Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quaff Review #7: Sparks Plus

It was obvious that the clerk at this particular 7-Eleven in North Hollywood doesn't often reckon with Ontarians who wander off the Metro Orange Line to buy one can of beer. He peered and squinted at my driver's license for what felt like a minute but was probably half that, and in the end told me to rattle off my birthdate before he was satisfied the ID was legitimate. I can understand - if, when I'd been working at one of my gas station jobs back around the turn of the millennium, someone had tried to pick up a pack of smokes with a California license as proof, I'd have probably needed to stare at it for a while myself.

Nevertheless, in the end it was all good, and I got my alcoholic drink. I'm hesitant to call it "beer," because I'm not sure if that's what it actually is, if only in the technical sense - the label calls it a "PREMIUM MALT BEVERAGE WITH NATURAL FLAVOR, CERTIFIED COLORS & FD&C YELLOW NUMBER 5." What I am sure of is that Sparks Plus, a product of Steel Brewing Company - a brand of Miller Brewing - in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the can asserts it is UNION MADE, is totally unlike any other beer I've ever had. What a surprise that this revelation would come out of the United States of America.

When I first took a drink, I found the name appropriate - an "appropriately electric taste" was my thought at the time, though it seemed more like a soft drink than a beer. After thinking on it for a while, I realized it wasn't a soft drink that this reminded me of, but an energy drink like Red Bull. Wikipedia not only tells me that I'm correct in this realization, but that until last year it was far more of an energy drink than a drink drink - before December 2008 it contained caffeine, while the 7.0% alcohol by volume content was merely a sideshow.

But "electric" covers a lot of ground. I found it to have something of a carbonated, citrus taste, and it went down smooth with no lingering aftertaste - always a plus in my book. It also struck me as the sort of beer that would taste horrible when warm. The head doesn't last long, though, and even when I poured more it wasn't rejuvenated.

This 473-mL (1 pint/18 fl. oz.) can cost me a little over $2 USD at 7-Eleven. I've never seen it for sale in Canada, and based on the way it blurs the line between energy drinks and hard drinks, I would be surprised if I ever did. It was only recently that caffeinated Mountain Dew became legal to sell here. For a quick drink in the United States, though, it was pretty good. I'd have it again, sooner if I didn't have to cross an international border to do so.


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