Me love you long time. Sorry, that was the immediate thought when I pulled a bottle of Sweetwater Brewing Co. Happy Ending out of Brother Barley’s care package the other day. Even prior to tasting anything from this Atlanta, GA brewery I knew they were notorious in the catchy name game. 420, Dank Tank, Motorboat, Hummer – Subtle in their efforts these gentle folk are not. There’s even the illustrious Donkey Punch, which made it to # 5 in Brother Barley’s Top 50 Beer Names contest. I think Happy Ending trumps all others though since every good Alehead wants to come through in the end with an explosive finish.Sudsy and I split this glorious offering at the very end of our Southern Comforts tasting and it was so good that I thought a full tasting note was in order. Poured from a 12oz bottle into a fairly filthy (Read: Used all night) shaker glass, this Imperial Stout showed a dark mahogany body with an off-tan head up to an inch thick. The head dissipates quickly but heavy lacing remains throughout. Chocolate on the nose, more of a chocolate milk or Nesquik than the dark, bitter chocolate notes found in others of the style. Surprising amount of hops hit you too. Imperial Stouts generally use a shit-ton of hops but it’s usually more difficult to pick up anything in the aroma (More bittering usage than anything else). I love the way Sweetwater plays up the hops to give an incredible balance that plays right into the first sip. Lots of caramel and coffee first hits you on the tongue followed by some darker flavors of prunes, chocolate (More bitter than on the nose) and a roasted finish. Good amount of alcohol present as well, not surprising from the 9% ABV payload. Mouthfeel is medium to light, way lighter than any imperial stout than I’ve ever experienced. Almost on the lines of a Porter in terms of viscosity. The drinkability is beyond absurd, a direct reflection of the perfect mouthfeel that disguises many of the stronger flavors of this brew.
Unlike some other Aleheads (Looking at you McHops), I love a good summer brew. I enjoy Hefe’s, Witbiers, Saisons, even the ubiquitous Summer seasonals that everyone from Sam Adams to Sierra puts out. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything darker than a Dubbel in my fridge until the Fall winds coming sweeping through town. I say all that so you’ll understand just how drinkable the Sweetwater Imperial Stout truly is. If I could get it by me, which of course I can’t because the South hates to share, I would have this brew on hand for even the hottest days that New England has to offer (Which is about 90 for two days, but it’s still friggin’ hot for me). How can a 9% Stout taste so light, yet pack so much flavor??? I’m perplexed.
As I said in the Southern Comforts post, Sweetwater’s Happy Ending gets a 3.5 hop rating from me. The only reason I don’t slap the 4 on it is because I don’t think it’s the greatest representation of the style. That’s not a knock at all, but I need to have some sort of standard by which I rate other beers in the future. This would be the perfect brew to set aside for a couple of years and I’d imagine it would reach a 4.0 by that point once the hops meld into profile. Really though, I have no idea what age will do to this Imperial Stout and if I ever come across a bottle again I’m sure it won’t survive another day. I want another. I need another. Man do I love Happy Endings.