Sweetwater Brewing Co – 420 Extra Pale Ale

It’s only happened a few times in the history of this blog, but one of my favorite parts of this blog is having people give me bottles for reviewing.  It’s funny living in Washington DC.  It’s probably one of the few places in the country where you can ask someone where their from and get a different answer almost every time.  No one is a born and bred native to DC.  In terms of beer, you have a lot of people who have beers that are local to them wherever they’re from back home.  These aren’t of course always available in this area, but they can tell me about some of these different breweries.  One of my good friends is always telling me about Sweetwater Brewing Co.  I can’t remember if I’ve ever had anything from them before, but I know he’s told me a little bit about them a few times.  A couple of weeks ago at a little gathering at my house, he brought me two bottles of their 420 Extra Pale Ale.

Sweetwater is a brewing company out of Atlanta, Georgia.  Up until a couple of weeks ago I had never been to Atlanta.  We happened to stop there on the way back from Jamaica two weeks ago.  Our layover in ATL was a little less than desirable.  We had some real strange experiences going from the airport to downtown on Marta.  Actually heading down wasn’t all that bad at all.  I kept using the Beerwhere app on my phone and saw Stillwater appeared to be right downtown.  Now on the way back we got to watch two grown adults almost get in a fight, and we had another guy flash drugs and drink tequila on the train.  Regardless of that, I don’t know a whole lot of other breweries coming out of the ATL area.  Terrapin is somewhere around there, but I can’t think of much else.  So I’m always happy to expand my knowledge of local favorites to other areas.

420 seems like an interesting name for a beer.  You would think they would have some slightly illegal substance mixed in there or something.  Of course you would have to assume that isn’t the case.  Instead, the beer was brewed on April 20th.  Interestingly, the beer is also known as an extra pale ale.  India pale ales tend to be heavily hopped, pale ales are less hoppy, and I guess extra pale ales find themselves somewhere in the middle of that range.  Either way, I was excited to get a taste of my first real memorable taste of Sweetwater.

This beer pours out a golden yellow color with a little hint of red and orange mixed in as well.  There is a moderate white fluffy head that develops on top of the beer.  Swirling the glass shows some really light lacing, but you also get a lot of ample sticky residue left over as well.  The beer is slightly hazy, but overall, it has some pretty good clarity to it.  I wouldn’t say the clarity is all that ample, and I like my beer a little hazy anyway.  Maybe its mental, but I feel like there is some more taste hidden in a cloudy beer.  You can definitely see the carbonation in the glass as well.  Thankfully, the color didn’t have me too worried at all.

The beer does have a little light sweet malt aroma that permeates much of the aroma. Mixing with the sweetness is a lot of orangey citrus notes.  This isn’t too much grapefruit as it is the sweeter orangey scent.  Interestingly, I get a little light spicy smell coming off the beer as well.  I can’t tell if it has something to do with the yeast or a different ingredient.  I’m definitely pulling out something like clove in there.  The aroma seems to be a little more floral than pine here.  I am wondering if this could be a big difference between a pale ale and an IPA as well.  I would definitely say they have less pine for sure.

The malty sweetness is a lot more prominent than I was expecting on the first sip.  It isn’t overwhelming, but you definitely notice that this beer has a good amount of malts to combine with the hops that are present later on.  If anything, it strikes me as a pretty well-balanced beer.  The sweet malt intro gives way to the citrusy orange flavoring that ends up infiltrating much of the beer.  That slight clove spice flavor comes in right before the hit of the hops.  I don’t think the clove is from the yeast, but you can definitely find it there right before the hops.  The hops comes in with a little pine and a lot of floral notes.  I like the slight little tang that the hops have as well.  The tang really manages to match up well with the orange flavors.  The finish is a lot of citrus, plenty of floral hops, and a little tang.

There is plenty of carbonation to this beer which manages to help with the very fresh tasting brew they have achieved here.  I like a lot of the citrus and clove that complements your typical malts and hops for a good mouthfeel.  The hops aren’t really overpowering, but you can tell with the tang it is definitely a slight step up from your typical IPA.  Overall, it’s a really nice balanced well blended beer with some really nice flavors.

It’s by no means my favorite pale ale of all time, but I think Sweetwater has a really good beer here.  I thought of picking up a Sweetwater beer while in ATL, but I was won over by a few other tempting offers I saw on the menu.  I think the next time, if there’s a next time, I’m down there I’ll give a couple other Sweetwater beers a try.  If anything, they have definitely peaked my interest.

Teacher Grade: B



  1. Next time, you can avoid MARTA and just get it at the airport. They have a Sweetwater Drafthouse in Terminal B. 🙂

    • We only decided to do it because we hadn’t been to ATL ever, and we had so much time there. I wouldn’t do it again if we have a long layover there.

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