In our 2015 Spirit and Alcohol Trends Predictions, we forecasted that 2015 will be a huge year for agave-based spirits (including both Tequila and Mezcal). While we rarely review non-distilled spirits on Drink Spirits, we felt it important to take a look at Anheuser-Busch InBev’s new agave inspired release, Oculto. This isn’t the first time a major beer company has tried its hand at a spirits-inspired beer. MillerCoors released Fortune in early 2014, a spirits-inspired beer that ended up coming off more like a malt liquor than a beer.
The important thing about Oculto is that it’s an acknowledgment by one of the biggest beer companies in the world that the tequila market is important enough to launch a beer connected to the category. Oculto is a light style lager blended with beer that’s been aged on tequila barrel staves. This doesn’t mean it’s been barrel aged, it means that it’s had some staves soaked in it. The beer is also infused with blue agave and other natural flavors.
Oculto Beer (6% ABV) – On the nose, this beer is light and malty, very much in line with a Mexican style light lager. Along with the malt, there’s lime and agave syrup. There really isn’t much of a contribution from the tequila staves on the nose – there are neither the vegetal nor pepper notes from the tequila nor the oak. Tequila barrels are often used to the point of becoming very neutral, and odds are this beer has staves from a fairly neutral tequila barrel. It doesn’t really add much to the equation, other than to say that it’s been in wood that at some point touched tequila.
On the palate, agave syrup mingles with the light malt and lime. This sweetened, flavored lager lives very much in the world of Bud Light with Lime – the flavors here perhaps are a little more true, but it drinks like a flavored beer. In the core of the palate on this beer is a Pez candy note. It’s off-putting and doesn’t fit within the character of this beer.
Toward the finish is the briefest sense of the wood. It reads as a very slight bitterness. Again, there really isn’t anything resembling tequila flavors. The finish on Oculto is light malt, lime, and a lingering agave sweetness.
The addition of the sweetness to what should be a light and crisp style beer doesn’t add anything to the mix. It feels forced. Oculto is, unfortunately, a gimmick beer. It has a great brand and it’s an interesting idea, but it never really delivers. You’re much better off getting a light style lager like Tecate, Corona, or even a Budweiser with a shot of tequila, rather than an agave-sweetened beer that’s touched tequila staves. 73 Points.