Beer experts did not want to talk to me about Landshark, the Jimmy Buffett-branded “island lager.” One had never tried it, one declined outright and another ghosted when I explained I needed a connoisseur to break down the unique flavor profile of Margaritaville’s piss-colored house brew. It’s just as well — a blessing, even. Because that’s when I discovered the Albino Rhino and his pal the Reverend. These brave boozehounds went where few beer snobs dare. Fins up, baby.
The corner of YouTube where guys review Landshark is an unexpected delight, much like drinking a Landshark itself. These men are legends to me now: skoggit, Jerry, Special K and Radar, not to mention Mr. Rhino and the Rev. They give me the validation I need from dimly lit corners of their homes, sipping cheap domestics as they argue over which yellow swill is worth $6 for a six-pack. Bon Appétit, this is not. They give reviews like, “It’s really good. I like it. Easy drinker. Has a nice taste.”
Hell yeah, brother.
“It’s a cool can,” says Jerry Fort, the Beer Review Guy, who interrupts his Landshark review to yell at his cat. “Aftertaste is not harsh.”
“Let’s give it the taste test,” says Ronald Theriot of Louisiana Beer Reviews, grimacing. His verdict: “Not slimy.”
“I’ve been painting a deck all day, and I’m not gonna lie, this beer hits the spot,” says Special K of Kentucky Beer Review.
Why is it important that these heroes mildly approve of Landshark, which currently has a BeerAdvocate rating of 62 (poor)? If I’m honest, my own ego. A few years ago, I came back from a beach trip in which I drank dozens of them, easily six or seven a day, throwing back one Landshark after another like a medieval peasant without fresh water. I smelled the salty beach air, I flicked sand out of my hair and I slurped down liquid Buffett. I felt like a toddler tasting ice cream for the first time. I was insatiable, and the low ABV kept my orders coming (even at $7 per plastic cup).
Of course, Landshark is a problematic fave. It was created as a “Corona killer,” and its whole branding is a multi-level scam. First of all, it’s a Mexican-ish lager meant to look less “Mexican” and more “Jacksonville, Florida” than its competitors. But that rich-white-Florida-partier image is a lie too. You’re meant to think this is Jimmy Buffett’s own craft beer, brewed with care by the old man himself under a beach umbrella next to a tiki torch while someone named Mick does a fire show. Alas, it’s made by AB InBev, aka Anheuser-Busch, the beer cops.
The term “landshark,” too, is laced with douche drip. The lager’s name comes from the 1979 Buffett song “Fins,” a genuinely terrifying tale of an inebriated woman surrounded by sexual predators at a beach bar. When the song is played, Buffett fans make little “fins” with their hands atop their heads in tribute to the song’s “sharks” surrounding their prey: “Can’t you feel them circling, honey? Can’t you feel them schoolin’ around?” Buffett sings. “You got fins to the left, fins to the right / And you’re the only bait in town.”
A landshark is also a real estate speculator and an SNL character I don’t remember. As for the Urban Dictionary entries for “landshark,” they mostly center on tooth-related sex acts or nude erect running. So… bottoms up?
But somehow it’s the taste — yeah, I know, roast me — that keeps me coming back, especially in month six of quarantine, as I dream of being anywhere that’s not my apartment. I’d go as far as to say Landshark is the perfect summer beer. The taste is clean and crisp, but without the overwhelming sweetness of Bud Light, the nothingness of Coors and Miller or the funkiness of Corona. It’s got enough carbonation for a good head. It’s enhanced by salt and humidity. Kinda smells grassy.
For the in-depth, beer-geek stuff, I defer to the experts. Experts like the anonymous Hawaiian beer reviewer bigcmack, who wrote one of the first reactions to Landshark on ratebeer.com in 2007, the year of its release: “Goes down really smooth, well they do when I’m drinking them!” Or the fine taste of Dingbat88 from Louisiana: “This is my absolute favorite beer. It has a great taste without being too heavy. Perfect for parties or outdoor functions. It might seem like something obvious, but Jimmy Buffet [sic] knows his alcohol.” On Twitter, fans sip Landshark with excessive hashtags like #CIGARS, #cigarlife, #Landshark, #FinsUp and #beer. Signs of a true arbiter of taste.
Of course, Landshark is not without its doubters — like this man, known only as skoggit:
Dirty socks? Slander! But I was glad to see that even here in the YouTube comment cesspool, where love and affection go to die, the commenters under skoggit’s video are fiercely protective of their adored Buffett brew. Clearly, skoggit got a skunked bottle to taste: “Get the cans,” one user begs. Another announces, “Landshark is definitely one of my favorites up there with Coors Banquet.”
What a vacation that guy must have had.