Beer Review 0521: SweetWater Dank Tank Red Hot Mama Imperial Red Ale

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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.

October 2013 saw the release of Red Hot Mama, an Imperial Red Ale, into the Dank Tank series. There’s not much known about the beer except a fanciful story told on the bottle about a fictional red hot mama, but it appears to be a Red Ale brewed with fresh Centennial hops. The ABV (alcohol by volume) clocks in at 8.6%, and the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are 82.

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This Dank Tank pours with a small, tight, creamy head that has some hanging power. The color plays a bit of trickery on the eye; out of light, it’s a murky, light brown, but in light it becomes the proper bright red SweetWater were after. The beer has a clear body, free of particles and sediment, and lacing is good, leaving behind thin patchy sheets of suds.

On the nose, we’ve got a hop assault. Those fresh Centennials are quite pungent, giving off notes of grapefruit, lemon, and pine. The lemon is especially heavy, and when combined with the sweet caramel malt forms a very inviting lemon meringue. The alcohol is completely hidden; when allowed to warm, Red Hot Mama shows light tropical fruits and some herbal tea. Very nice!

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And you could have fooled me: the taste has a wonderful transition of flavors, beginning with sharp grapefruit and orange peel, opening up into a nice sweet note of caramel. Consider this beer like a color gradient — it goes from brightly hoppy into deep, dark malts. By the finish, we’ve got toasted bread mixed with moderately bitter dark pine, and it goes even deeper, going into bread crust. The concluding notes dry out the palate and ready it for more. This beer is full-bodied, with a medium, foamy, slightly creamy mouthfeel. The alcohol remains completely hidden.

SweetWater’s Dank Tank beers continue the trend of being on-point. This is a great beer and I love the massive transition it takes between nearly extreme happiness to moderately malty. Red Hot Mama holds it’s big alcohol content very well, and I found myself enjoying this brew much more than I expected I would. Red Ales have a tendency to be boring to my palate, but this one held my attention. Great job, guys!

SweetWater Dank Tank Red Hot Mama Imperial Red Ale, 91 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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