Team Secret dropped a bombshell when it announced a new partnership in September 2019, but it wasn’t to make gamer socks or sneakers. Instead, Team Secret’s was going to launch the first esports-branded beer, asking gamers and beer drinkers alike if they were ready to go AFK.
Partnering with Pennsylvania-based brewing company Levante Brewing to create the hazy New England style IPA AFK, Team Secret’s project was a genuine surprise for both the gaming and craft beer communities. Gaming and beer have always shared a fairly quiet relationship that often takes a back seat to energy drink collaborations. The two industries have been steadily forging a relationship over the past two years, from Bud Light joining in as the official beer of Overwatch League’s Dallas Homestand to the light beer giant serving as the official beer of League of Legends’ Championship series.
With the esports industry’s first craft beer collaboration now available for purchase in select states, we thought we’d reach out to the folks at Team Secret to take AFK for a test run. We were pleasantly surprised by how well this beer fit in with our nightly gaming ritual, which we learned was no accident.
Speaking briefly with a representative from Team Secret, we were given a peek into the thought process behind AFK’s creation. When considering what type of beer would best suit the esports organization and the industry’s needs, the org had to decide between a 10 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), 6 percent ABV, and the 5.9 percent ABV beer that the org ultimately chose, according to the rep.
Given that the esports industry is international, Team Secret wanted “a beer that complies with import/export regulations in a lot of global regions (so under 6 percent to comply with regulations) since esports tournaments and fans are such a global community,” the Team Secret representative said. Not only did the beer need to meet import-export requirements, but it also needed “a beer that can be enjoyed through two Best of 3 series (which may be a few hours long)…” The thought process here seems to have kept the esports industry in mind every step of the way.
Right off the bat, the first thing that sticks out about AFK is the label design slapped on the 16 oz. can. It’s fairly minimal but manages to stand out when compared to other craft beer labels, which is a must. Shelves can get pretty crowded and the choice to run with a matte black label accented by light blues and pale greys makes for some great contrast. Overall, this is a solid look that marries the best of both worlds. But what does it taste like?
AFK is an India Pale Ale (IPA), which are generally known for their hop-forward flavor profiles due to the type of hops that are used in brewing IPAs. While there are a wide variety of hops, most people who aren’t quite aficionados recognize hops as having a distinct piney and/or fruity flavor. This popular style of craft beer can be pretty complex to unpack for even the most seasoned beer enthusiast. Luckily for us here at Dot, we don’t claim to be experts and won’t be attempting to unpack every note that touches our tongues. Instead, we’ll be focusing on a few key factors for our review. We’ll run through color, aroma, basic taste, and how, if at all, the beer affects our performance in-game.
When you empty AFK into your glass of choice, you’ll be greeted with a pleasant golden haze that doesn’t quite reach the vibrancy of something like a Pilsner but has a definite richness to it. It’s a welcoming color that looks more-or-less like a standard hazy IPA. Something we did notice is that the head holds a bit better than some of the other beers we’ve emptied into our tulip glass.
Shoving my nose into the glass, I wasn’t necessarily “wowed” by what I picked up. Maybe my nose is broken but AFK’s aroma seemed about as general as possible. With smell being such a large part of taste, I was worried that my drinking experience would follow suit, which was far from the case. What AFK lacked in the aroma department (something that will likely go unnoticed by the everyday beer-drinker and gamer anyway), it made up for in the taste department.
Levante Brewing used both Mosaic and Idaho 7 hops to create AFK. Both hops are said to have varying notes of fruit and pine, which definitely come through in spades here. AFK initially hits you with the hop-forward piny flavor that is more-or-less synonymous with IPAs before clarifying itself with a twist of citrus, which really created a sense of balance in flavor. It also doesn’t hurt that while it packed the flavor of an IPA, AFK struck us as a lighter alternative that doesn’t compromise on flavor whatsoever. Oddly enough, the flavor doesn’t stick around for long like a lot of other IPAs we’ve sampled. This is a factor that leaves us coming back for more, which is both a good and bad thing in terms of the space in which we were testing the beer.
Team Secret obviously understands that gamers need to keep a certain edge when they’re duking it out in their game of choice. This is where AFK really shines and where Team Secret and Levante’s visions truly come to fruition. The 5.9 percent ABV rating is really a fantastic move on Levante and Team Secret’s part. Just enough substance is here to give gamers and beer lovers powerful flavors that don’t leave a lasting mark but leave you wanting just one more sip. Couple this “one more sip” mentality with the fact that a best-of-three, or five—or whatever competitive scenario you might find yourself in—and it’s clear who the beer is geared towards. A can of AFK easily lasted us through two ranked matches of Rainbow Six Siege and did so without having an effect on our game. The danger here, as with all alcoholic beverages, lies with drinking responsibly and understanding moderation. Gamers will have to dial in their tolerance before confidently being able to carry in any capacity.
The beauty of this beer is that it represents both gamers and beer drinkers in a convincing way. At no point in our testing did we feel like this was just sneaky marketing or hype. It really felt like both Levante and Team Secret put serious thought into this beer. A 16 oz. can will get the average user through a match or two of their game of choice without dulling their edge. AFK knows its audience and is executed in a way that is accessible to hardcore and casuals of the gaming and beer-loving varieties.
Team Secret and Levante Brewing’s AFK IPA is now available in select states and can be found not only in shops but in some local esports venues as well. Hopefully, AFK will see wider distribution in the near future, but for now, it looks as though curious fans will have to depend on online retailers that allow for shipment of alcoholic beverages.
- Balanced flavor
- Reaches its target audience
- Cleaner finish than most IPAs
- Lower alcohol percentage
- Internationally minded
- Lack of distribution