Where I live, the summer heat is sticky, and the humidity regularly stretches the already hot temperatures into a “feels like” figure in the three digits.
I believe in the power of a cold beer on a hot day, but I am also aware that a pint glass will sweat more than I will out there, ultimately becoming too warm, too quickly. If I’m sitting with something under the sun, I would much rather have a frozen drink or something more imminently crushable than a beer. Drinking beer is a perfect autumn activity, in my book.
However, a recent revelation from Washington, D.C.’s Lulu’s Winegarden has challenged this long-held belief. Enter: pool beer.
In an Instagram reel on the bar’s account, where I first became aware of the drink, a simple machine cranks shaved ice into a large metal bowl, from which the shavings are scooped into a pint glass. Then, a cold can of Tecate is poured over the mound of ice, resulting in an instant beer slushy, served with a wedge of lime for ultimate refreshment.
The idea for what Lulu’s has coined “pool beer” comes from a recent vacation that the bar’s co-owners (and husband and wife) took at The Phoenician, a resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. While poolside, the couple ordered Ranch Waters and beers. “Every time they’d bring the beers, it was an automatic big cup of shaved ice, with a can on top, and a lime wedge on the rim—you pour your own,” says Lulu’s co-owner Brittany Carlson. “It was 119 degrees and something so simple felt game-changing… Usually your can of beer gets too warm within minutes.”
The idea translated well once back in Washington, D.C., where the duo decided to add pool beer to what was already a Southwest-inspired menu. (Carlson is from Arizona, and chef/partner Cable Smith is from New Mexico.)
Though the method is a very simple one, there are some best practices for implementing the technique. Save the craft beers and go for something “real easy-drinking,” such as a Mexican lager like Tecate, Modelo Especial, Corona or Pacifico, says Carlson. Also, shaved ice is crucial—crushed ice doesn’t make the same impression, and blended ice would melt and dilute the beer too quickly.
Hoping to trace the idea back to the source, I reached out to The Phoenician. As it turns out, the original “pool beer” was never intended to be poured over the shaved ice at all. “In an effort to ensure that drinks stay cold for our guests, we introduced a ‘cup within a cup’ to keep beverages chilled,” explains Lisa Mercer, the resort’s director of food and beverage. The larger cup filled with shaved ice is intended for the beverage to sit in, like a small-scale ice bucket.
But pouring the beer into that icy cup? That’s an inspired innovation that I’ll be incorporating through this heat and into the latest days of summer. “To us, it’s just a silly, uncomplicated and refreshing way to keep your beer cold,” says Carlson.