Review: Blue Moon & PopUp Bagels Collab Showcases The Prowess Of PopUp On The New York Bagel Scene

If you're on New York City food TikTok, then you've almost certainly heard the name "PopUp Bagels" already. What started as a pickup window in founder Adam Goldberg's backyard in 2020 during the pandemic has quickly metamorphosed into the new bagel sensation taking New Yorkers by storm. The young bagel company has gone viral on social media, receiving coverage from TikTokers like @jacksdiningroom, and winning "Best Bagel" at the prestigious Brooklyn Bagel Fest two years in a row. Now, these celebrated bagels are teaming up with longstanding craft beer icon Blue Moon to find out what happens when brewing yeast meets artisanal bagels. The answer? The Blue Moon Beer Bagel with Valencia orange cream cheese.

Per a press release sent to Tasting Table, the bagel itself is infused with Blue Moon Belgian White beer, a wheat ale brewed with Valencia orange peel for a bright citrus note. The orange-infused cream cheese schmear is a nod to the orange wedge garnish with which a bottle of Blue Moon is traditionally served. (Prefer a non-alcoholic version? Blue Moon is releasing a zero-proof version of its classic Belgian White ale in time for Dry January 2024.) Blue Moon is a beer industry vet, and folks are raving that PopUp might be the new best bagel in New York – so we had to try this high-profile collab for ourselves. Here's what we think.

Bagels and schmear were given to us for free from the company to try, but all opinions are our own. 

Where to find the Blue Moon bagels

The new Blue Moon bagel officially drops on Wednesday, November 29 at PopUp Bagel locations across New York City and Connecticut. For foodies outside of these states, starting at noon on November 28, the bagel (sans schmear) will be available to purchase online and shipped across the U.S. and Canada. The collab product is available for a limited time only, while supplies last. The bagel will be restocked in stores every morning from 11/29 until 12/3, making for a super small, exclusive window, which could be a way for the companies to play up the "supply and demand" aspect of the product — and its steep price tag. Purchased online, a 12-pack runs for $50 before tax. That's $4(ish) per bagel, without cream cheese. 

Notably, this isn't super different from how PopUp Bagels normally handles orders in its brick-and-mortar stores. Unlike standard walk-up windows, the shop only sells bulk orders with tubs of schmear on the side. Foodies can pre-order online or swing by stores in person to snag a smaller bag of three or six bagels. Still, with its limited number of locations and ultra-brief window in which to get them, there's an air of inherent metropolitan flair and exclusivity surrounding these beer bagels. This is a bad-boy-breakfast made for foodies on the go in a walkable city. It's more than utility — it's fashion. And even if you hate it, the high price tag and viral acclaim are also fashionable.

Taste test: Bagels

This isn't your average platonic ideal of a bagel. The PopUp bagel is closer to a bun with a rounded top. It's donut-shaped like other bagels, but the center hole swells sensually to a near-close, and it isn't sliced, either. At PopUp bagels, rather than apply the schmear with a knife, it's customary to rip apart the bun-like bagel and dunk the pieces directly into the cream cheese vat. So, that's the technique we used during our taste test.

The "Blue Moon" part of these limited edition bagels is all about the beer-infused dough. As such, PopUp's Blue Moon Bagel comes in plain, salt, and everything, and the seasonings are liberally applied 360 degrees around the bagel. On the everything bagel, the top, bottom, and sides are equally, densely covered. No glimpses of the bread beneath were even visible under the layer of poppy and sesame seeds.

In the "adaptation fidelity" category, the hands-down winner is the plain bagel with the Valencia orange cream cheese. The combo tastes uncannily like a Blue Moon Belgian White beer, capturing the malty, citrusy flavor with impressive accuracy. As an aside, on texture alone, PopUp might make the best plain bagel in New York City, by our estimation. Compared to the plain bagel, the Belgian White ale flavor is largely lost in the louder profile of the everything and salt bagels. Don't get it twisted — they're d**n good bagels, they just don't taste particularly like Blue Moon.

Taste test: Cream cheese

The Valencia orange cream cheese was the star of the show, in our opinion. For starters, it's whipped, which makes for a light, airy mouthfeel and easier scooping with the torn-bagel-chunk apparatus. The profile leans sweet, but in a natural orange blossom way, not a sugary artificial way. It's slightly tangy on the first note, like Greek yogurt rich-creaminess-meets-acidity, then the flavor transforms to sweet before finally melting on the tongue.

In the "objective tastiness" category, the Valencia orange cream cheese is especially good on the everything bagel. With its thick armor of salty toppings, the Blue Moon Everything Bagel is a little heftier, and its pronounced savoriness pairs well with the bright, sweet shmear.

The rip-and-tear method of chowing down was also really fun. If we had sliced the bagels in half and rubbed them with cream cheese the "normal" way, it would have been a different experience entirely. The method is also something of an equalizer, a gastronomic checks and balance system. Enjoyed this way, the bagel never becomes merely a vehicle for shmear, and the shmear remains only as strong as the bagel. This point could perhaps be applied to any "what makes a great bagel" argument, but PopUp really nails the relational interplay of bagel to shmear. 

Are they worth it?

The answer to this question really comes down to whether bulk bagels work for you or not. As a limited-edition collab product, the Blue Moon Bagel kicks tush, and we hope the Valencia orange cream cheese becomes a permanent menu item. But, beyond that, the chief appeal here is certainly the gimmick of a beer-flavored bagel. Plus, with these only being available in a 12-pack, you have to really commit when you place an order (or else have a large group of friends who all dig beer-flavored breakfast items and are all free on the same morning). Even the best bagels go stale quickly, and you definitely don't want these salty, pricey little gems to go to waste. (Although, we do have a few tricks for rescuing a stale bagel up our sleeve.)

Still, PopUp bagels are admittedly smaller than the gargantuan dough circles that are often marketed as a "New York bagel." You'll have no trouble finishing one or two in a single sitting, which makes the bulk aspect way less daunting. From this taste test, we learned that Blue Moon is great, PopUp Bagels are great, and their flavors happen to pair well together. But, for the steep price and mandatory bulk availability, the beer bagel isn't a "must try" — but it's definitely worth walking down the street to order if you happen to live near a PopUp Bagels store location. It's definitely in the running for the best bagels in New York City.