The local Fairfield company Jelly Belly has made hundreds, perhaps thousands, of jelly bean flavors since they debuted in the summer of 1976. But their newest one, draft beer, really got my attention.
Apparently, for decades, a beer-flavored jelly bean has been one of their most highly-requested flavors. But their “research and development team wanted to get it just right before announcing the new flavor to the world.”
“This took about three years to perfect,” says Ambrose Lee, research and development manager for Jelly Belly Candy Company. “The recipe includes top secret ingredients, but I can tell you it contains no alcohol.” The biggest question they first had to answer was what type of beer to make into a jelly bean. “Ale or Lager? Stout? Lambic? Pilsner? In the end, the company opted to pay homage to its German ancestry with a Hefeweizen-inspired ale flavor, and Draft Beer Jelly Belly® jelly beans took shape.”
According to Jelly Belly:
The effervescent and crisp flavor is packed in a golden jelly bean with an iridescent finish. Beer connoisseurs will find the flavor profile to be clean with notes of wheat and a touch of sweetness. The aroma is mildly bready. While Draft Beer packs a flavor punch, it is alcohol free.
The new flavor will debut at this week’s Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and ISM in Cologne, Germany, and will be released on store shelves shortly thereafter, in early 2014.
Last night they had an event at the 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco, where they handed out small packages of the new flavor. At first, I thought I could only get some banana flavors with a hint of clove in the background, but not much else, and little in the way of what I’d call “beer” flavor. But in conversations with other there at the event, what emerged was that the flavors I’d been searching for disappeared if you drank an actual beer beforehand. Several people I talked to recounted the same experience, but those who resisted the temptation to order a beer first had a very different experience with the jelly beans.
Happily, I took a few packets home with me, and tried them again this morning before my usual cup of breakfast beer (kidding). Anyway, the theory of the night before proved true. They do actually have a subtle beery flavor with wheat and the banana and clove notes you’d expect in a hefeweizen. It’s not a strong taste, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I assume when you have actual beer in your mouth that it kills the subtler flavors in the candy.
Last night, I also spend some time talking with Rob, one of the Jelly Belly R&D guys who worked on creating the new beer flavored jelly bean. He mentioned that they’d originally considered doing a craft beer assortment but getting the first one right took so long that they abandoned that idea. I offered some suggestions, and who knows, maybe we’ll see some more types of beer turned into jelly beans in the future. I suspect many people will think of it as just a gimmick, but the company has a long history of creating original flavors that you wouldn’t ordinarily expect. So why not. They’ve done a cocktail line of jelly beans, so beer frankly only makes sense. If you see some, give them a try. Just don’t have a beer first.