Today will be my last post until Monday, November 15th as I will be in Costa Rica until then and without a phone or internet – either by location or choice. I will try to get my hands on a Costa Rican beer, but it’s not high on my list of things to do, as I’m going to be pretty close to the middle of nowhere and high in the mountains for 5 of the 7 days of my trip. I’m really looking forward to this vacation, having never really been outside of the US except to Cancún, Mexico and Eleuthra Island in the Bahamas, neither of which really count except for the really long plane rides. Also, my fiance informed me that Costa Rica was just hit by the outskirts of tropical storm/hurricane Tomas and has caused quite a bit of damage in the form of landslides, flooding, road destruction and over 20 deaths in the area we are supposed to be staying…so we’ll have to see how far we actually get. It’s not looking good.
What is looking good is the Sonoran 200 by Sonoran Brewing Company. Actually, it was good, and I still have plenty left, so if you don’t feel like spending $22 on a bottle like I did, you can come over and try some. Weighing in with a crazy 19.37%ABV and self-proclaimed as “Arizona’s strongest beer brewed with agave nectar,” there wasn’t much else to do with it except package it in a tequila-esque bottle and stop it with a cork. I have been eyeing this beer up since I found out about it almost a month ago and was so happy to get my hands on it from my local Total Wine. It has actually been teasing me from my refrigerator for close to 2 weeks now, as I didn’t want to review any Sonoran beers too close to each other, but today is the day I try to do it any sort of justice.
First, a little background from their website:
“The ‘Sonoran 200’ is produced from 2-Row Malt and pure Agave Nectar. To increase the Agave flavor and sweetness we infused more Agave Nectar into the brew after four weeks of fermentation was complete. The batch was then Oak Aged for six months, achieving the perfect balance of Agave Nectar and Oak flavors, giving the Sonoran 200 its mellow body and distinctive characteristics.”
After sitting for a while, the Sonoran 200 appears a clear burnt amber color (shown in the glass) and has almost a quarter inch of sediment piled on the bottom of the rectangular bottle. Good or bad judgment aside, I decided that in order to maximize the scents, flavors, and overall mouthfeel I should give the bottle a few good turns to reunite the sediment with the liquid. Almost immediately, the liquid turned murky with the swirling mix and while it retained most of its burnt amber color, it also made me think of melted butterscotch candy. There was no carbonation, and thus no head, leaving it with quite a solid facade.
I should mention that while I’ve been keeping the bottle in the refrigerator for safe-keeping, before I tried it, I let it sit out for about an hour to allow it to warm to just slightly cooler than room temperature. By the time I got around to smelling and tasting it, it was probably close to ~60ºF. And when I finally did smell it, holy sweetness Batman! My nose was overwhelmed with heavy shots of maple, even stronger brown sugar aromas mixed with a lighter butterscotch toffee, and what resembled cane sugar, but could have very well been hints of concentrated agave. It smelled like a very sugary candy, with the tiniest bit of alcohol peeking through the amazingly sweet nose.
I was almost afraid to put a drop of this in my mouth for fear of instant cavities, but trusting that the sweetness was due to the intense agave and not fake sugars, I took it sip by sip. I’m going to repeat this: Holy sweetness Batman! This beer is ridiculously super-sweet; like liquid butterscotch candy poured over a melted brown sugar/cane sugar concoction. I was never really able to recover from the initial wave of sugar as the next thing to flood my mouth was lots and lots of agave and maple syrup, both of which carried quite a heavy feel in the thin liquid, smoothing the whole thing out beautifully. With all of the just-short-of-cloying sweetness and the slow swirls of sediment when I mixed it, I expected the beer to present a medium to thick mouthfeel, but found myself thankful of the thinner mouthfeel, as any thicker and it would have been far too dense to enjoy properly. I could only sip it slowly like a cordial (as recommended by @SonoranBrewCo) and the best way I can find to describe the flat texture – besides thin – is caramely or watered down syrup (without taking away any of the sweetness, of course).
With so many redeeming qualities, including the almost 20%ABV being hid outrageously well by the agave, this is a beer I am happy to say I have tried and it only further increases my appreciation of Sonoran Brewing Company and all of their craft brews. I have tasted the strongest beer in Arizona and it exceeded my expectations. Being able to hold that amount of alcohol and taste more like a liqueur than beer, it’s hard to imagine ever labeling this as an American Strong Ale, but that’s exactly what it is and it easily takes that category to the next level. And if you’re not keen on enjoying it on its own, consider one of Sonoran’s alternatives: “We suggest enjoying the Sonoran 200 in a snifter at room temperature, though some prefer it chilled or on the rocks, or as a “floater” on your Margarita. For a truly unique experience, pair it with your favorite cigar or dessert.”