It must not be a coincidence that the wife and I are enjoy a frothy Sweetwater IPA when I notice on that the contest on the Atlanta Journal Constitution rated Sweetwater IPA the BEST IPA IN THE COUNTRY! They beat out folk like Avery, Stone, Sierra Nevada, and Otter Creek.
One time for the ATL! Of course, Sweetwater is brewed smackdab in Atlanta, so even though they had some high level judges, there's bound to be a little home cookin'. Here's what I thought: though I was a little "distracted".
Here's the bracket. Who would you choose out of the list
A Southern winner in battle of brews
Sweetwater victorious from 16 American IPAs
By Bob Townsend
For the Journal-Constitution
Thursday, March 26, 2009
“Enjoyment of great beer does not demand some special tasting talent. All it requires is an open mind, an interest in beer, and an eagerness to find aromas and flavors without fear of mockery.”
—- Michael Jackson “Great Beer Guide”
By the time of his death in 2007, Michael Jackson was widely regarded as the world’s leading beer writer and critic. For many beer lovers he still is.
Having watched Jackson judge and talk about beer on a couple of occasions, the thing that struck me was his total delight in the moment. While others concentrated on flaws, Jackson more often seemed to be searching out the interesting little things that distinguished the beer he was studying.
I thought about that during a recent blind tasting at Twain’s in Decatur, where I was joined by six Atlanta beer aficionados in judging a Sweet 16 of American IPAs for the AJC’s 2009 Beer Tournament.
Lee Dickson, beer manager at Brick Store Pub in Decatur, helped set up the tasting, served as steward and made sure we didn’t have a clue what we were sampling, except for the style. In other words, though we knew the category —- 14B, American IPA, as defined by the Beer Judge Certification Program —- Dickson did not reveal the identities of the 16 beers until after we had chosen a winner.
On the panel: Chris and Cristina Collier, award-winning homebrewers and BJCP national judges; Phil Farrell, finalist in the 2009 Beer Drinker of the Year contest in Denver, BJCP master judge and BJCP South regional representative; John Kessler, the AJC’s James Beard award-winning food and dining writer; Dave McClure, gold medal award-winning brewer for Atlanta Brewing Co.; and Adam Tolsma, senior beer buyer for Green’s Discount Beverage Stores.
It was a lot of fun watching this illustrious group work through their perceptions of each beer, based on aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel and overall impression.
The BJCP style guidelines describe American IPA as “a decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale.” We chose the style because, though it originated in England, it’s become ubiquitous here. Employing lively American hops that give the beer its distinctive character, ranging from citrusy, floral and fruity to resinous, piney and even a note some tasters are prone to call “cat box,” American craft brewers have made IPA their own.
Kessler, a foodie and admitted wine guy, has become a dedicated follower of American IPAs, and his ability to detect intriguing aromas and flavors, such as “bergamot” or “like the taste of a burnt raisin on the side of a metal pan,” delighted the beer geeks. McClure, the lone professional brewer, offered musings on how a particular beer might have been made. Farrell, who teaches beer appreciation and evaluation courses, kept the group focused on the sensory basics of a good IPA.
Because we were fitting our judging into NCAA basketball-style brackets, we narrowed down the field by picking four IPAs from east of the Mississippi and four IPAs from west of the Mississippi. From that elite eight we chose a final four, and ultimately a winner. Surprisingly, without any manipulation, our top IPAs included two from the East bracket and two from the West. After another round of tasting and a bit of arguing, we ranked those from one to four to produce a winner.
Everyone laughed, knowing we would probably be accused of hometown favoritism, when Dickson disclosed the identity of our No. 1 pick: Sweetwater IPA, Sweetwater Brewing Co., Atlanta.
We loved Sweetwater IPA for its juicy, aromatic freshness, described as “big grapefruit.” Other comments included: “crisp and refreshing; malt backbone supports the hops; hops are big and come through powerfully in the flavor and carry on through the finish without leaving a harsh bitterness.” But, finally, we all just enjoyed drinking this beer.
You can view the entire 2009 Beer Bracket online, and if you don’t like the way our tasting tournament turned out, vote for your own top IPA: www.eveningedge.com.