Beer Review 0153: SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale

Today’s beer comes from SweetWater Brewing Company, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Two college roommates, Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney, discovered they liked beer more than they liked their studies at the University of Colorado. But the two young men didn’t drop out of school; instead, they finished it and then enrolled at the American Brewers Guild in California to learn Fermentation Science.

Around the time of the 1996 Summer Olympics, which were held in Atlanta, the two were in town and decided the city needed a brewery that would create beer in the California style. So, SweetWater was born, and soon after, they began brewing their flagship brew, 420 Extra Pale Ale, a west coast style Pale Ale heavy on the hops and with a crisp finish.

Before I get into the review, major kudos to SweetWater for how they approach beer freshness. Every beer I have had from them always has the date stamped on the label — easy to read, no code to decipher, it’s all right there on the label for you to see. And that’s the way it should be on every beer. Other breweries: take note.

The pour on this beer produced a small but tight and frothy head, lasting in quality. The beer was a nice golden yellow color, clear in body, completely free of particles and sediment. As I drank, several nice patches of lacing were left behind clinging to the glass.

The aromatics were basic but nice, featuring grassy hops with an underlying note of pine. The malts were equally balanced, giving away some caramel and grain, with a slight bit of cracker. The scent was overall clean and peppy, making you want to take a sip.

And the flavors were very much like the nose, grassy hop up front followed by just a hint of citrus (lemon/orange) and the finish turns quite malty but with a dab of hop bitterness — there’s plenty of caramel to be had here, along with some general toasted notes. Again, the finish turns subtly bitter, slightly drying the mouth out, readying it for another sip. The mouthfeel was crisp and refreshing, just what you’d expect from a Pale Ale.

We’ve got a winner here — 420 Extra Pale Ale is exactly what it should be; a balanced beer that you could have a few of or drink everyday without getting bored. The flavors are simple but the refreshing quality is very rewarding, and this is a prime candidate for a premium quality session ale. You can’t go wrong here if you’re looking for something that won’t steal the spotlight, but will be enjoyable enough to hold your attention.

SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale, 86 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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