Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada
Who doesn’t love a Tiny Drink Umbrella?
When you’re served a drink containing one, you’re instantly brought to some island oasis, far from your cares, soaking up the sun and the surf and the stars.
That was certainly the intent when we devised our Tiny Drink Umbrella line. And, after a brief hiatus, we’re glad to bring it back with Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada, just in time for Labor Day Weekend!
Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada is the fifth in our Tiny Drink Umbrella line, but the first one to see the light of day since Cherry Limeade — a riff on our currently retired Foreshore Shandy — last summer.
“We envisioned it being a fun series where we’d come out with them every so often,” says Production Planning and Specialty Brewing Manager Brian Hink, “changing up the flavors as often as we’d like.”
“Between them,” Brian says, “we did another small-batch beer called Crushin’ It, which, well… spoiler alert, became a monster of a brand for us. We’ve brewed a ton of Crushin’ It in the past two years, and with all that orangery beery goodness went a lot of our tank space and focus as we looked for variants of Crushin’ It. Tiny Drink Umbrella kind of got lost, unfortunately, but I always believed in the line of beers and really liked not being tied down to everyone’s expectations of it being something like Crushin’ It.”
Last year, we did two more Tiny Drink Umbrella variants — Black Currant, Pomegranate, and Dark Cherry, and, of course, the Cherry Limeade. They went over well, but we made the decision to take some time away from the Tiny Drink Umbrella line.
But, over the winter, as we were planning seltzers for our first Floral Friday, Brian and Soda Guru JP Thomas spent some time devising those island drink-inspired seltzers, and Brian’s wheels began turning.
“Alcoholic Hawaiian Punch, Bay Breeze, Mai Tai, and a Piña Colada: all “beers” that couldn’t be further from the realm of beer, and I loved every bit of concocting them,” he recalls. “With the very first sip of the Piña Colada, I knew we’d be doing a beer inspired by it.
As summer approached, Brian knew that he wanted to add a Piña Colada to the Tiny Drink Umbrella line.
“It made too much sense not to,” he says. “After the first sip off the brite tank, I knew we made the right call.”
Of course it was. Piña coladas are delightful and refreshing. Who doesn’t love a delicious piña colada?!?
Well… Brian, for one.
“I’ve never had a piña colada before,” he admits. “I’m a beer drinker. Give me a beautifully simple Helles, a crisp and crushable Pilsner, all day crusher like Follow the Gull, or world-class, barrel-aged sours all day, any day. I just want to drink beer. I don’t drink mixed drinks and am a man better suited for a frozen tundra than an island oasis, so a piña colada is definitely not something I’m familiar with.”
But, he’d never had an orange crush before designing Crushin’ It, and things turned out just fine.
Regardless, that means that Brian needed to begin designing this beer by looking at piña colada recipes online.
“In this case, I wasn’t clouded by what I thought a piña colada should taste like,” he says. “I looked at countless recipes, variations, ‘best of’ lists, etc, to see the right ratios of pineapple to coconut and all of the other flavors in between.”
One of the flavors that continuously came up was lime. While it’s not typically considered an essential element of a piña colada, even a twist or a garnish adds some flavor to the finished drink and should be represented in the final beer.
“By this point, I’ve gotten pretty good at scaling ‘a freshly squeezed lime to garnish’ from a single serving up to a 1000-gallon batch size,” he says. “Going from ‘a kiss of lime’ to the over-the-top, in-your-face purple grape in The Purp is something we’ve gotten very accustomed to here.”
In addition to the “kiss of lime” — or an entire grove of lime trees, depending on the size of the batch — Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada features the traditional piña colada ingredients of pineapple and coconut, which we toasted in-house.
“I like the fresh toast bringing the oil out of the coconut,” Brian says, “which helps contribute to the mouthfeel, almost like the slickness that rye can bring. (Which makes me realize we should’ve used rye in the grain bill! Next time.)”
On the other hand, Lab Manager Lauren Appleman is notoriously ill-disposed to coconut.
“I don’t do coconut,” she says. “Partly because I associate the smell with sunscreen, and nobody wants to drink sunscreen, but I also think that part of my coconut aversion can be traced back to a bad night in college that involved a certain coconut rum and a drink that you could barely call orange juice.”
Unfortunately for her — but what sounds like heaven to us –, Lauren was scheduled to work while they were toasting the coconut.
“There wasn’t a spot in the brewery that you couldn’t smell it, much to my chagrin,” she says. “I was initially a little concerned that the coconut would be too overpowering, but it’s perfectly balanced with the pineapple and lime.”
Our malt bill of pilsner, wheat, and oats was augmented by a “heavy-handed” dose of maltodextrin to amplify the mouthfeel and body.
“It’s all about being a pillowy bedrest for all the wonderful fruit flavors,” Brian says.
“The maltodextrin really helps this beer lean into its ‘smoothie’ aspect,” Lauren says. “The maltodextrin helps give the beer that thicker body without adding too much sweetness to it. I’m also pretty appreciative that we chose to use maltodextrin rather than lactose. It would have given the beer a similar effect, but there are so many people who are intolerant to lactose, and they’ll have the chance to try Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada.”
You won’t find a ton of hops in Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada, either — only a bit of Sultana.
“A delicate touch of Sultana was used for its pineapple-like undertones,” Brian says. “For the most part, all of the hops are very much out of the way. There’s no room for bitterness in a beer like Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada.”
And our London Ale III yeast brings it all home, being the fruity ester-producing workhorse that it is.
Ultimately, we’ve learned a lot from the first five Tiny Drink Umbrellas — in a beer with as much fruit as these, it’s a delicate tightrope walk to balance the fruit and the beer.
“Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada has a thick, rich mouthfeel,” Brian says. “It’s not chewy like our first couple Tiny Drink Umbrellas were: we wanted this to be a good drinking experience, so it’s a smoother finish, but it’s still very much a smoothie ale for us.
“I haven’t been this excited about how well executed a beer came out in a long, long time.”
On its surface — and knowing Brian — he shouldn’t like this beer at all.
“I’m not a sweet beer drinker, don’t drink piña coladas, hate the beach and the sun,” he reminds us, “and I can’t get enough of this beer. Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada is everything a beer shouldn’t be and nothing it should. Yet, it’s stupendously drinkable — the epitome of what the TDU series was meant to be — and so fucking good.”
And even with her animosity toward coconut, Lauren is loving Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada, as well.
“Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada should definitely be an addition to those beach coolers this weekend,” Lauren says. “Cape May is close enough to being a tropical oasis, right?”
Add a Tiny Drink Umbrella, and we’ll agree, Lauren.
Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada is available only through the Tasting Room, beginning Friday at noon, $18.99+tax. You can pre-order Tiny Drink Umbrella: Piña Colada now.
Don’t miss it!