Review Date 11/30/2012 Last Updated 2/25/2016
I haven’t had much luck with beers from the 21st Amendment Brewery. The first one that I tasted was their Hell or High Watermelon Wheat beer that was simply atrocious in my estimation. A few enjoyed on tap at Taco Mac were good to average, with their Bitter American being perhaps the best effort. Still, was intrigued enough by their winter seasonal Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale to pick some up.
OK, the picture of FDR sitting by the fireplace enjoying a tawny colored brew certainly helped pique my interest. Now that’s marketing, you might say. Here are the details and specs from the brewery website:
Like FDR’s Depression-era radio addresses, which were like a kick in the butt and a hug at the same time, our Fireside Chat is a subtle twist on the traditional seasonal brew. We begin with a rich, dark, English-style ale and then we improvise with spices until we know we have a beer worth sharing with the nation.
Alcohol Content 7.9% by volume
Bitterness Units (IBUS) 45
Hops Magnum, Goldings
Yeast Top Fermenting Ale Yeast
Malts Pale, Munich, Wheat, Crystal, Aromatic, Chocolate Malt and De-Bittered Black
Special Ingredients Spices, Cocoa Nibs
My sample was canned on 9/24/2012. Let’s try it, shall we?
21st Amendment Fireside Chat pours to a dark mahogany color with a thick creamy tan head and a slightly phenolic, dark malty nose. Taking a sip, I get those phenolic notes right away, and then some. They permeate the dark malty notes underneath and detract from the spices. I still get those spices, perhaps nutmeg and cinnamon with a hint of clove. They work well with the dark chocolaty nutty malt underneath, once I remove the phenols from my mind’s palate. Bitter hops balance in the finish, but disappointingly the band aid flavor is most apparent there.
I would avoid this beer, at least the 2012 batch. If my sample has a phenol problem, likely there is more out there that does. The band aid, swimming pool water aromas and flavors are the classic sign of beer that has a problem with too much chlorine in the brewing water, or a problem in the canning line. A ripoff at $8.99 for four cans of undrinkable beer.
I will say this, though; I was impressed with the brewery’s response to my e-mail about the problem. They apologized and offered to refund the purchase price posthaste. For this reason, I’ve rated the beer a “Try” if not a “Rebuy” as I will look for it again in 2013 in hopes of obtaining a better sample.
Update: December 22nd, 2013: Good news folks: 21st Amendment Fireside Chat is better this year, I still get some Band-Aid phenols in the nose, but not so much in the palate, which leads me to believe they are a fermentation byproduct rather than a bottling issue. Some chocolate and banana (the phenols), not really feeling the spices here, but I do get the cocoa nibs. Better, but still not bowling me over, and at $9 a 4-pack, not on Santa's nice list. Again. I've revised my rating up from 2 stars to 3 and a half, though still not a beer I would rebuy as more than a single.
Update February 25th, 2016: I will say this for 21st Amendment Fireside Chat: it does seem to get better and better every time I try it. I've Always found this phenolic in the can but it's a sheer delight on tap at Taco Mac tonight with wonderful chocolate and dark fruit and lovely warm alcohol perfect for a cold February night. The price is right at $5.75 too! I'm rating up from 3 and a half to four, and yes, I'm going to give the cans a try again next year.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.