Total Score: 72.50, C- Reviewed 11/12/11
NOTE: Shaun O’Sullivan, co-founder and brewmaster at 21A, has contacted me to discuss this review. More to come.
Saw this as a single at the local beer store recently and between the cool art and the fact that it was in a can I couldn’t help myself. 21st Amendment Brewery’s top selling “Brew Free! Or Die IPA” is brewed with two-row and munich malts and hopped with Warrior bittering hops, Columbus and Cascade finishing hops, and dry-hopped with Amarillo, Ahtanum, and Simcoe, weighing in at 7.0% ABV and 70 IBUs.
The brewery itself was founded in 2000 by Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan and is located just two blocks from the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park, while the beers are canned at a facility in Cold Springs, MN. In addition to having been honored as the “Best Brewpub” in San Francisco, they’ve also been awarded “Best Burger” and “Best Happy Hour”. Sign me up! Unfortunately, several attempts to contact the brewery for further information went unanswered, so that’s all I’ve got on the beer and brewery.
This one has been sitting in the fridge for a few days begging me to drink it, but I’ve been busy tinkering with the site format. Finally, time to drink! Poured from a can into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass. Hazy light gold in color with a gigantic sticky and fluffy head that is cloud-like and looks soft enough to rest your head on. Fizzles away slowly and unevenly leaving a cool rocky-looking formation.
First thing that greets the nose is spicy grapefruit hops. Sweet caramel/toffee malts form just enough of a backbone, offering a bit of balance but still leaving the spotlight on the hops. Unfortunately the taste doesn’t match up with the smell, bringing a spicy and aged-hop taste more characteristic of a barley wine. The dissonance between the smell and taste really bothers me, and the apparent age on the brew is disappointing. Boozy sweetness is huge and complements the equally strong bitterness well. Body is pretty light with medium carbonation. Pretty smooth going down. Finish is very clean and moderately dry with a slight lingering bitterness. Not that this is bad at all, but it’s just not drinking like the west-coast IPA it promises to be.
Bonus points for the can (cans are, imho, infinitely superior to glass), but in the end, I can’t help being disappointed by the taste of this one. While I suspect that this beer may not be as fresh as I would want it to be, I can’t be certain since there is no freshness or best-by date on it, so I think it’s fair game. Everything else about it was solid, but I don’t plan on going back to this one unless I find out that what I had was not representative of what the beer is supposed to be.
Look: 10/10 Smell: 8.5/10 Taste: 6.5/10 All-Around: 6.5/10