Grateful Dead-Inspired Beer: American Beauty

beer - dogfish head american beautyI’ve never been a fan of the Grateful Dead; I love rock music, but I don’t like extended jams.

But American Beauty, a new small-batch imperial pale ale from Dogfish Head Brewery, intrigued me. Here’s why: Dogfish Head reached out to Grateful Dead fans asking for suggested ingredients for the beer that would honor their favorite band – let the Deadheads supply the recipe.

My first thought was, “What sort of ingredients might a nation of Deadheads be inclined to recommend?” Hmm. Perhaps we’d best leave that one alone.

The result was more than 1,500 different suggestions, with one clear winner: organic granola. In other words, hippie food. OK, I’ll bite: how does granola work in an Imperial Pale Ale? Quite well, actually, at least in the hands of the Dogfish Head brewing team.

American Beauty pours with a big, clean head, a medium-hazy, dark orange body and plenty of lacing. It certainly passes the eye test. But it’s the nose that really begins the intrigue – there’s an expected floral aroma supplied by the plentiful American hops in this beer, but there’s also something else; there’s an earthy tone to it. Does that come from the organic granola?

More importantly, is this the stuff from the blessed fountain they were singing about in the song “Ripple?”

The ale’s flavor is surprisingly balanced – not the hop attack one might expect from an imperial ale (the beer is 55 IBU). It has a crisp flavor, but one which confirms the toasty earthiness on the nose. Upon further inspection, I discovered that the granola includes almonds, which may have something to do with it.

Interestingly, this beer is smooth, with a great, natural hop flavor. And yet it’s not one of those Imperial Ales with a flavor or mouthfeel that lingers on. I found this a tad ironic, given the way a Dead concert would no doubt linger. Or a mid-song Dead jam. No, the flavor of this beer clears the palate after a few moments, which means that each subsequent drink is like a fresh start.

What a long, strange trip it has been.

Also, at 9.0 percent ABV, you can taste the alcohol – which is probably similar to how a Grateful Dead show might have tasted. Although, one can imagine that the smell at a Dead show was quite a bit more, em, earthy than  American Beauty. (Cough, cough.)

Dogfish Head recommends American Beauty with pork chops, jambalaya or frites, and also with blue cheeses. I had a few nibbles of medium white cheddar while drinking it, and it was only a so-so pairing. I should have checked ahead of time and picked up something more appropriate. Maybe the Dead fans could have made a suggestion. Is Sugar Magnolia a food?

But the bottom line is, this one you can enjoy alone or share with a friend. Hats off yet again to Dogfish Head Brewery.

In other words, drink up and go home.

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