Beerman for May 2, 2013

For Weekly SurgeApril 29, 2013 

Last June, I wrote about beers from SweetWater Brewing Co. I found them at Green’s Discount Beverages, 2850 North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach.

Despite SweetWater’s toehold in the area, last month the Atlanta-based brewery announced a new push into the markets of Myrtle Beach and North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

SweetWater’s 420 Extra Pale Ale was the focus of that June column. I liked 420 a lot, but as SweetWater becomes more visible, I think the beer to watch is the brewery’s IPA.

This India Pale Ale once won first place in a blind taste-test of 15 IPAs conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and I know why.

The hops in this one were almost as strong as a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which is a somewhat different beer style, but it’s familiar enough, and famous enough for its hopping, to make a reasonable comparison. Where Sierra Nevada leans more toward grapefruit tones, SweetWater’s IPA has a distinct flavor that reminds me of both lemon and lemongrass.

Even with the noticeable presence of the hops, SweetWater’s IPA doesn’t violate basic decency with overpowering hops. This is a hoppy beer that nearly all craft-beer drinkers can survive. It’s also a must-try for any IPA aficionado.

The IPA and 420 Extra Pale Ale are genuinely good beers, but I don’t think of SweetWater as infallible. The brewery’s Blue, a blueberry-infused beer, is good but not great. The scent of blueberries is unmistakable, which is nice. The flavor is neither syrupy nor sweet, which is great. The blend of malt, hops, and blueberries is smartly balanced. You really might like it, but to me, it seems more like an interesting experiment for beer geeks than a beer to love. Maybe it’s just that the blueberry flavor just seems out of place with beer – to me.

Upscale Cocktail

My wife Kristi and I recently joined two friends for happy hour at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, 8211 Marina Parkway in Myrtle Beach.

I was a little intimidated. Ruth’s Chris Steak House is an outstanding, reputable, and somewhat (shall we say) expensive restaurant. On the other hand, happy hour, I thought, we could swing.

We sat in a booth in the bar area, and thanks to Kristi’s decision to have only a single glass of red wine, I could get down to business.

I finished a Ketel One on the rocks fairly quickly – I should have just asked for a shot – and became curious about some of the recipes on the $12 cocktail menu. My friend, a bourbon fan, was trying some of the Ruth’s Chris concoctions and handing over his glass for me to sample. I thought what I tasted was interesting, and not being much of a mixed-drink kind of guy, decided to be radical and try some new recipes.

The first one I tried was a Cucumber Collins, described by its recipe: “Hendrick’s Gin, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, freshly squeezed lime juice, muddled cucumber & a splash of ginger ale.”

The presentation impressed me – three fresh, crisp discs of cucumber, on a black spear, resting horizontally on the rim of the glass. As for the flavor, I previously tried Hendrick’s and knew it was one of the better gins, but the mix with ginger liqueur opened a new neighborhood on my palate.

The next cocktail for me was a Moscow Mule, which I probably should have tried before, considering how much I write about vodka. But I hadn’t. Its recipe at Ruth’s Chris: “Russian Standard Vodka, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, freshly squeezed lime juice, ginger ale & candied ginger.”

Again, I was drinking an outstanding cocktail, so we asked the server if he knew where to buy ginger liqueur. He suggested Owens Liquors, 8000 North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach.

Several days later, I stopped at Owens and found a 750 milliliter bottle of Stirrings Ginger liqueur for $13.99. Now, with Hendrick’s and Russian Standard already at home, I can make my own Cucumber Collins and Moscow Mule.

Crafty Fest

At the Crafty Rooster Spring Beer Fest held in Conway April 19-20, I tried Wake-n-Bake from Terrapin of Athens, Ga., and Rabid Duck from Duck Rabbit of Farmville, N.C.

But the most interesting beer I had during the fest came from local home-brewers.

John “Jilly” Garner of Myrtle Beach Craft Beer offered me a sample of a beer he brewed with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Does that sound disgusting? It wasn’t. It was a dark beer that made a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the candied version of chocolate and peanut butter.

Garner ought to publish that recipe.

Contact Colin Burch at

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