10 Barrel Brewing has made lots of noise recently, winning awards and getting acquired by Anheuser-Busch last November. Now, they have expanded their distribution to the Bay Area and were kind enough to send me three of their beers to try out. Let’s find out about some of their beers that’s attracted so much attention.
First up, Swill, a mixture of lemonade and a Berliner Weiss known as a radler. “Swill” is a daring name for a polarizing beer. Reviews of Swill on RateBeer and BeerAdvocate are pretty much of the “love it” or “hate it” variety. My wife and I, who have had our share of arguments, were similarly divided. She found it a little too sweet, while I thought the sweetness level was about right. Both of us liked the punchy lemony sour “tang” to it as we sipped this on our front porch during a hot afternoon. It’s pretty light beverage with the underlying wheat beer and barely any detectable hop presence, leaning a little more towards the beer side than the lemonade side. Of course, there will be beer geeks who will simply refuse to be caught dead drinking something like this. I think a large fraction of the remaining 98% of the population will enjoy this just fine.
Next up, Apocalypse IPA. The largely neutral malt lets the hops shine through with plenty of bright flavors dominated by grapefruit, with some grassy and floral notes in there too. Nothing particularly earth-shattering here, just a well rounded, dry, and balanced IPA that’s more about drink-ability than popping you in the mouth with a bunch of hops. Brewed in the stereotypical West-Coast IPA fashion, I found this compares well to the best examples of this style. I’m talking about beers like Bear Republic Racer 5 or Lagunitas IPA in case you were wondering.
Finally, we end with Joe IPA, an intense grapefruity hop wallop with a little resin finish. It’s surprising dry and well balanced despite all the hop intensity. It’s pretty impressive, since IPA’s with this much hop flavor usually end up as big malty monstrosities, often sticky sweet and tasting like hop syrup. Somehow they cram in all that hop flavor into a balanced brew. Joe IPA won Gold in the American India Pale Ale category at the North American Beer Awards and fourth in the National Beer Championships this year. It’s pretty obvious why.
Let’s give 10 Barrel extra bonus points for not naming their IPA’s using some tired hop pun. Looks like so far, Anheuser-Busch hasn’t screwed up Goose Island. We can only hope they do the same with 10 Barrel Brewing.