My office is moving this weekend and our bosses told us to “clean out the fridges.” Yes our bosses were telling us to drink the beers in the fridges. I’m not an IPA person but I’ll do what my boss tells me to do.
We’re on vacation and on our way to Disney World. Today, we left central IL and drove to Atlanta to visit (and stay with) my friend Joe and his family. Like a great host, Joe immediately offered me a beer after arriving from a 10 hour drive. I happily took this local beer to add to the list.
Location: Poured from the bottle into a Mizzou pint glass at Joe’s home in Atlanta, GA.
Appearance & Aroma: It’s brown in color with some dark red-amber hues, especially when held up to the light. It had a pretty thick off-white head when I first poured it, and it fell after a few minutes to a thin layer of creamy bubbles across the top. There was a nice, roasty, nutty, and dark bready aroma as well.
While in college at the University of Colorado, roommates Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerny decided they liked beer more than school, so the two took jobs at a local brewery, washing kegs in exchange for free beer. Little did they know they’d end up in Atlanta, Georgia, location of their very own SweetWater Brewing Company.
The two did finish school, but they went back to school – this time at the American Brewers Guild in California. They took, what else: Fermentation Science.
Today, SweetWater is a force in the craft beer world. I’ve only rated one SweetWater beer thus far – their IPA, which I awarded 91 points. Today’s beer is called Blue, and is a fruit beer brewed with “natural blueberry flavor” – what that means, I’m not sure. I’m taking it that real blueberries are used at some point in the brewing process.
One of the unique things about SweetWater is their penchant for freshness. SweetWater beer is unpasteurized and they say if it’s more than 90 days old, don’t drink it. There’s a space on the bottle for the best by date, but this particular bottle has nothing in that slot. So what good is it to be anal about freshness, if you’re not going to put the date on the bottle? Sigh. We appreciate their efforts, though, because some beer is noticeably better at its freshest. Just remember to put the damn date on the bottle!
The pour produced a small and quickly fading head atop a golden yellow beer, not quite straw macro lager in color, but close. The body was clear and free of particles or sediment, and the drink left behind no lacing. Bubbles zoomed to the top all throughout drinking.
The aromatics were big time blueberry, and this one smelled very much like a blueberry muffin, with a slight straw/wheat backend. The blueberry bordered on artificial, because it was so incredibly sweet. Perhaps I was expecting something just a bit more tart, but I wasn’t offended by the smell, yet I wasn’t turned on by it, either…
Tasting revealed a very thin and light beer, grainy up front before giving up a lightly sweetened blueberry. The finish reminded me much of a lager, with a cleansing of the palate, a touch of a carbonation bite, and then…it’s gone. This one is quite refreshing but there’s honestly not much here to enjoy. I will say that the blueberry was very nice, and not at all artificial like the aroma borders on.
It’s hard for me to rate a beer like this. Since I like beers with much more flavor, when I get one like SweetWater Blue, I have to keep in mind that this is meant to be refreshing and light, which is a tough thing to do when you’ve had some powerhouse beers that leave you thinking about them days later. That being said, while I doubt I would return to this, I wouldn’t turn it down if someone offered it to me, and I did drink it alarmingly fast (like in 15 minutes) so I must have found something fairly enjoyable about it.
SweetWater Blue, 76 points. Price: $9.99 US for a six pack.
Green beer isn’t only for St. Patrick’s Day anymore. In Atlanta, SweetWater Brewing Company is remaking its brewery to meet growing demand, and a hefty photovoltaic system is part of the project. Sweetwater said its expansion from 26,000 to 114,000 square feet of space should be wrapped up by November and “fully functioning” in January 2012. Beer production, which was at 77,000 barrels in 2010 and is expected to grow to 90,000 this year, will be able to rise to as high as 400,000 barrels with all that extra space. And to a large extent, it’ll be beer brewed by the power of the sun.
The company said the PV system planned for the revamped brewery will be “the largest private commercial solar installation in Atlanta.” Empower Energy Technology is the lead on the project, and the company spec’d out the system at 157 kilowatts, with first-year electrical generation pegged at 234,684 kilowatt-hours based on Atlanta’s climate. (According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average American home uses 10,896 kWh of electricity annually, so you could call SweetWater’s solar setup a 22-home system.)
The system consists of 750 Solyndra panels, each rated at 210 watts. According to SweetWater, the system is so light – just 2.8 lbs. per square foot – that it won’t require boosting structural support. The self-ballasted Solyndra panels also don’t need to be attached to the roof, so no nasty holes and bolts. The system will be a nice banner for solar power, too; SweetWater noted that it “will be visible from passing Marta trains and the Buford Spring Connector that takes commuters to and from I-85 and I-75 and the adjacent Beltline.
SweetWater Brewing Company, located in Atlanta, Georgia, brewed today’s India Pale Ale up for review. This brewery has an interesting story that begins across the country in Boulder, Colorado – another great beer state. There, two roommates, Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney, discovered they liked beer more than their studies at the University of Colorado. While in school, the two took jobs at a local brewery, washing kegs in exchange for free suds.
Unlike most stories of this nature, the two men finished college and then went back to school, this time at the American Brewers Guild in California to learn about Fermentation Science.
Around the time of the 1996 summer Olympics, which were held in Atlanta, the two were in town and decided the place needed a brewery that created beverages in the California style. Enter in a few loans and a trip down the Sweetwater Creek, located in a national park close to the brewery, and SweetWater Brewing Company was born.
SweetWater’s IPA is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and is subjected to dry-hopping, so I expect this one to be a hop head’s type of drink.
The pour issued up an average size head with lasting quality, frothy in texture. The beer was a pleasant golden orange, with a light dusting of sediment floating throughout. The body was clear despite the fine particles, and the lacing was superb with nice sheets left clinging to the glass in the wake of each sip.
The aromatics, as expected for a dry-hopped beer, were very heavy on the hops, but pleasantly so. There was loads of grapefruit and a general citrus to be sniffed, along with a sticky pine note and a nice hint of tropical fruit. There is just a slight suggestion of malt with a toasty note; otherwise, this is a dreamy aroma for a hop lover.
The taste hits your palate with grapefruit and moderate bitterness up front, followed by a finish that delivers pine and a sweet note of caramel. The mouthfeel was quite creamy and the beverage was refreshing.
The key thing here is that while SweetWater IPA is a hop-heavy beer, but it’s not one of those that kills you with bitterness. While not balanced, this is a pleasant drink and I enjoyed it very much – the flavors are bright and solid, and I would return to this beer again, especially on a hot summer afternoon when I’m craving hop therapy.
SweetWater IPA, 91 points. Price: $8.99 US for a six pack.