Sweetwater Brewing Company is a wonderful little Southeastern success story. The Southeast is generally considered the weakest region of the country in terms of its beer offerings. While New England, the Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest have had well-regarded craft and micro-breweries for decades, the trend is only just getting under way in the deep-fried South. A general lack of knowledge/interest regarding craft beers, some extraordinarily antiquated alcohol laws, and a stranglehold by AnheuserMillerCoors (the brewing equivalent of the Axis of Evil), have all contributed to the Southeast being a few steps behind the rest of the country. Also, it’s just so damn hot down here…and I just ate a bunch of pulled pork…and I’m sleepy…I’ll brew some good beer in a little while…just let me lie down for a minute.
Sweetwater was founded by a couple of UC Boulder buddies outside of Atlanta a little more than a decade ago (making them the one set of college friends out of a million that have successfully achieved every frat guy’s dream of starting a brewery). That college mentality is still apparent in their offerings as a number of their beers have mildly suggestive (and amusing) names like the Hummer, Happy Ending, Motor Boat, and Donkey Punch. These “Catch and Release” beers are extremely well-regarded, and in 2002, Sweetwater was voted the Small Brewery of the Year at the GABF.
Although they make some wonderful experimental beers, Sweetwater is best known for two year-round offerings: the 420 (an excellent pale ale), and the Blue (a blueberry-flavored wheat beer). The Blue is what brings us to this tasting note…
My wife is bemused by Aleheads. She sees it as a way for me to shirk my normal husbandly and fatherly duties and I can’t really argue. But she likes a good brew as much as me (well…maybe not AS much, but she’s a good sport) and so when I asked her to step in on a tasting note now and then, she readily agreed. So this is actually her tasting note…I’m just writing it up for her because she thinks my beer blog is lame. Which it is. But so are you.
She drank this beer on Superbowl Sunday (we’re getting old…this was her one beer of the night and she didn’t even finish it). We poured it from a 12-ounce bottle into an old-fashioned glass (yes, we have real beer glasses…she just didn’t care). In the glass, the beer has a very pleasant honey color…a light amber with noticeable carbonation. The head is minimal and disappears almost immediately. No Brussels Lace at any point when drinking this thing. Once the head subsides, it looks, for all the world, like a glass of apple juice (or as my wife colorfully described it, “it looks like the pee of a dehydrated hobo”).
The aroma is the signature facet of this beer. It has a big, fruity smell…my wife said there was no question it smelled like blueberries to her, but I detected a little bit of sweet apple in there too (however, she has a keener nose than me, so I would take her at her word). While the fruit scent overwhelms everything else, there is a faint, but definite odor of yeast lingering around the edges.
Oddly, the primary blueberry and secondary yeast aromas trade places when you take your first sip. The yeast becomes the predominant flavor and the blueberry takes a backseat. There’s not a lot of complexity to this beer thanks to the blueberry flavoring…it’s really just those two notes. But interestingly, my wife noted that the blueberry flavor begins to assert itself with each sip. After a few minutes, the blueberry once again won the battle for supremacy. There’s a bit of an acidic tongue-burn with the first sip, though that too dissipates. Overall, it is a very crisp, light beer.
The mouthfeel was extraordinarily light. Since wine drinkers use the term “legs” to describe the way wine coats the glass, we made up the term “mouth-legs” to describe how well a beer coats one’s mouth. The Blue had no mouth-legs at all. It was a double-amputee as far as mouth-legs are concerned. Though it had very little body, the beer is noticeably “drying” and leaves your mouth a bit puckered after each sip. My wife also wanted me to point out that it made her “immediately burpy.” That didn’t play into our rating.
As far as drinkability is concerned, the Blue goes down pretty smoothly for a fruit beer (there’s a joke in there somewhere, but I’ll leave it be). It’s too sweet to be a session beer, but you could easily drink two or three of these. It’s drier and milder than some of the cloying lambics out there, but it has enough of a fruit flavor to be enjoyable for those drinkers that don’t necessarily like your traditional strong beer flavors. It’s not a great beer, but for what it is, it’s not half bad. I’d probably give it 2 Hops, but since it’s my wife’s review, and she enjoys the Blue, we’ll bump it up to 2.5 Hops.