One of the best aspects of the craft-beer scene is that nothing is off the menu. There’s room for bombastic barrel-aged stouts on the same tap list that might accommodate heavily fruited wild ales or hop-bomb IPAs. Centuries-old beer styles mingle with exotic hybrids, served in a flight with hard seltzer and saisons crafted with locally foraged ingredients.
It’s more fun than what the masses are drinking, no? But that’s a false dichotomy, and craft breweries are proving to be more and more comfortable dipping their toes into the world of light lagers, malt liquors, adjunct brews and other beers previously looked down upon by dedicated drinkers.
St. Petersburg’s Cage Brewing is the perfect place for this kind of dabbling. Its menu is as likely to sport a 13-percent mango triple IPA or a peanut butter-and-chocolate porter as it is a traditional IPA or pub ale. You’ll find a house knockoff of Pabst Blue Ribbon, too, as well as a riff on Michelob Ultra, if you can believe it.
That last beer, Cage Ultra — obviously — checks all the boxes that Michelob Ultra fans are looking for: low carb, low calorie, easy drinking. It has 2.5g of carbs and is purportedly only 91 calories, which doesn’t seem too far-fetched given that it clocks in at a mere 3.5-percent alcohol by volume.
Appearance-wise, this is definitely a macro-style ultralight lager. It is straw yellow and has a fizzy white head that dissipated almost immediately. Points for accuracy. The nose is less neutral than Cage Ultra’s inspiration, with some pleasant grain notes and a hint of hops hanging out somewhere in the distance.
The beer actually tastes pleasant. These extremely light beers often give the impression of seltzer water coupled with a vague suggestion of beer, but Cage Ultra is remarkably robust for its diminutive alcohol and calorie count. Is it a full-bodied craft lager? No. But it’s a heck of a lot more craft-like than a slim can of lager pulled from a cooler during a beach volleyball session.
Whether or not there’s a market for craft versions of the most ridiculed macro styles remains to be seen, but Cage is out there doing it, and that’s worth some recognition. Swing by the tasting room at 2001 First Ave. S to try it for yourself — a lime-flavored version is also available — and if you don’t like it, you’ll find a menu full of other options, both traditional and novel.
— Justin Grant
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