Review Date 6/9/2007 Last Updated 4/27/2011
I was very much intrigued when I got an e-mail from
Atlanta’s own Sweetwater Brewing Company announcing the impending release of
their Road Trip Ale, which they explained was “in the pilsner style”.
Huh? A pilsner style ale? That’s a new one on me, folks,
notwithstanding the occasional brewpub ale being passed off as a pils.
So I’ll let Sweetwater explain a little. From the label:
Road trips are carefree adventures that usually take unexpected twists, like when we crafted this beer. It started out as a pilsner recipe, but halfway through it blew a tire and ale yeast was put on as the spare. The result was so good, it never could have been planned!
I’m not privy to the particulars of how the recipe got changed from lager yeast to ale yeast. I do know that ales take much less time to make than lagers do, because they don’t generally need to be aged as long. That means less time in the conditioning tanks, which allows more batches to be made.
Whatever the reason why Sweetwater opted to use an ale yeast on a classic lager style, the results are quite impressive, and I fro one will be going back for more than the single six-pack I purchased. You should too, since the beer is part of the brewery’s Catch and Release series of limited run, seasonal brews.
Sweetwater Road Trip Ale pours to a rich golden color with a spritzy, short-lived head formation and a biscuity, grassy malt and hop nose. Sipping reveals a firm foundation of crisp, biscuity, pilsner malt that quickly gets buried beneath an avalanche of Saaz hops. They grab you right away with an herbal, minty-grassy aroma and flavor. Then the bitterness grabs your tongue, and gradually increases into the finish, where it lingers on your tongue for quite some time after you swallow.
And that, my friends, is why Sweetwater can get away with using an ale yeast here. You see, all that hop aroma and bitterness would mask any fruitiness that ale yeast might throw off. Hence, a pretty credible pilsner that is actually an ale, not a lager, though no mention is made as to whether or not the beer is cold aged (lagered). I doubt that, though, since Sweetwater has only ever brewed ales to my recollection.
Still, a lot of beer geeks are pretty confused about this one, and that’s been fun to watch. For some reason, Beeradvocate.com has it listed as an “American Double Pilsner” (it’s not), and ratebeer.com seems unsure what to call it. You can’t blame them; my money says that if you put a glass of this unannounced in front of a beer enthusiast they’d call it a hoppy German style pils (it reminds me very much of Victory’s Prima Pils).
An interesting experiment, and a worthy one. So hurry up and buy some, won’t you? It’s worth a road trip in and of itself.
Update, April 2011: Re-sampled on draft at Taco Mac in Canton, Georgia. I liked this one well enough, and it's still a crisp, hoppy pilsner-fashioned ale. Still, Sweetwater has switched brewers since I first tried this one, and it seems to me softer in the hop category. Crisp and refreshing on a warm spring day, but does not seem to me the beer it used to be, and so I take it down a peg accordingly.
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.