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Kelsey drinks beer: Sol Crusher
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Pontoon Brewing's Sol Crusher - photo by Austin Steele

Mexican-style lager, Vienna lager — tomato, tamahto.

The Mexican-style lager’s roots date back to the end of the 19th century, when German and Austrian immigrants took their Vienna lager brewing tradition to Mexico.

Sol Crusher

Brewery: Pontoon Brewing Co.

Alcohol by volume: 5.3 %

Style: Fruited Mexican-style lager

Bottom line: Refreshing prickly pear-enhanced lager

John Moorhead of the American Homebrewers Association writes that “the beer’s influence greatly grew when Maximilian I, a Vienna-born member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico in 1864.”

Today this type of beer is brewed throughout microbreweries in Mexico and the U.S. Its refreshing flavor is a summer-beer lover’s dream.

This month Pontoon Brewing Co. celebrated Cinco de Mayo by dropping its first Mexican-style lager — Sol Crusher.

As customary for Pontoon Brewing, the brewers decided to add an exotic twist to the beer by adding limes and prickly pears.

“There are a bunch of ways to process prickly pear and get it into the beer,” Stephen Upchurch, brewer at Pontoon Brewing said. “Just enough was added to get it on the nose and the palate to stand up to the Vienna lager.”

When referring to the beer, you’ll notice that Upchurch switches between calling it a Vienna lager and Mexican-style lager. He said this is because “stylistically and recipe wise, they’re more similar than different.”

Since releasing the beer, Upchurch said people have been flooding the brewery with positive feedback. It’s safe to say that the beer will most likely make another appearance next year.

“When people drink the beer I hope that they have something fun, different, light and approachable that they can enjoy through the summer,” Upchurch said.

I hate to say that I judged this beer by its cover, but the colorful Aztec-looking face on the can was what initially drew me to the beer. The design kind of reminded me of the original Crash Bandicoot games, which will forever hold a special place in me heart. So, obviously I had to pick up the beer.

I can get down with a Mexican-style lager. They’re crisp, refreshing, light — basically the ideal yard work beer.

Pontoon Brewing hit the mark when it came to incorporating the tropical flavor of a prickly pear into the beer. If you haven’t tried a raw prickly pear, you should. Even if you’re not a fan of the flavor, you can at least admire the pulp’s shocking, vibrant magenta color.

With the Sol Crusher, the prickly pear didn’t settle for subtleness. It barreled onto my palate, offering its characteristic melon-like notes. It didn’t dominate the lager’s soft hop profile and malt bill — a brewer’s term used to describe a brew’s malt and its flavor — like many other melon beers tend to do.

I thoroughly enjoyed Pontoon Brewing’s take on a Mexican-style lager, and I hope they keep it as a seasonal brew.

Pontoon Brewing is located at 8601 Dunwoody Place in Sandy Springs. For more information about the brewery’s current and upcoming brews, visit pontoonbrewing.com.
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