If you weren’t out at The Market @ Washington & High last night, let’s just say you missed quite a tasting. SweetWater was the beer on deck and there was even a representative on hand to walk us through the brews which I’ll get to in a minute. The first thing you need to know is what we ate for dinner. These tastings always include dinner, and while sometimes they are purposeful pairings with the beer, what we ate last night could easily stand alone. Those that know me have heard me rave about Charleston, SC. and my perpetual search for the best shrimp & grits in the land which, for those that don’t know, is a big deal down there in SC. Let me be clear- Mike Adams shrimp & grits is currently THE BEST shrimp & grits in the land. If there was an annual shrimp & grits competition, they’d change the name to the Mike Adams Shrimp & Grits Competition and beg him not to compete anymore so someone else would have a chance. We welcome competitors but you better bring your A-game. If you ever hear that Mike’s shrimp & grits is on a tasting menu – even if the tasting is for lake water and pickle juice – GO – you can thank me later.
Most of us around here are familiar with SweetWater’s brews. Their 420 Pale Ale has been in our market for quite some time and their IPA is definitely in my top three – as I’m a bit of a hop head. SweetWater Blue is a beer I always immediately associate with my friend Shiona as I am quite certain she is Blue’s biggest fan often raving about it’s awesomeness as we travel through the Atlanta airport on various work excursions. The other three brews on tap were new to me and what made the evening even better is that we had Curtis McArthur on hand from SweetWater to walk us through the beer and to give us some background on the brewery. I’d also like to note that Curtis’s official title is “Beer Pimp.” How does that not make you smile a bit?
SweetWater was founded back in 1997 by college roommates Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney when they were at the University of Colorado at Boulder. These guys shared a passion for beer and even worked for a local brewery washing kegs in trade for…you guessed it, beer! While the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta brought the eyes of the world to the southeast, it also brought these guys down to the land of apple pie and moonshine. It was then that they realized that this market would be perfect for their brewery. Now, where does SweetWater get it’s name? For those of us in fabulous East Tennessee we immediately think of the little town just north of Athens, TN. that shares their name. While similar in name, SweetWater Brewing Company gets its name from the Sweetwater Creek in Georiga. Also, among the many awards SweetWater has won, it’s worth noting that they won the 2002 Small Brewery of the Year award at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). However, SweetWater is no longer small as they are cranking out 100,000 barrels per year and with their current expansion aiming to quadruple that. All that to say, with many breweries pulling out of various states to better meet demand in their local markets, SweetWater has got us covered. On with the beer!
SweetWater Sch’Wheat!: This was a new one for this beer snob. As an American Wheat Ale that doesn’t disappoint this is a good crisp, clean summer weather beer. You get the subtle hints of coriander and orange peel in this beer and while they don’t sell this in six packs in our area just yet, it can be found in their Tackle Box mixed 12 pack.
Waterkeeper Hefeweizen Ale: Second up was the Waterkeeper Hefeweizen Ale that while I was aware of it being in our area, I hadn’t tried it yet. What’s important about this beer – other than being tasty – is that the proceeds from this beer are used for various cleanup and protection programs that focus on specific waterways – such as the French Broad, Chattahoochee and Gulf Coast – to name a few. You can learn more about the Waterkeeper project here. Big beer snobs props to SweetWater for supporting this great cause. This is also a great beer to boot as a German-style hefe with aromas of citrus, lemon, clove and banana. This beer goes down easy and not only tastes good but how can you not feel good knowing that this beer helps support these important waterways? Good stuff.
420 Extra Pale Ale: 420 was my first introduction to SweetWater and holds a special place in this beer snobs heart. This is a great pale ale that has a very nice even bitterness to it. As their biggest seller and flagship beer this is certainly one to be proud of. Where did the name 420 come from? Well, turns out this beer was first brewed on April 20th, thus 420 became it’s name.
SweetWater IPA: If you’re a hop head like me, you can’t go wrong with SweetWater IPA. You get citrus and grapefruit on the nose and a taste that’s both a bit bitter and sweet. This beer is unfiltered and is extensively dry-hopped. Awesome brew.
SweetWater Blue: Blue is a basic wheat beer that gets it’s unique flavor by being filtered through blueberries. While this is a sweeter beer it is very drinkable and goes with hot summer days like orange in Neyland Stadium. While discussing the filtration process of this beer we all wanted to know what happens to the blueberries that are used after filtering is complete. If anyone knows let’s hear it as we think that’d make some killer jam.
Motor Boat: Another first for this beer snob, Motor Boat is a very nice ESB that pours with an amber hue and has a very tasty bitter profile. This is a seasonal beer so catch it while you can.
To top off the evening Curtis gave us a round of trivia based on the evenings discussions and for those with the correct answers gave out some pretty cool SweetWater schwag to go along with the pint glass and stickers he brought along for us all.
Overall another great evening at The Market and if you didn’t make it out for this one, keep an eye on the calendar for the next one – they never disappoint!