It is sign of the power of American culture that we know what the 1st amendment means (free speech), we understand what it means to pledge the 5th (thus avoiding self incrimination) and every gun toting nutbag out there spouts their 2nd amendment right.
But do you know what the 21st amendment to the US constitution is? The right to eat poor quality meat products between bread? The right to drive oversized cars? The right to talk incredibly loud in public places? The right to believe without any hint of doubt or irony that America is the best god darn country in the world?
Nope the 21st amendment more important than all of these. The 21st amendment repealed the 18th amendment. The 18th amendment is more commonly known as Prohibition, which made the selling of alcohol illegal.
So without the 21st amendment I would not have been able to drink any beer whilst in the US (let’s face I probably wouldn’t have visited if I couldn’t get a beer). Given its importance to beer lovers it not surprising to find a brewery named after it.
There is a lot to like about 21st amendment. They have some of the best packaging and look of any beer ever. It’s sort of a Communist posters meets V for Vendetta look, all with a humorous bent.
The fact that they also package in cans give the beers a strong presence and allows a powerful presence on shelf (that sounded a little to marketing speak to me). Although I have to admit from an Australian perspective when I think canned beer I think cheap beer, although apparently there are advantages to using cans
But this is clearly not the case in San Francisco. All of the clever brew names, cartoon beer labels and I suspect fine product, seem to work. When we walked from our lodgings through off the main tourist drag and into a non descript part of town we found brewery/restaurant that was packed to the rafters, all the more impressive as it was a run of the mill weeknight, and there wasn’t any baseball happening. (The brewery is close to the brand spanking new ball stadium, so I’m told it gets a bit busy pre and post game).
But what of the product – Is 21st amendment as good as I’ve just painted it to be, and as interesting as the packaging suggests? Let’s find out:
First up was the beer I had been looking forward to since I read about it on the interwebs. Back in Black, no not the AC/DC album which has sold 49 million copies but rather a Black IPA that weighs in a 6.8% alcohol. It is not surprisingly black in colour with very little carbonation and has just a wispy head. I smells like liquorice and taste a like a well made porter, but with more hops. It unusual and just fascinating. I liked it enough to consider buying its T-Shirt (because these are rockstar beers they have their own t-shirts) but eventually decided against it. Jug.
Meanwhile across the table young Jordan was drinking the American Roasted, which is a brown coloured red ale. Again it had almost no head and little carbonation. Jord was nice enough to share her beer with me, and after the Back in Black this tastes very subtle, it was sweet and malty with an understated hop character (perhaps it was a normal amount of hops but I was now used to the high hop world of American brews). Very easy to drink – Pint.
I spent a lot of time considering my next purchase. Could I order a watermelon flavoured beer and still maintain my air of rugged manliness? Should I make Jord order it for me, so that the waitress would not think less of me? Eventually I decided that my beer does not define me, grew some balls and proudly ordered a Hell or High Watermelon
It is a watermelon flavoured wheat beer. It is a cloudy beer with a greenish yellow colour. It smells very faintly of watermelon. It is not hugely carbonated, malty or hoppy. It’s more of an understated gentle sipper, but does it taste of watermelon? not really. It tastes like an average Wheat beer with some strange gimmicky fruit tones. Schooner.
Whilst I was sipping my Watermelon flavour brew the self doubt that I was drinking a girl’s drink started seeping back into my mind. Jordan didn’t help by ordering and much more tough sounding Brew Free or Die which is (you guessed it) another IPA. This was a dark yellow colour with a solid and resilient white head. It has a definite citrus and floral hop scents on the nose, and these hop notes dominate the taste as well. Very American in its hop usage, which is to say our delicate Australian palates found it a touch harsh, but a very good beer all the same – Pint.
So if you find yourself in San Francisco, and going by the number of Australians we saw there, and the immense buying power of the Aussie dollar, I get a feeling a few of you might be making the trip soon, get off the beaten track and head down to 21st Amendment, you’ll be pleased the temperance movement failed and we can all once again drink free.
Back in Black – A Jug Please
American Roasted – I’ll have a Pint thanks
Hell or High Watermelon – Let’s have a Schooner
Brew Free or Die – I’ll have a Pint thanks
The Long Bow Youtube Clip: ‘Have a Drink on Me ‘off their album Back in Black. Live in Rio back in 1985.