I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for hops, German hops especially. So you can imagine, therefore, my desire to try Southern Tier Big Red Imperial Red Ale, an over-strength version of a red/amber ale hopped exclusively with German Hallertaus. Seeing it on a store shelf here in tiny Canton, Georgia, I snapped it up poist-haste. You know the craft brewing revolution is really going somewhere when you find a beer like this in Canton.
Anyway, the beer also promised a rich caramel character, which of course I like too. Hops and malt are the spice of beer, after all, and as the Germans say “Hopfen und Maltz, Gott erhalts” (god save hops and malt).
Here’s what Southern Tier says about Big Red:
Inspiration can sometimes be found in the strangest of places. This eccentric brew started with a single flower from a hop named Hallertau. The delicate and spicy aroma present in this flower has been responsible for generations of great beers. Hallertau hops are to a brewer what an old tractor is to a farmer: reliable. Big Red expresses the nobility of Hallertau by placing it at the forefront of this Imperial Ale.
Southern Tier Big Red is a potent enough brew at 8.4% alcohol by volume. Mine came in a 22-ounce bomber bottle, for which I paid about eight bucks.
Southern Tier Big Red Imperial Red Ale pours to a luscious ruby red color with a light creamy head formation and a grassy, herbal spicy hop nose (that's the Hallertaus talking at you). The palate has a generous dose of chewy caramel malt followed by more of those grassy, herbal hops that the nose promised. They become very bitter in the finish, lingering on the palate and leaving a dry spicy punctuation.
I do like the big, chewy caramel character of this beer, and the fact that it serves so nicely as a showcase for the hallertau hop. Those big grassy hops really come through in flavor, aroma, and bitterness. The combination of German hops and American-style “Imperial” ale is a bit unusual, but it keeps this beer from seeming like just another bigger IPA. A decent enough brew, if not an exceptional one.
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.