Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

There's a simple rule I like to try to follow when traveling: Drink Local. Whether you're out of town on business or on a family vacation, nothing beats being able to grab some fresh pints or bottles of whatever the local breweries have to offer, especially if said offerings are not available in your area.

I've had some great beers from breweries in Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada and beyond that I wouldn't find just about anywhere else and certainly not back at home in New Jersey. My opinion has always been that if I'm in say, Georgia, it's silly for me to spend my cash on stuff I can pick up any day of the week like Sam Adams or Anchor products when instead I can grab some beer from SweetWater Brewing Company out of Atlanta, which is not available in New that's exactly what I did.

First up was some 420 Extra Pale Ale, which SweetWater describes as a West Coast Style Pale Ale, so I guess means it'll be a bit hoppier..although wouldn't that just make it an IPA? Let's find out:

It pours from the tap with a fairly watery, copper color with barely any head retention and no residue left on the glass. Typically average overall and not a great first impression for this one.

The aroma is a bit better with sweet caramel notes blending with floral hops. This carries over into the flavor and some biscuit-y bread notes start to shine through a bit here as well. I'd say we're still stuck on simple here, which wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't combined with average. Sierra Nevada does simple with their regular year round lineup but does so with bigger, bolder flavor, so the simple part of the equation works. The 420 Extra Pale Ale, on the other hand, just sort of sits there.

I thought this one was just too bland and easily gets lost in the sea of pale ales that are available in the market today. I'd probably pass on it in the future unless it was sitting amongst a Bud, Heineken and Corona lineup as my only craft option. I wouldn't mind having one's just doesn't do anything for me.

So, you're probably thinking to yourself that I tell you to drink local and then with the first local beer I mention basically say it wasn't anything what gives? Well, you're certainly not going to fall in love with every beer you try, and for every one you do try that may be mediocre, the next might blow you out of the water, which was pretty much the case for me with the SweetWater IPA.

I can't say enough about this IPA. It's incredibly easy to drink, has a full flavor and aroma that throws sweet caramel, pine, pepper, grapefruit, rugged earthiness and more at you, all while remaining balanced but with a definite nod to the hops as should be the case with any IPA.

Even the appearance was spot on, withe a creamy head atop the copper liquid body and lots of soapy residue left on the glass after each sip.

Again, I enjoyed every sip of every pint of this IPA that I had and it quickly shot to the top of my list of favorite IPA's, along with the likes of Bell's Two Hearted Ale and Smuttynose IPA. It reminded me a bit of a hoppier, IPA-d out version of the Troegs HopBack Amber. This one is just uber-enjoyable. I wish SweetWater distributed in New Jersey, because their IPA would be a staple in my fridge. If you're in Georgia, make it a point to find and enjoy as many pints of this stuff as you can...