beer snob

by Jeffery Gredlein

An extra pale ale? | Sweetwater steps up

Quite possibly the most ubiquitous style of beer from American craft brewers is the pale ale. Although originally an English creation, bitter in all of its different forms, the pale ale is something quite different when brewed with American malts and hops. Nearly every microbrewery offers a pale ale, and the range of differences across breweries is quite striking. Co-opted from the English pale ale style, the American version tends to be more hoppy, more crisp, sharper and lighter-bodied compared to the stronger malt levels and thicker character of the imported variety. American pale ales often employ a citrusy hop flavor which dominates the malt presence, although the earthy nature of the malt taste should still be in the mix. The beers tend to be extremely clear and bright, colors range from slightly dark golden to reddish-amber. Not reaching the levels of American India pale ales, there should still be a semi-strong bitter aspect to these brews, which typically remains in the aftertaste. Hops will dominate the taste, flavors and mouthfeel, but should not be overwhelming, which can be the case with American IPAs. Unlike English pale ales, American versions will have high carbonation levels, which make them great for hot summer days, as well as good companions for grill fare and spicier foods alike. The reining king of American pale ales (APAs) and the bar by which all others brewed in this country are measured is Sierra Nevada’s pale ale. It is so omnipresent that most folks think the beer style is Sierra Nevada, possibly not knowing that the brewery makes several other amazing beers. With beer names like Dank Tank barleywine, Happy Ending imperial stout, Motor Boat ESB and Ron Burgundy scotch ale, you can imagine what to expect from Sweetwater Brewing Company. However, most of the above beers were draught-only offerings, and many of their standard line of bottled beers are decent to pretty good. The brewery offers 420, which they call an “extra pale ale.” Although there is no recognized “extra pale ale” category, 420 is a tad gentler and less aggressive than many APAs. Very drinkable and non-offending, this would be a solid introduction to the APA style. 420 is a light orange-gold color with tons of carbonation streaming from the bottom of the glass up to a medium-sized, off-white head. Aroma is citrus, somewhere between the bite of grapefruit and the sweetness of orange, with a dose of doughy bread smell; certainly not overpowering. The flavor is more complex, but not much, and follows the smell, with West Coast bitter hops leading for much of the glass. Malt is present and slightly grainy and spicy, but never overtakes the hops. Medium- to thin-bodied, this one goes down easy and mellow. A Greensboro native and beer-drinker friend of mine, Dez, swears by Sweetwater’s IPA, and I would have to agree. If you are a beer connoisseur, or certainly a hophead, that one is a better option. However, for a crisp summer beer that you can drink all day, yet one that offers tons more flavor and enjoyment than any American macro lager, you could do way worse than Sweetwater 420. I like this brew, and you can find the fish tap all over the Triad. Sweetwater Brewing Company will be pouring beers, including 420, at the Summertime Brews Festival, here at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center on Aug. 15. Get your tickets now before they sell out. Enjoy the brews.



Beer: 420 extra Pale Ale Style: American pale ale Brewery: sweetwater Brewing Company Origin: Atlanta, Ga. ABV: 5.4 percent Pairing: Mexican or even sushi