This isn't the first time I've said it,
but craft brewers definitely are catching on to the fickle nature of the
beer connoisseur. Ironically enough, their bread and butter is often the
brand-loyal local drinker who prefers a flavorful brew but is rather
singular in his preference, much like the dedicated consumers Bud and Miller
depend upon. Many beer enthusiasts, however (this one included), tend to
bounce around in their drinking, always wanting to try something new.
How to address this dilemma? Fight fire with fire, of course, and so many brewers now produce limited release, one-off specialties that they can sell at a higher price to their more vacillating clientele. Here in Georgia, the local Terrapin Brewery did just that with the launch of their "Side Project" series of beers. Not to be outdone, Georgia's largest microbrewery, Sweetwater, answered with their own "Dank Tank" brews.
The first of these, The Creeper, was released in December of 2008. It is, however, even more rare a brew than the Terrapin Side Projects, since it is not bottled as the latter is and is sold only on draft at a limited number of accounts. The "Dank Tank" moniker is derived from the fact that Sweetwater has dedicated one of their 50 barrel aging tanks to the series, and they've even painted it in hypnotically swirling patterns with a bizarre-looking character on the front, sort of like a cross between Darth Maul and Frank Zappa-but clad only in a bra and panties. If you take the brewery tour, it will be hard to miss this one.
The Creeper is named for its tendency "to creep up on you", and I found that name very apropos since this is a dangerously drinkable brew. And at 10% alcohol by volume, it certainly will if you're not careful. Sweetwater describes it as a "Tripel IPA", and I suppose it is a well-hopped Belgian-style tripel. This is not the first time this has been tried, however, as Middle Ages Brewing of Syracuse, New York, produces a Tripel Crown that is somewhat similar, though they use Ringwood yeast instead of Belgian. Sweetwater's attempt clearly works a bit better.
Sweetwater Dank Tank Series The Creeper pours to a bright golden orange color with a thick and tightly packed head formation and a rich nose hinting at funky Belgian yeast and flowery, grassy hops. My sample arrived in elegant form as the bartender poured half the contents of a pint-sized mini-pitcher into a tall Duvel-style bulbous glass, then set both before me. The large, wide mouth glass allowed the aromas to waft through the air to my nose quite readily.
Most immediately, I was struck by the delicate body of crisp Belgian malt typical of the style. There is a decided richness at the same time, and an incredible complexity of cotton candy sweetness, citric lemon and perhaps orange, as well as fruity pineapple. A bit of musty Belgian yeast character pokes its head up, but it's quickly suppressed by the hops.
This is a beer that is best appreciated cool, but not cold, and this will better allow you to appreciate the hoppiness, which is what distinguishes The Creeper from other Tripel-style brews. They intensify as the sip is swallowed, adding a light grassy note and then lingering on the tongue with a pronounced bitter buzz. Thankfully, the "IPA" notion here is more on the English style than the American, and the beer isn't so super-hopped that the Tripel character gets drowned out. A nice balance indeed, I think, between the Tripel and IPA components make this a worthy experiment, indeed. Pricey at $8 the pint, but worth it.
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.