Beer Review 0448: SweetWater Dank Tank Some Strange Black IPA

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2013 marks SweetWater Brewing Company’s (Atlanta, Georgia) 16th anniversary of brewing beer. Founded by Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney in 1997, the Atlanta brewery seeks to brew west coast style beer on the east side.

Bensch and McNerney were roommates while attending the University of Colorado, and after graduating, they both decided that their love for beer weighed just a bit more than what they actually went to school for. Both men continued their education at the American Brewers Guild in California, and the subject there: Fermentation Science.

Since 1997, SweetWater have become one of the most successful southeast breweries. Currently, SweetWater offers a solid year-round lineup, seasonals, and limited release “Dank Tank” bottles; these beers are sold in bomber size format and are reserved for experimental offerings.

The latest Dank Tank experiment is a Black IPA called Some Strange. Brewed to 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) the backstory here involves a guy going out, getting tanked, and coming home with a beauty but waking up the next morning to find a beast. And that’s putting the story mildly.

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The pour produced an average size, soapy head that lasted. This beer appeared black in color, but when held to light, it was actually dark red, nearly maroon, and had a clear body, free of particles and sediment. Lacing was quite nice, leaving behind thin but solid sheets of foam as I sampled.

On the nose, we’ve got a big hop blast, but also some nice undercurrents of malt. The hops deliver bold notes of juicy tropical fruits, and plenty of citrus, especially orange and orange peel. There’s a definite lemon and lime presence, and there’s also some veiled sharp grapefruit. As for the malts, they are definitely darker than a typical IPA, but unlike most Black IPAs, they don’t feature obvious notes like chocolate or coffee. Instead, it’s just more of a general roasted/toasted aroma, with a bit of burnt caramel. This is nice because I love how juicy the fruity hops are.

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And in the taste, those juicy hops come to the front big time; the initial flavors are quite sweet and have plenty of mangoes, pineapple, and oranges. In the middle, there is a slow but not complete transition into some malts; there’s a touch of mild roasted coffee and caramel, along with some toasted bread — other than that, the hops continue to play sweet notes and make the finish bittersweet instead of your standard IPA bitter. I found Some Strange to be medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel, and a large alcohol content that was completely disguised.

I’ve had my share of Black IPAs, and I must say, this is a unique take on the style. The hop sweetness is something you don’t generally find in this type of beer; they tend to be really bitter coffee bombs, with large notes of pine and grapefruit. Some Strange is largely juicy hops with a darker malt base than you’d find in a regular IPA. You might even say it is subtle on the malts — I dug it, and I think this is certainly worthy of a drink.

SweetWater Dank Tank Some Strange Black IPA, 90 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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