Be Sweet | Goose Island/Japanese Breakfast
Summertime in Chicago means one thing – music festivals. Lollapalooza remains the biggest one every year but, depending on the acts the bill, the Pitchfork Music Festival sometimes has the better lineup. (I would argue that case this year.) With another Pitchfork Music Festival on the horizon, Goose Island once again created a beer specifically for the festival by collaborating with one of the participating artists. This year Japanese Breakfast has that collaborative honor with Be Sweet, a lager with natural persimmon flavor. (A big thanks to Goose Island for giving me a can of Be Sweet ahead of the release to review!)
Goose Island has done these collaborations for the Pitchfork Festival for 10 years now. (For a detailed rundown, see last year’s review of Better Distractions.) Goose Island chose to collaborate with someone who had a really good year last year – Michelle Zauner, better known as Japanese Breakfast. Zauner released her third studio album Jubilee that literally showed up on every end-of-year album list I looked at. Shortly before the album release, her book Crying in H Mart: A Memoir came out and debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. She soundtracked the Sable video game, got two Grammy nominations for Jubilee, met BTS, and had some post-Grammy hot dogs.
Be Sweet lager gets its name from the first single off of Jubilee. The can art was created by Mary Vertulfo and it’s fucking amazing. I half expected this was some gashapon thing and I’d be getting some toy after I opened it. It prominently features an anime styled Zauner on an orange background with pink accents. Based on a prop beer Vertulfo created for one of Japanese Breakfast’s videos, it really pops and would stand out on the shelf.
Unfortunately the Be Sweet Lager won’t see shelves at all. It will only be available at the Pitchfork Music Festival and at the Fulton St. taproom. Proceeds from the beer will benefit Heart of Dinner, an organization that combats food insecurity and isolation within NYC’s elderly Asian American community. So drink up!
Be Sweet lager pours a glowing golden color, just like a lager should. Two finger of puffy white head form that reduces to a half finger, then further to a thin coating. It takes a bit to get there though. Mine can chilled in the fridge before I opened it so some chill haze was present, but it cleared up to the point where I could see my fingerprints on the other side of the glass in direct light. Reminds me a lot of Better Distractions from last year!
Be Sweet lager aromatically balances the fruit notes and the lager-y notes. It starts off with some stone fruit or passion fruit nose flavors but repeated sniffs bring the lager to the fore. That lager features a bit of corn, wheat, and grain notes. I’ve never smelled (or eaten) a persimmon before so I don’t have a solid frame of reference of anything about it but there is some fruit note coming through. I’m guessing the persimmon also adds a yogurty aroma that comes off of Be Sweet as well.
Make no mistake – Be Sweet is a lager first and foremost. Creamed corn, grains and biscuit notes dominate the palate on the sip. The finish features a slight hint of tartness that I’m assuming comes from the persimmon juice. A touch of honey-like sweetness shows up throughout the sip as well but it never dominates the beer. It actually makes Be Sweet finish a bit heavier in the stomach than its 4.8% ABV would suggest.
That heaviness does help with the mouthfeel though. Coming in at a solid medium carbonation, Be Sweet stays full on the tongue, making it feel creamier on the tongue than you’d think. A bit of the tartness and biscuit notes hang around briefly but they move out of the way fairly fast. I prefer a crisper finish on my lagers, but this is perfectly fine and suitable.
While I don’t think I would crush multiple pours or cans of this at a mid-July music festival in Chicago (with its usual 90+ degree temperatures), it’s flavorful and interesting enough to warrant a purchase at the festival and a 4-pack at the Goose Island Fulton St. taproom. If you don’t go into drinking it thinking it’ll be sweet (because of the name) or very fruit-forward you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.
Oddly enough, it reminded me very much of Better Distractions from last year. Both had similar base lager notes and mouthfeel. The only thing really missing in Be Sweet comparatively is the lemony notes. Not surprising, both Better Distractions and Be Sweet received about the same rating from me. I’m nothing if not consistent.