Who doesn’t love glitter? It’s nearly impossible to get out of your cleavage after a night on the town, but it’s festive as hell. And now thanks to edible glitter, your digestive system can be as sparkly as your 1990s eyeshadow palette.
Sparkly cupcakes and glitter lattes have had their moments to shine, and now food-grade glitter products have finally infiltrated the traditionally male-dominated world of craft beer. Due to prohibitively difficult nature of cleaning glitter out of brewing equipment, glitter beer may not be the next big mainstream trend, but it’s definitely gaining popularity. Breweries like Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado; Three Weavers Brewing Company in Inglewood, California; and Bold Missy Brewery in Charlotte, North Carolina are just a few of the rising number of brewhouses who have released glitter-filled elixirs.
“I’ve done a few glitter beers and I’m absolutely smitten with them,” says Erica DeAnda, head brewer at Minocqua Brewing Company in Minocqua, Wisconsin. “I think they are fun and bring a new level of uniqueness to a beer.”
Carli Smith, head brewer at Bold Missy, recently brewed a glitter beer for a party in homage to kitsch queen Lisa Frank—a lemon and pink peppercorn 6.8% ABV saison dubbed “Trapper Keeper”.
“What better way to honor her legacy than with glitter?” asked Smith. It’s not her first attempt at sparkly suds; she’d previously added glitter to kegs right before serving them to minimize the flakes settling at the bottom. (Because of this, as well as the fact that glitter eventually dissolves and it’s nearly impossible to fully purge from a brewing system, glitter is generally added to beers in individual kegs rather than to the tank during the brewing process.)
Cat Wiest, former head brewer at Santa Cruz’s Seabright Brewery, shares the enthusiasm for glittery mixtures: “My favorite color is sparkle,” she admits before enthusiastically describing the several glitter beers she’s made over the course of her brewing career. She already has four under her belt—some of which got national attention—and is already working on plans for her next one.
None of them can claim to be the first to brew a glitter beer. DeAnda, Wiest, and Smith all credit Three Weavers brewmaster Alex Nowell’s glittery IPA (Mel’s Sparkle Pony) as the inspiration for their own glittery iterations. Each one describes their giddiness at first sparkly sip, as well as Nowell’s willingness to divulge her technique to anyone interested in trying to make it themselves.
Not everyone shares their enthusiasm for sparkly beers, however. Environmental concerns and how bodies break down glitter are common questions from skeptics.
“I think everyone just worries about the peeing glitter out, but it breaks down in your body so quickly that isn’t even an issue,” explains DeAnda. She then admits that although she’s always used food-safe glitter in her beers, “I had never thought about the environmental concerns until now… I think I might be a little more conscious to what brand I use.”
Smith agrees the environmental worries are overblown. “I personally don't have any environmental concerns, since it is an edible glitter and it dissolves.”
The fact that it’s mostly women (if not all women) brewing glitter beer isn’t a coincidence. The quintessentially “girly” garnish added to what’s traditionally been a man’s industry is thanks to brewers reclaiming their right to femininity in beer, even as they fight rampant sexism in the beer industry. However, unlike things like “beer for her” or other ultra-gendered items, glitter beer is intended for everyone to enjoy.
“Even the men dig glitter beer,” says DeAnda. “I don’t think it means I disrespect my craft because I put my heart and soul into all my brews—I think glitter is just a small little part of my heart, so why the hell not?”
Wiest describes an experience she had after a glittery food-and-beer pairing she participated in with a sparkly double IPA.
“After we won, it got back to me that one of the other local brewers was saying things like ‘well sure, Cat made a double IPA, but it’s too bad she had to resort to gimmicks’. Marketing IS gimmicks. People shop with their eyes. Consumption doesn’t have to be just in your palate. If you can create a multi-dimensional experience to go along with your beer, you deserve the hype.”
Despite the difficulties of brewing and serving sparkly beer, these supremely Instagrammable one-off brews are popping up more frequently at beer festivals and fundraisers. To many beer drinkers, beer festivals are just a race to check off as many brews as possible. But Wiest, and everyone else drawn to brewing glitter beer, it’s an opportunity for people to stop and admire a tasty—and yes, glittery—beverage.
“When I get people to come to my booth and try ‘the one with sparkles in it,' they aren’t just saying thank you and walking away to the next booth. They are holding it up, exclaiming, showing their friends, taking photos… it’s awesome.”
The glitter-positive brewers easily shrug off the naysayers. “If you aren’t into it, don’t drink it. It’s as simple as that,” says Wiest. DeAnda echoes the laissez-faire sentiment.
“It’s up to the consumer. If you don’t like glitter beer, don’t drink it— but, damn, let us live!”
Beth Demmon is a San Diego-based craft beer writer whose work has appeared in BeerAdvocate, Playboy, Thrillist, MUNCHIES, Tales of the Cocktail, and more. View all her work at bethdemmon.contently.com.