Dammit. It's an election year. This of course means that extremists from both parties will emerge as predictably as cicadas to declare the opposite party's dedication to evil and single-handedly destroying the U.S. of A. It also means that any form of entertainment I choose to enjoy will inevitably be populated by attack ads like flies on a summer roadkill. All that said, I try not to focus on all that. Truth be told, I try to ignore it much as possible by doing my own research and selecting the best candidate. Plus, summer brings out more reasons to be proud to be an American than most other seasons. Summer gives us the 4th of July, D-Day Anniversary, Flag Day, VJ Day (Victory in Japan), and this weekend it brings us Memorial Day. While Memorial Day can certainly be a time to crack open a few craft beers with buddies, grill out, watch the Indy 500, go shopping, and enjoy a day of rest, I certainly hope that we can all take some time to remember those who have died while in service to this great country. They have certainly earned it we owe them that much.
Stepping off of my soapbox now, but I'll be reviewing a beer that is closer in name to the divided politicos than the fallen soldiers. Today's review is for 21st Amendment's Bitter American. I obtained this with a trade from Eric as I currently don't have 21A in my neck of the woods. The can indicates that this is an "extra pale ale with bold malt and hop flavors." Since I love pale ales and big beers, I'm really looking forward to this. Let's pour!
|Thanks to my buddy Kevin for this pic.|
Not initially strong in aroma. The malts are first to the nose in a straw & biscuit combination that eventually allows the biscuit to win out. Hops come next and are a well-blended mix of a light pine and spice. Citrus, at this point, is far, far in the background, but as the beer warms it becomes more and more of a primary player. This citrus note allows the hops to dominate the slightly warmed beer with a sweet citrus note, not unlike a mandarin orange. Very pleasant!
This would earn higher marks if it could. It pours a fairly light gold, but settles in the glass as a wonderful bright apricot orange. The head is a perfect size, slightly beige in color, and shows excellent retention.
This concoction definitely focuses on the "crisp" nature of a pale ale! The beginning is an insanely dry and crackery malt with even a bit of bitter on the front of the tongue. What a great sensation! Before diving into the backbone, the beer dangles those sweet citrus hops in front of you for just a moment before snatching them away and plummeting the drinker into what Coolio would certainly describe as a "Malt-tastic Voyage." It is a voyage of more crackery malts that are so crisp you'd swear you could snap them in half. A moderate bitter from intelligent hop usage adds to the effect. The finish is a continuation of the backbone, but with hints of grain. It then becomes perfectly clean before splashing back to existence with a steady crescendo of bitter. That bitter doesn't linger too long and the aftertaste is mostly clean and extremely drying. I can't believe one beer can do all this!
The carbonation in this brew compliments the crispness extremely well. While the carbonation is not abundant, what is available is fairly lively, helping give that extra little bite. The body is much heavier than most pale ales and at 4.4% ABV this "session ale" (as described on the can) has no detectable warmth.
|Front half of can.|
|Back half of can.|
Overall Impression 9/10
This beer focuses all its effort into one characteristic with laser-like intensity: being crisp. Everything from the dry crackery, malts and carbonation, to the light citrus aroma and light bitter flavors all come together for a common purpose. I must say, it succeeds wonderfully. On top of being crisp, it's also light enough in flavor and ABV that I could truly put these down all day. Talk about a session ale! 21st Amendment has hit the nail on the head.
It's not so much that it's a really bitter beer as the name would imply (though the can claims 42 IBUs), it's that 21st Amendment has managed to remove almost all sweetness from this beer. No caramel malts, no hoppy citrus, no unfermentable sugars, this beer is just dry malt and fairly clean hops. As unappetizing as that may sound, this beer is fantastic! Some folks might like a bit more sweetness in their pale ale, but I would urge them to try this anyway just for a different take on a fairly universal style. I absolutely dig it, even though most of my favorite pale ales often involve a citrus bouquet from the hops. Doesn't matter. Like I mentioned earlier, I could drink this all day. In fact, if these were available in my area, I probably would. This was my first 21st Amendment beer, but I can assure you, it won't be my last.