Quick Take: Sweetwater Happy Ending Imperial Stout

We don’t get much from Sweetwater Brewing in my neck of the woods. In fact, I wasn’t able to learn much about this Atlanta, Jawja brewery at all, considering its graphics-heavy website. [Update: the best place for information this brewery is the Wikipedia entry, of course.]
Sweetwater Brewing
My little brother’s friend Paul makes the trip from Hotlanta to Rochester on a regular basis, and last weekend he was able to score me some of Sweetwater’s Happy Ending Imperial Stout. I have had several Sweetwater brews before, and given the dirty south’s lukewarm reputation for craft brewing, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by their offerings, notably the Georgia Brown and 420 Extra Pale Ale. (As an aside, many of the names of Sweetwater’s beers are double entendres, such as “Motor Boat,” “Hummer,” and yes, even “Happy Ending.”)

The Happy Ending, I must say, is the best of what I’ve had so far. First, it pours a big ole chocolate-brown head, with little bubbly dimples covering the top; and that head is massive. The beer itself is a dark, dark brown-black color, with nary a speck of light to be seen. As the glass is emptied, it leaves a spiderweb of beautiful lace.

The aroma is an initial, surprising rush of sweet hops, that smell of tangerines and blood oranges. (Summit hops?) Within that initial sweet outer shell is also a hint of pine in the hop character. Beneath that is a heavily roasted black malt, that interestingly is the perfect charred counterpoint to the overly sweet hops.

The taste initially is dark and burnt like the bottom of an overdone cookie in the malt. It’s rich and blackened. The hops come in later as a sweet, stone fruit balance. These flavors are severely disparate, but they compliment each other very nicely. It’s two very distinct flavors that you wouldn’t think would go well together, but they cross the palate — with ashy malt and oily hops — in an outstanding balance.

This beer is by turns incredibly bitter and uncommonly sweet, and just because it is balanced does not mean that either flavor is blunted. It’s the perfect beer for this uncertain time of year in Upstate NY: harsh, yet refreshing; unrelenting, yet hopeful. Pick up a bottle and enjoy.

~ by William H on April 21, 2009.

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