Sam-Sam the Pickle Man is a “spicy dill-pickle sour” made by Everett’s Down the Road Beer Co.
The beer is brewed in collaboration with Grillo’s Pickles, made locally, and is pretty much as it sounds: a sour, in this case a Berliner Weisse, brewed with the addition of the brine from a jar of Grillo’s spicy dill.
“I’m more of like a kosher dill guy,” Down the Road founder Donovan Bailey admits. “But the stuff that [Grillo’s founder] Travis [Grillo] is making is crazy good.”
Why would anyone make a beer with pickle juice? The simple answer is there was a pickle festival recently, Down the Road was pouring, and they needed a collaboration for the fest.
The longer one is that as spicy and sour drinks proliferate, and things like pickleback shots (where a shot of whiskey is chased by a shot of pickle juice) become the norm, a pickle beer doesn’t sound so crazy.
Bailey explained the rationale behind his version of the drink: He chose the Berliner, a hazy, tart style, to match the acidity of the brine rather than compete with it. The beer’s mild flavor would let the cucumber notes shine through. And because they were working with spicy pickles, there was an unexpected bonus.
“I don’t know if you’ve had a Gin Rickey with Hendricks,” says Bailey. “There was a bunch of habanero in the brine. They’re pretty intensely very fruity. I was really surprised that popped out.”
Still, Bailey wasn’t sure how the beer would turn out until he tried it.
“I was actually surprised,” says Bailey. “It’s not a one-and-done. I thought it was just gonna be a novelty thing that people tried to say they had it.”
Not entirely trusting of the man slinging pickle beer, I cracked open a can recently to see for myself.
There are good and bad things about drinking pickle beer, and we’ll start with the good: All the flavors Bailey says would work really do. The beer tastes of lemon and cucumbers and — I’ll be darned — berries, owing to the habaneros. (It doesn’t taste even a little spicy.) It’s fairly sour, so if that isn’t your thing this isn’t your beer. It smells like pickles and cucumbers at the same time, if that makes any sense. It isn’t too salty.
The bad part is, outside of a pickle festival, I’m just not sure when I would drink this. Sam-Sam the Pickle Man is on tap now at Down the Road’s Everett brewery, where if you decide pickle beer isn’t for you you can drink Golden City, an excellent IPA, and play some pinball instead.
The Down the Road tap room is located at 199 Ashland St., Everett.
Gary Dzen can be reached at email@example.com.