Atlanta-brewed pale ale has Beerman hooked

Sweet on Sweetwater’s 420

For Weekly SurgeJune 11, 2012 

On a recent Tuesday, while sitting on my front porch with a couple of friends, our weekly happy hour-and-a-half encountered a problem: we had run out of liquor.

Fortunately, I live about two blocks from Green’s Discount Beverages, 2850 North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach.

Better yet, my two friends had a little money. That’s probably because they have two kids each. I have three, so I’m broke.

We made a wobbly stroll over to Green’s, I think.

While my friends picked up Aberlour A’Bunadh scotch, which proved to be magnificent (and 59.8 percent alcohol by volume), Tommy Johnson, beer manager for Green’s, called me over to the beer side of the store.

He had recently added SweetWater Brewing Co. to his lineup, and he wanted to make sure I had a chance to see it.

One of SweetWater’s beers, called 420 Extra Pale Ale, had been selling especially well, Johnson said. I promised him I would come back and try 420, the logo of which looks like an Interstate sign, not like the time some beachwear stores advertise for bong hits.

Nearly two weeks later, I received confirmation of SweetWater’s popularity. Someone wrote to this column at beerpour@yahoo.com and asked where he could find SweetWater beers. He said he’d tried several places around Myrtle Beach.

I rarely have anyone asking me where to find beers, and Johnson said one of SweetWater’s beers has been a good seller, so I considered that a sign.

Soon after replying to the e-mail writer, I walked back over to Green’s, this time in a straighter line, and bought a six-pack of SweetWater 420 for the cash price of $8.99. I also noticed two other SweetWater beers, Blue and IPA.

SweetWater Brewing Co. is based in Atlanta, so we’ll consider that a regional beer, even if Myrtle Beach to Atlanta will take about six hours to drive.

420 proved to be a good choice, considering it has won several awards since it was first brewed in 1997. RateBeer.com gives it an 82, and BeerAdvocate.com scores it an 83.

When I tried it, the hops filled my nose and taste buds right away. The 420 body is lighter than other pale ales I’ve tried – and to be honest, the only other extra pale ale I recall trying is Rolling Rock. Getting to the end of my first 12 ounces, the hop twang had mellowed a bit, and the finish was semi-sweet. These characteristics amount to a seriously hoppy, craft-beer experience without quite so much weight in the stomach.

Soon, I opened another 420.

After two, I think 420 should earn a higher grade than RateBeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com have given it. Maybe in the high 80s. It’s good stuff, and might just replace liquor on upcoming front-porch happy hours-and-a-halves.

More good craft beer places

In my last column, I asked for your help. I listed 10 good local restaurants and bars where craft-beer lovers can find a wide selection. Then, I asked for readers to help me complete the list.

So far, readers have recommended three more places.

1. Stool Pigeons, 1318 Celebrity Circle at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach. This was a no-brainer I should have included in the first list. They have miles of taps. All apologies.

2. Bully’s, 4868 U.S. 17 South in Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach. Another no-brainer I should have included in the first list. They, too, have miles of taps. All apologies.

3. perrone’s (the lower-case “p” being part of the name), 13302 Ocean Highway in the Litchfield/Pawleys Island. I don’t get down to Pawleys Island that much, so this restaurant and deli was a pleasant surprise. The menu, available at perronesmarket.com, includes a beer aficionado’s dream list, including highly regarded U.S. craft beers and internationally famous Belgian ales.

Any other suggestions? Say it! E-mail me at beerpour@yahoo.com .

Don’t forget – soon, I’ll compile the entire list on my blog, maltyhops.blogspot.com. Stay tuned.

Vodka flavors get weird

I’ve written about bacon-flavored vodka, but in retrospect, that flavor seemed like a bit of a lark.

The flavored vodkas seem to be running toward all things sweet, like marshmallow and whipped cream.

I’ve even seen cake-flavored vodka – and cake-flavored rum.

Bacon and cake – now there’s a breakfast. Maybe throw in a screwdriver?

Meanwhile, however, the first legal distillery in Mississippi is producing a first: honeysuckle-flavored vodka.

Bottle Tree Beverage Co., which first made Cathead Vodka, has now released Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka.

I guess it’s a reasonable flavor for the South. I grew up in North Carolina, and my grandparents had a farm in Southern Maryland, so I know what it’s like to pull the stamen through the bottom of the honeysuckle flower and taste the light nectar.

It’s a wonderful flavor, just not one that I ever imagined going with vodka.

Of course, if Cathead wants to send me a sample, I’ll surely drink it.

Contact Colin Burch at beerpour@yahoo.com and visit his blog at http://maltyhops.blogspot.com.

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