Sweetwater Brewing Co.
SweetWater was one of the first Southern breweries to start getting their small batches up above the Mason-Dixon. Their 420 is fairly ubiquitous and was a staple at most beer bars in the last 10 years. I digress.
The pour is active and hazy – bottle-conditioning will do that to a brew – and a copper penny color sits in the dense middle while the out edges of the glass shine like polished amber. A fluffy white head holds up nicely as the active yeast keeps doing its work. It’s a treat to have a bottle-conditioned beer at the right time.
The nose is heavy on grapefruit with a vegetal zest smelling sort of the way radishes taste. It sounds weird but you know what I mean.
The mouthfeel is very even and balanced – exceptionally so. Nothing is out of place. There’s enough malt to cover the palate and some peppery sparkle on the tip of the tongue while the hops hit their high notes on the sides.
Certainly it is a citrus-forward brew, but it is tempered by Chinook pine which adds earthiness to the high-flying grapefruit flavor. This is not nearly the “mammoth” IPA the label claims it is but it’s a damn fine beer and, in my opinion, outranks their flagship 420.
Sweetwater Brewing Co.
Georgia Brown Ale
An inch of head pops up over this lively brown beer and settles to a full finger of khaki turbulence. Already, a lacing is starting to form. The color is certainly brown – dark garnet meets oxidizing apple flesh. Barely translucent, this brew is a sexy slurry of vermillion and mud.
The nose is flour-soft with fine cocoa powder and honey cereal aromas emerging amongst slow blooming florals and citrus.
The mouthfeel is not overwhelmingly full, but it is by no means thin. It is even and smooth. Milky cocoa mingles with some slightly soapy lemon flavors that don’t have quite enough zing. Neither the malt nor the hops seem to want to take over, which is fine and leads to balanced sipping, but in this case, the sip is relatively boring until the end when a bit of sweetness spreads across the palate, and the green florals open up a bit.
As labeled, it’s “easy drinkin’” and “smooth as a Bill Clinton apology” – it’d be great with some charred barbecue which might help bring out some more of the roastiness.
SweetWater Brewing Co.
420 Extra Pale Ale
This is a gorgeous beer – a golden orange, late summer sunset over a hayfield, with a slight haze from the lack of pasteurization adding to the effect. A crackly lemon sorbet head persists at over half an inch. That same foam catches at the edges of the glass and the ultra-fine carbonation is frenetic and constant.
The nose is sticky sweet like an orange Creamsicle. Some subtle pine needles emerge as slow and as sap, and with the malt coming through just as sweet with mild sourdough pungency. This is shaping up to be an elegant English pale.
The mouthfeel is good, though the start of the first sip is a bit thin. It kicks it up a bit though after a couple of sips and the warmth of my hand around the glass. There is no hop uppercut – everything here is subtle. The wash of hops is very green with lettuce and cucumber being the most distinctive tastes. The malt provides some breadth to the sip and expands out from the middle of the tongue with touches of honey and caramel malt.
Certainly a good session beer (though at a shade over 5%, I’m not sure if it technically qualifies) and if you don’t necessarily want a full-on assault on the palate, this beer is like the perfect blind date: beautiful, smells nice, and has a lot more character than you initially thought. There’s a funny simile about lace in there somewhere, too, but I’ll let it go.