Craft beer’s trendiest hop variety finally hits the macro lager scene. But…is it any good?
We first spotted Labatt Blue Citra via a post from a Michigan party store – of course — and it immediately piqued our interest. Citra hops? In the Canadian equivalent of Bud Light? Crazy, right?
Crazy, perhaps, but crazy in a way that demanded we give it a shot. So we did. One of us is a native Michigander and the other married into a Michigan family, so we know our way around a Blue Light or two, especially since it’s the Official Imported Beer of the Detroit Tigers. As such, we may be the most qualified beer dorks to deliver an official verdict on the beer.
Grab a coney (Detroit style from Lafayette, preferably) along with some some Better Maid chips and strap in for a look at LBC:
STEVE: If you grew up in Michigan – or Ohio – you likely grew up enjoying Labatt’s. (After you turned 21, of course.)
Many things change over time, including tastes, but for me, a trip to Detroit sporting event inevitably results in a Labatt’s at some point. Like Better Maid, Faygo and a good coney, Labatt’s is just part of home.
Among the things that have changed in time is my affinity for citra hops. The tropical citrus flavor bursts when done right and is among my favorites.
So when Labatt introduced their new Labatt Blue Citra, it appealed to me in multiple ways – a beer that both reminded me of home and a favorite hop. It’s not an IPA or a pale ale, which most probably associate with citra hops, but rather a “hoppy session lager” (per the Labatt website) and it also includes mosaic hops – not just citra, as the name might imply.
What you’re left with is a bit of a juicier lager, which doesn’t necessarily speak to what I’d expect from either. For me, it was refreshing, but didn’t provide that citra hop pop that I was hoping to find. It was Labatt’s, to be sure. Beyond that? It was alright. Maybe the nostalgia and love for citra just set my expectations too high.
That’s because when sharing it with others, much stronger responses resulted. Most notably from those who are less familiar with Labatt’s or even not that familiar with beer.
They loved it. Raved about it. Enjoyed the summery, citrusy taste they got from it. Said they wouldn’t hesitate to make it their go-to at a bar.
It’s still March, not quite yet Spring, and the Tigers aren’t out of it yet. Maybe I just need to try it again under a blazing sun at Comerica Park.
KARL: I’m mostly on the same wavelength with Steve on this one. I’m already planning at least one trip to Comerica this season (I’ll be rooting on the White Sox when they play the Tigers in September, or at least that’s the intent). Were I to cross paths with this beer under the late-summer sun, I don’t think I’d be too mad about it. Especially if it’s priced the same as the other mainstream lagers.
Unfortunately for Labatt Blue Citra, there’s plenty of other excellent beers at that ballpark, even in the cheap seats where we end up.
Which is not to say that Labatt Blue Citra is a bad beer. In fact, it serves up more than I expected — it’s got a nice deep copper color with plenty of clarity, a healthy amount of pillowy-white head retention, and … is that actual flavor to this session lager beyond corn and water?
It is! Saints be praised. To be honest the aroma doesn’t do it a ton of flavors; when I first cracked a can and gave it a pour, the first whiff was largely metallic and herbal with some offputting lager yeast character, but once it opened up I found myself beginning to appreciate it.
Yes, it’s too thin for my tastes to be a regular go-to beer, and I’m terrified to think about what sunlight might do to this, but otherwise? There’s some actual body to this beyond water, some light caramel notes on the malt side and while I don’t find the hopping to be too tropical, there’s some distinct and lingering hop bitterness that I never would have expected from a Labatt beer.
I also appreciate the Labatt team stretching their legs into something new with a core brand, and bending the arc of their beer universe in a craftier direction. Other breweries are content to just dump fruit flavors on their core beers, or worse, take a craft brand that they’ve purchased and make them the new face of their lightly hopped light later.
Labatt just went for it — they said screw it, let’s jam some fun hops into one of our beers and still call it a Labatt. It gives me hope that someday we might see a Miller IPL or an Anheuser-Busch All-Centennial Bud Select.
Disclosure: This beer was provided gratis for the purpose of a review. GDB makes the effort to tell you when we got free stuff for the sake of full transparency with you, our audience.