ON AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH :: BEEF AND BREW WITH SONORAN

by David Daugherty on November 23, 2011

Sonoran 200!!

I write that with an exclamation mark to emphasize everything that this ale has to offer. The bottle not only looks cool, it’s so cool it beckons you to buy it. Once done, you have to ponder how you want to drink this monster of a beer!

First, let me explain how I came across this brew.  For a number of years, I’d been craving to try a steak from the Pinnacle Peak Patio in Scottsdale Arizona, as I had been told they serve one of the best steaks in Arizona.

I went to their website and while there, spied a bottle of the Sonoran 200, and that pretty much clinched my decision. Intrigued, I headed out immediately. Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse sits on a hill surrounded by mountains, a beautiful setting! I was seated right away, and ordered the boneless Rib-eye and beans. While waiting, I walked around the restaurant. It was just like an old western saloon with a large patio outside…and a small brewery to boot, Sonoran Brewing Company, attached to the restaurant, accessible from the patio. Informal and comfortable, Pinnacle Peak is one of those establishments where, if you wear a tie, they’ll immediately come over to your table, cut it off, then hang it from the ceiling. There is a sea of ties on the ceiling in the restaurant, so either come without, or be sure to not wear your prized Liberty.

I got back to the table and discovered the manager had set me up with samples of Sonoran’s beers, including a wonderful White Chocolate Ale, their seasonal. Each one of the samples was unique, but the White Chocolate Ale won me over. Bright gold in color, with an ABV of 4.7%, I really loved this beer. Poured straight from the keg into a mug, the aroma was sweet, chocolate, and that first sip brought out a light dry, crisp and sweet taste with white chocolate overtones.

The food came and what I had been told proved true. The steak was perfectly cooked and one of the best I’ve had. Upon finishing my samples, I ordered another White Chocolate Ale.

Before I left, I asked if I could buy a bottle of the 200 and was told that they didn’t have it there to sell, but that Total Wine and More carried them. So while on a roll, off I went, picking up the 13.2 oz bottle that looks like a tequila, cork and all, with a picture of a Phoenix, holding a hop vine in its beak, rising from the fire. Such a vivid and aggressive image sure makes sense, as the ABV comes in at 19.37%, the highest I’ve consumed in a beer to date.

After refrigerating for a time, I enlisted my always willing neighbors, Tony and Collette, to participate in the tasting of the 200. First, the description of the beer from the brewery should be read before I go on:

“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. 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.”

Agave "The Tequila Plant"

I chilled mine because usually, I will try it cold initially then see what happens as it warms. I poured it into a Glencairn Whiskey tasting glass. The nose was very sweet with smells of oak and fruit, the alcohol presence definitely there. Upon my first sip, I immediately got a syrupy-sweet taste, like that of an after dinner dessert liqueur. Collette confirmed this, detecting a sherry taste. Tony switched glasses and poured the rest of his into a wine glass to see if anything might change, but still agreed, it was sweet, too sweet… and yet not unlikable. If you are expecting a beer taste from this you’ll be very disappointed. Lest I forget, the alcohol was most present in the mouth feel as well as in the aroma.

Not a bad ale, but I figured that with such a high ABV and with the amount of Agave Nectar used in the recipe, this wasn’t going to be a normal beer. In fact, this is the 2nd in Sonoran’s continuing series of Extreme Brews. “Extreme” puts this offering mildly; I cannot wait for their 3rd installment!

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