Take, for example, this beer that we have in front of us. It's Buffalo Bill's Orange Blossom Cream Ale, from Baywood, California. It tastes like an alcoholic Orangina, or a beer mimosa, this subtle citrus ale that seems tailor-made for a big-ass bacon-and-egg breakfast. It's soft, and hits with a splash of orange and a dollop of honey that sticks in the mouth long after the swallow has passed into memory. In fact, the burp that arrives a moment later is all orange, no beer. How interesting. We're drinking one, and it's 10 a.m., and it seems perfectly natural. And we're not even lushes!
Sticklers argue that this ain't beer but alcoholic Kool-Aid. Well, we're not going to argue with them. In the past few years the beer industry has gone all girly on us, it's true, what with chocolate-cherry beer, Budweiser's guarana-infused B-to-the-E, peach beer, coffee beer. It's as though, once untethered, the beer rules have gone all haywire. Next thing you know, we'll be seeing savory infusions -- asparagus beer, anyone? But these beers don't negate the existence of a good pint of Bass or a can of Stag. No one's forcing you to drink priss-beer.
But this is orange beer, and we rank a good orange up there with some of the best pleasures in life -- Steven Millhauser's recent story in McSweeney's; a fresh artichoke heart dipped in butter; Prince's "When You Were Mine"; an afternoon orgasm -- and this year's crop of citrus has been excellent. The oranges, both organic and not, have been chin-dribblingly juicy and as sweet as an Orange Crush.
You can buy a six-pack of Orange Blossom at Wild Oats on Ladue Road. In fact, we recommend it. Where Whole Foods down the road draws all the fancy Martha Stewart types looking for the latest in designer foods, Wild Oats quietly chugs along, offering better prices and a less-cluttered, less-stressful shopping experience. You can always find a parking spot, a decent bunch of chard, a delicious helping of to-go sushi and a nice smoothie. They've got an excellent beer selection and a nice, if humble, wine rack. No, the free samples aren't as forthcoming, but that's a small price to pay for more comfort and less clutter. What's best, we always see people we know here; it's as though the city folk prefer the Oats, and the county dwellers stick to Whole Foods. Well, let 'em have their fancy digs. We'll stick with the simple life.