Before I quaffed this one two nights ago, I’d been under the mistaken impression that I’d had more experience with the SOUTHERN TIER BREWING lineup than I actually had, and that my impressions were almost entirely over-the-top, wildly enthusiastic. Guess it wasn’t totally the case; before taking their BIG RED imperial amber beer into account, my experience with this New York-based brewery breaks down accordingly (all scored on the HBJ scientific ten-point scale):
Heavy Weizen – 9/10
Cherry Saison – 8.5/10
Raspberry Porter – 7.5/10
Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary Ale – 6.5/10
I reckon that because I loved the first beers I had from them so much (HEAVY WEIZEN and CHERRY SAISON) that everything was going to be great. Well, ya win some and lose some, as they say. BIG RED is one where they’ve shaved off a little bit of that hard-earned respect, though by no means is it an awful or even a bad beer. BIG RED is an “imperial amber”, a new, hopped-up, high ABV style of amber ale best represented by LAGUNITAS IMPERIAL RED (by a friggin’ mile). Southern Tier’s BIG RED, which I happily received in a beer trade with a New Yorker along with three other (!!!) Southern Tier brews, has a pronounced spicy hop profile, along with deep grapefruit flavor – yes, that’s right, just like a good double IPA. That said, it has this sort of off-putting “grainy” taste that I didn’t cotton too, along with a faint hint of something metallic. Some tastes of brown sugar and caramel malt, but probably not enough, along with those oily hops. I don’t know, I can’t help but think this fellas could have done more with this thing. Lagunitas sure can. 6/10 on this one.