Merchant: Decatur Mini Kroger
Service: 22 oz “bomber” bottle
Color: Dark Red to Brown – SRM 28
Temp: Cool to warm at 50º
Smell: Sweet with a lot of red fruit, some wheat bread and subtle spice.
Taste: “16” pours a big head and the color is fantastic. The hazy, rusty red to brown color and light brown head scream rich flavor. The head starts lacing the glass almost immediately as the larger bubble subside.
The first sip is a humungous wallop of flavor. It’s toasty, super sweet and wastes no time getting boozy. It’s also well balanced, there are a ton of hops. A ton. The effects of the massive amount of wheat in this brew are also instantly evident. The mouthfeel (a word I typically try to avoid) is really unique; unbelievably soft and smooth, almost fluffy. The carbonation is nice, too, at a happy medium.
This is for patient sipping. Halfway into this glass there is a brandy-like booziness and sweetness that opens up flavors like plum, fig and caramel. The hops start to dry it out quite a bit. Both extremes–when meeting the toastiness of the malt–make this start to get a bit woody. I’m a sucker for beers that conjure thoughts of campfires.
An interesting though occurs to me: this is a monstrous beer—as far from a gateway beer as you will find—extremely strong. Yet the flavors themselves are so familiar; dark fruit, rich breads, caramel and smoke. I’ve never been a big scotch fan but I’ve heard it said that a good one almost tastes nostalgic. This brew has me thinking that may not be a total load of malarky. However, if 420 or Blue Moon are examples of your expanding horizons, you will probably not enjoy Sweetwater Sweet 16.
I would be remiss to not mention this bottles age. Mostly because hops—over time—fade significantly. It’s why you don’t encounter many IPAs on the cellar menu at local establishments. This bottle of “16” is still very hoppy. I wish I had chased this down when it was fresh—it must have been massive. This was bottled 19 months ago. It’s not fresh. However, at 11%, it’s perfect for cellaring. And at $6.99 (an amazing value) I’ll be going back for a few more bottles—as I recall they have a dozen more. It will be very interesting to crack one open every year for the next few years to see how these change. My guess is, while they will get sweeter and boozier, they will also reveal more dark fruit flavors and taste even more woody. We shall see. If you find a bottle of Sweet 16 around town I highly recommend snatching it up.
Pair with: Smoked gouda, bacon, french bread with cream cheese and spicy strawberry jam.