life. A blueberry might as well be a charm quark for all she knows about 'em. Yesterday she said her favorite number was five. Well, what happened to the number 10, you flip-flopper?
I don't trust the kid as far as I can throw her (which is probably far as hell, if we're being realistic). But when she says she's hurt, I have to listen. I'm a good dad—maybe the best, depending on which coffee mug you're drinking out of—so I looked for a scratch or a torn ACL or something. Zippo. Hoodwinked again by the Boo-Boo Bandit. Still, nothing I said could convince her she was fine, so we had to have a Band-Aid.
That's having a kid in a nutshell: They can turn a small problem into a huge one just by using their fucking mind powers or whatever. And beer-wise, sometimes I wonder if the big macro-brewers are doing that with their incessant product development. The problem, as they see it, is that people are defecting to craft brews, small-batch whiskey, compulsive gambling, etc. Even Sam Adams is getting prickly about the shift in consumer tastes.
But, come on. There's no bigger brewer around here than Budweiser, and there probably never will be. AB InBev has Sam Adams money in its couch cushions, and Sammy's getting so big they're going to dig up the actual 1700s guy and make him do a keg stand for a 2019 Super Bowl ad. There's truly nothing to worry about here, and yet, look at all the band-aids.
MixxTails are Anheuser-Busch's latest offering in the beer-adjacent product category known as "flavored malt beverages." The name is, apparently, designed to be as close to a real word as possible while still denying the consumer any dignity in purchasing it. And as I was calling around looking for a place that had Bud Light MixxTail in stock (sorry to the lady who thought I was asking for Mix Tales, and also I'm coming back for those, whatever they are), I realized something: I really, really don't want to drink one. I don't want to go to the store and be forced to buy some absurd amount of the stuff to make sure I get to try every flavor, I don't want to wait until the kids go to bed to crack open my shame-liquor, and I don't want to participate in the transaction that allows this sort of unfortunately surrealist advertising to be plucked from the fever dreams of a disturbed child and beamed to television sets the world over. Not because it's Bud, though. It's because of this:
Look at those cold, dead eyes. My dude looks like an Armenian Rick Astley. You've never heard of Vincent Marcus, but your Vine-crazy niece has, and that's why he's pitching Mixxtails on Twitter. This kind of lazy garbage doesn't just bum me out because Vine "celebrities" are, like the social-media gurus who blazed the trail before them, utterly useless and generally bereft of interesting content. It doesn't just suck to realize that, before long, the likes of Cool Shirtman and Cayden Aiden are going to be bleeding over onto my actual television as craven ad execs turn up the Pander setting to 11.
No, what really gets my goat is that, even if there's a small part of you that believes Budweiser didn't develop this sugary, lower-ABV concoction to appeal to kids, it has to really push the limits of your credulity to believe they don't know who Jerry Purpdrank's audience is. This type of shit ain't for 35-year-olds.
But who knows if it's even working? Most of the search results on Twitter for "MixxTail" at launch time were these ghoulish hacks crowing about their fake hotel party. The other results were just me. It may not be the most glamorous pursuit, but I am The Beer Idiot. So I swallowed my pride (and a donut), and trudged out into the snow in search of Natural Flavors and Artificial Sweeteners. Eventually*, I found them.
Yes, a pack of Bud Light MixxTails is eight bottles at 11.5 fluid ounces apiece. And in my area, they are sold at 6-percent ABV. Perhaps there is some other state in the union where you may purchase a sensible amount of the product, but it is not mine, and so I spent roughly 40 damn dollars to assure that my audience received a thorough review of each godforsaken flavor. Here is the definitive MixxTail ranking:
#1: Hurricane/Firewalker (tie)
No other flavors placed. Okay, so there's only one other flavor, but still. I don't want to discourage people from drinking the Long Island variety, because life is fleeting, you should always reach for the stars, you can never piss into the same stream twice, etc. But it's gross. To be fair though, I really don't get down with booze + tea in general because both things are so good on their own that combining them can only be disappointing. I call it the Chet Haze Effect. I'd rather just have Tom Hanks, you know? Look at him up there, getting AIDS. That guy's a real cutup.
The other two styles are a good deal more drinkable, the Hurricane in particular being the flavor I went back to most often. It's basically fruit punch, though a permutation I concede will likely be too sweet for anyone not just weaning themselves off of actual Kool-Aid, which underscores the unsavoriness of the MixxTail social-media campaign definitively. There's really no trace of beer here, though, which is a different strike against AB's marketing machine altogether. Why do MixxTails need to be branded as Bud Light products? And, if the company is so worried about its image that it's now more or less copying the commercials of its trendier rivals, what kind of sense does it make to further dilute the flagship brand by attaching it to products that have as much to do with beer as most musical theater?
But the Firewalker flavor approximates decency, and it's probably the winner of what is probably the second-least-compelling race of all time. I really dreaded cracking the cap on this one, and so the fact that it didn't taste anything like fermented goat paste was a pleasant surprise. I misunderstood it to be some kind of abortive Goldschläger imitation, but the apple component adds a certain depth of flavor that was lacking in the other two-thirds of this grand experiment. Granted, the depth is less like something you'd find in a rich, marbled steak and more like the different colors of a piece of candy corn, but it's there, and by god, its good enough.
That's what I'd say about MixxTails in general, too: They're good enough. If you like the mixed drinks (or "cocktails," if you feel like getting ornery about it) they're supposed to be approximating, and you don't mind them being carbonated for some reason, then these will probably do in a pinch. But there are so many better malternatives out there, it's hard to recommend paying the price premium if you're just looking for something different.
So it's a hard pass on the Bud Light MixxTail for almost everyone, but I do suggest trying to take a swig from a stupid/rich friend's bottle to find out what you're missing. Oh, and see if they'll float me $40 while you're at it; the store won't let me return half-cases anymore.
*My wife insisted I make a note of the fact that the people at Anheuser Busch were extremely helpful when she called two separate distributors to confirm the locations of the elusive Mixxtails. Also, one of the truck drivers got her cell-phone number out of it, so congrats to him.
Bronzehammer is a recovering Deadspin commenter and beer not-drinker. You can watch him tell jokes on his Youtube Channel and tell him what sort of drinks really put hair on your chest on Twitter @Bronzehammer. The Beer Idiot is a biweekly-or-so Drunkspin complement; previous installments are available here and here.
Image by Sam Woolley.
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