I usually tend to dislike these sorts of beverages, and as a result I typically try to avoid purchasing them. However, during a recent trip to the grocery store, I found a lonely bargain bin full of Seagram's Escapes, and seeing as how they were only a dollar a piece, I decided to seize the opportunity to remind myself of the special sort of disappointment that only a 6.4 proof bottle of generic malt beverage can offer.
Although the picture above shows only the—prepare yourself—"Jamaican Me Happy" flavor, I have tried several of the flavors in which Seagram's Escapes are currently available. I will say up front that despite the Jamaican Me Happy's rather unfortunate name, it is definitely my favorite of the flavors that I have tried. However, rather than addressing each flavor in particular, I feel that this time would be better spent discussing the qualities of this sort of beverage in general, as they all tend to have the same features and shortcomings.
For those unfamiliar with the "genre," malt beverages are brewed (and often fermented) beverages that use malted (sprouted) barley grain as the primary brew ingredient. Traditional beer is the largest example of this sort of drink, but there has been a rising insurrection of these sorts of "flavored beers" appearing on the market over they past few years. I use the term in quotations because Seagram's Escapes and it's competing products are not to be confused with traditional beer that may include flavorings that are added post-brew. Rather, these drinks tend to be vague approximations of the sort of fruity cocktail that one might expect to order at some ramshackle cabana during a particularly hot day at the beach. They lack the savory depth of flavor offered by many ales and lagers, opting instead to pack each sip with so much fruity sweetness that it is hard to taste anything much beyond the bite of the sugar on your tongue.
Now, this is not necessarily to say that they are bad just because they are not really beer. Comparing them to their more painstakingly prepared and carefully engineering counterparts may be a bit unfair, as that is not the image that these drinks try to portray. While many beer breweries strive for complexity, sophistication, and craftsmanship in their presentation, most of the companies that produce these sorts of light and fruity malt beverages aim to offer easy and accessible alcoholic beverages for people who may not like the intensity of stronger beers and spirits. Seagram's is especially specific in their goal for their Escapes line: images of ocean fronts and other equally tranquil locales rest conspicuously behind depictions of freshly sliced fruits, inviting the drinker to enter a world of refreshment and alcoholic relaxation.
While it may be unfair to hold these more casual "dranks" to the same standards as other alcoholic beverages, my issues with the drinks in question actually stem from inherent problems with the beverages themselves, not the existence of superior or differing products. The first major problem that I find with products like Seagram's Escapes is the excessive sweetness. To me, the sweetness is entirely overbearing, and is more indicative of a sugary soft drink than a brewed malt beverage. The real turnoff, however, comes from the tiny, nagging hint of alcohol in the background. Seagram's Escapes are a particularly strong example of this. Clocking in at a mere 3.2% alcohol by volume, the drink feels confused and busy rather than light and refreshing. What little alcohol that there is in the drink competes with the other flavors in a rather uninteresting and non-cohesive way, and instead of offering a "lighter alcohol experience," it really just serves as a constant reminder that what you are drinking really just does not make sense as an alcoholic beverage. Every time that I drink one of these things, I feel like the companies that make them are just frantically trying to cover up the unappealing taste of generic malt beverage with soda-like qualities, and I often find myself staring at the bottle and wondering why they don't just make them as non-alcoholic soft drinks in the first place. That way, those who really do not like the taste of alcohol could at least use them as chasers.
If you are okay with the taste of generic, fruity beverages and you just want something low-impact to drink at a party, then Seagram's Escapes will likely do in a pinch. Otherwise, they really just aren't worth the calories.
Verdict: Not recommended
Purchased: Bi-Lo [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 11.2 fl oz [330mL]
Price: $1.00 per bottle [discounted]