Beer Review 0428: SweetWater Road Trip Golden Ale

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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.

Part of their seasonal lineup, SweetWater serve up Road Trip, a Golden Ale, during the summer months (or what they call ‘bikini season’). Hopped and malted like a Pilsner, instead this beer undergoes a warm fermentation with a warm yeast, to achieve a fuller flavor. Road Trip delivers 5.2% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is readily available in six-packs.

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The pour kicked up an average size, soapy head that lasted atop a yellow-golden beer. The body of the brew was cloudy, but had no particles or sediment. Lacing was very nice, leaving behind solid puffy sheets. An overall nice looking brew.

On the nose, this one has a very mild profile, leading off with the Pilsner malts; lots of bready, biscuit like scents mixed with a saltine cracker, and grains. The hops are very timid but give off some orange and lemon peel, and just a tiny hint of grapefruit. It’s your typical summer beer scent — restrained yet somewhat refreshing.

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But things fall apart when you actually taste this beer. It’s not bad at first, with very mild notes of orange peel and some soapy grapefruit, but on comes a rush of bitterness in the middle of the mouth that just overtakes all the nice, subtle flavors and smacks around your taste buds, giving off the impression of crushed aspirin. The finish brings on much more of the annoying bitterness, crushing the palate with soapy grapefruit and very, very harsh bitterness. Still, I’d call this light bodied, just hard to drink, with a thin, creamy, and extremely drying mouthfeel.

I’m not impressed by this beer at all, and that’s unusual for SweetWater, who typically make very good to excellent beers. The bitterness kills all drinkability, and I suffered through the final six ounces of this beer just to call it done. I won’t be back, and I’m thinking most people looking for a chill summer beer won’t be, either. ‘Tis a shame given this brewery’s reputation.

SweetWater Road Trip Golden Ale, 70 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve once bottle.

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