Beer Review 0337: SweetWater Dank Tank The Gimp Old Ale
SweetWater Brewing Company is located in Atlanta, Georgia, but its roots actually began in Boulder, Colorado. There, two roommates — Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney — found out they liked beer more than they liked their classes at the University of Colorado. But they didn’t drop out; instead, they took on part-time jobs at local breweries, cleaning out kegs.
Upon graduation, both Bensch and McNerney went to the American Brewers Guild in California to learn Fermentation Science.
In the summer of 1996, when Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympic Games, both our rising brewers were in town and decided the city needed a good craft brewery. They wanted to brew beer west coast style here in the east, so they got a few loans, and took a trip down SweetWater creek, located close to where the brewery is churning out beer today.
SweetWater produce a series of beers they call Dank Tank, which are limited release, one-time experimental creations that are normally big alcohol brews. The Gimp, an Old Ale, was released in December 2012, and comes in at 10.3% ABV (alcohol by volume). SweetWater advises this as a good candidate for aging, but we’re going to try it fresh to see if purchasing another bottle is warranted.
Pouring produced a small, fizzy head that wasn’t built to last. The beer was dark amber in color, like iced tea yet to be thinned with water. The body was clear, free of particles and sediment, leaving a translucent beer in the glass. Lacing was fair at best, only leaving behind several thin patches, but that was more than I expected from a 10.3% ABV beer.
The aromas out of The Gimp were immediately complex; there’s a big malty base up front with huge caramel and toffee sweetness, which mixes with a bready component and some dark fruits to give off the scent of raisin bread. The alcohol is completely hidden. The hops are there, too, presenting notes of grapefruit, pine, and some sweet orange juice that turns more mandarin orange as the brew warms. There’s even a touch of butterscotch, and a little bit of grape juice. Quite nice! As the beer approached room temperature, a subtle smokey note came out to play.
The taste follows the nose and is complex, delivering caramel, raisin bread, and a kiss of chocolate and coffee. At first, this reminded me more of a Belgian Quadrupel than an Old Ale, but the middle is where that style comes into focus with a gentle syrupy introduction of some grapefruit and pine hops. The finish comes on and is fairly sweet with more caramel and a moderate amount of sticky chocolate, until a hop bite rushes in, leaving the palate dried and weighed by a resinous pine tree. This beer is full-bodied with a medium, creamy mouthfeel that was ultimately drying. The alcohol makes an introduction on the finish, as well, but it’s not overwhelming and adds dimension to the brew.
Without question, this is the best SweetWater beer I’ve had to date. The Gimp is an excellent, complex, and highly drinkable beer that is delicious right now, and in my opinion, will probably only get better. If you dig Old Ales or Belgian Quads, ask this of yourself: do you like them with a big hop presence? If so, drink The Gimp now. Do you fall more on the malt side? If so, drink this one a year from now. Bottom line: drink it!
SweetWater Dank Tank The Gimp Old Ale, 95 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.