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Better Than Bongwater

SweetWater's newest offering packs smoke in a bottle

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Last month, this column brought good tidings from the Big Peach, Atlanta, where, on Friday the 13th of July, the SweetWater Brewing Company debuted their 420 Strain: G13 IPA. That stuff went over about as well as you might expect from a high-end craft beer that smells like Laughing Grass, and so it was just a matter of time before the product achieved wider distribution. That day has finally arrived, and the G13 has exploded out into the marketplace like smoke from the door of a hot-boxed van.

The company’s official “Talking Head,” Tucker Sarkisian, was gracious enough to send me a few samples of the beer, which we’d slugged with quiet dignity, fresh from the tap at their facility. 420 Strain is now available in 16-ounce bottles and cans; the packaging features an all-black color scheme, with the classic fish in white and gangsta-style lettering on the label. Aesthetically, it’s a marked departure from their usual colorful designs, an understated backdrop for a beer with tons of personality.

There is nothing subtle about this beer. It’s strong—6 percent ABV—and slightly bitter, as one might expect an IPA to be. The various ingredients (2-Row, wheat, flaked oats, Columbus and Simcoe hops) combine to give it a kind of sharpness that dances on your tongue and carbonation that sustains. It pours clean, dark and golden, with little head. The gimmick, of course, is the robust aroma and subtle flavor of Flower, Fine Stuff, Fuzzy Lady, if you will, an effect achieved 100 percent legally with the addition of strain-specific terpenes and a proprietary hemp flavor. It’s a head-turner, that’s for sure.

The G13 IPA is just the first in a planned line of 420 Strain beers from SweetWater, and clearly the market is primed for it. They sold nearly 10,000 cases in just the first week of release, and they’ve already got it on tap at over 1,300 locations around the country, several of which can be found near you, wherever you happen to be. Participating retailers include Whole Foods, Winn-Dixie, ABC, Total Wine and Broudy’s. You can also find it on tap at establishments like Dick’s, Graffiti Junktion, M Shack and Mellow Mushroom, and more to come throughout Florida and Georgia.

The roll-out process is still underway, so it’s best to call your favorite suds spot and ask them if they carry it. If they don’t, suggest that they do. The SweetWater brand is a fixture at many local bars, but the proprietors may not be aware that it exists yet. To find a location near you, or to suggest one, just plug in a zip code at sweetwaternbrew.com, designate a driver and go for it. You won’t regret it, unless you drive tipsy, in which case a DUI will be the least of your problems.

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