Last year saw the release of Bud Light Lime Lime-A-Rita, a malt beverage that, not surprisingly, appeared to be something between a beer and a margarita. Also not surprisingly, the release was greeted with something akin to wailing and gnashing of teeth, at least from cocktail and beer purists.

Despite the contempt of the purists, it seems that Budweiser might have been on to something, because it’s been a fantastically successful new product. In just eight months, it sold more than 500,000 barrels and  became the leading flavored malt beverage brand on the market. The critics could wail all they liked, but Lime-A-Rita was the second biggest selling new alcoholic product released in 2012 (Bud Light Platinum snagged the title, giving Budweiser the one-two punch).

Now, an admission – TheBeerLady is one of those who greeted the Lime-A-Rita with disdain. While not fanatical about it, I am enough of a cocktail snob to have no patience with flavored malt beverages, and my inner beer geek cringes at the thought of Bud Light Lime. As a result, I didn’t give the shortest of passing thoughts to even trying it out.

This year, the Budweiser team expands again with the introduction of Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita. In case the name doesn’t make it obvious, the Straw-Ber-Rita is a strawberry flavored Lime-A-Rita. (Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth commence.) Since I had refused to try Lime-A-Rita, I initially saw no reason to consider the Straw-Ber-Rita.

But then I started thinking. Was I being too much of a cocktail snob? Was it unfair to condemn the Lime-A-Rita and its Straw-Ber-Rita sister without so much as a sip of either? Should I reconsider my decision to walk past the store display with my nose in the air? In the end, none of this pondering led to my decision to dabble in the flavored malt beverage pool. Frankly, I tried them because Budweiser offered to send me the samples.

The shiny little cans looked out of place nestled among the craft beers in my refrigerator, but I couldn’t help feeling the same excitement that always comes with sampling a new product: equal parts happy anticipation and creeping dread, leading up to that magic moment, the first taste. Will it be a delightful new find, or relegated to the trash ASAP?

With my general bias against any CMB (cereal malt beverages) that doesn’t fall into the craft beer category, I have to admit, I was pre-disposed towards the ‘relegated to the trash’ option, which made my first sip of Lime-A-Rita a nice surprise. It didn’t taste much like a Margarita, but it was still pleasant enough. There is little to no beer flavor, just lime with a bit of salt. There’s not much in the way of tequila flavor (probably because there’s no tequila), but there also was no tequila burn. Lime-A-Rita is lightly carbonated, so there was enough fizz to be interesting without being overly bubbly.

Newly optimistic, I turned to the Straw-Ber-Rita. On opening, there was only the faintest smell of anything berry-ish, more reminiscent of strawberry candy than a real strawberry aroma. The taste was more of fake strawberry flavoring as well, although it wasn’t very pronounced. It was more an impression of additional sweetness than of actual berries. That said, it was far from the canned disaster I was so prepared to scorn.

So setting aside the beer geek and cocktail snob expectations, when the sampling was over, I was forced to admit that I did enjoy both drinks, preferring the Lime-A-Rita to the Straw-Ber-Rita. It’s not a replacement for a good margarita, but I can easily imagine popping open a can at a picnic or while relaxing on the patio. With its light carbonation and flavor, possibly several cans.

A few tips to get the most from either:

  • Make sure it’s icy cold. There are no complex flavors to be unlocked by drinking it warm.
  • Ignore the temptation to pour it over ice.
  • Steal a trick – and a lime – from your Corona, and add a spritz of fresh juice. As with so many cocktails, a bit of lime brightens the flavor nicely.