Beer Review 0596: Nantahala Dirty Girl Blonde Ale

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Nantahala Brewing is located in Bryson City, North Carolina, which is surrounded on all sides by the Great Smoky Mountains, the Cowee Mountains, and the Plott Balsams. The brewery was founded in 2009 by Chris Collier, Mike Marsden, Joe Rowland, and Ken Smith; these four purchased equipment from R.J. Rockers Brewery in South Carolina to get going. After licensing, they started producing beer in 2010.

Over the four years they’ve been open, Nantahala have carved out a year-round set of beers, as well as seasonal and higher gravity offerings. Their tap room is a hot spot for live music, and things look busy for the brewery.

Up for review today is a year-round brew called Dirty Girl, which is a Blonde Ale brewed with noble hops. The beer comes in at 5.75% ABV (alcohol by volume) and just 10 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Nantahala says it’s “lager-ishly refreshing.”

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Dirty Girl pours a bright white, very small, soapy head that quickly fizzles away. The beer is a touch darker for a Blonde Ale than I would have expected, looking more mid-golden with a touch of haze. The bottle promised a clear beer, but this definitely has some haziness to it, and I let the chill haze fully disappear before writing this. There are no particles or sediment present; lacing is good, leaving behind thin sheets of suds.

On the nose, there’s not much here to report. There’s sweet grain; straw and grain-like scents, along with a very faint presence of citrus hops. You might call it a smidgen of orange peel, and maybe just a bit of spice. That’s about it. The aroma is pretty much like a lager, just made with good ingredients and no adjuncts.

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And if that’s what they were after, that’s exactly what they made. This beer is crackery up front, with plenty of grain and straw. It’s sweet but not cloying; I must say that it does hide the 5.75% ABV very well. There is a suggestion of hops with hints of herbal notes and grapefruit, but calling it more than a suggestion might be a bit much. The finish is overly crisp and clean, with a residual bready sweetness that quickly fades and slightly dries out the palate. Dirty Girl is light-bodied, with a thin, foamy mouthfeel.

It’s hard for me to rate a beer like this. While this is not a style I approach often, I don’t think this is a very good example of it; instead, this is a picture-perfect representation of a beer that a brewery makes to satisfy the light lager drinkers without having any megacorp lager on tap. And there’s nothing wrong with that — I just wouldn’t recommend this beer, simply for the fact that it really has no redeeming flavor. This is something I would drink on a hot day to feel refreshed; and if beer is your thing for that, then pick this up. Or if you can’t find your go-to fizzy yellow industrial lager, here’s an ale example made without the adjuncts.

Nantahala Dirty Girl Blonde Ale, 69 points. Price: $5.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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