SweetWater Wookie Down on canning line

SweetWater’s latest Dank Tank offering is coming to a planet near you very soon

SweetWater recently invited us to attend a lunch event and sample a couple of their new and upcoming beers.  420 Fest artist The Hip Abduction was in attendance to preview their collaboration brew (Hip-Biscus Tropical Ale, get it at 420 Fest) and jam for a while.  We also sampled the latest release from the Dank Tank, Wookie Down, a bold Imperial Red Ale.  We chatted with Head Brewer Nick Nock about the brew, the Dank Tank, and the brewery’s Hatchery.

What can you tell us about the development of Wookie Down and the Dank Tank project?

The cool thing about brewing Dank Tanks is thinking outside of the normal brewing realm, basically playing with ingredients that you do not normally use, but have wanted to use.  Wookie Down is a complex brew – and the red is super hard to dial in.  In this case, we were shooting for a nice deep mahogany red, since it is a big double IPA; a good way to do that is to use chocolate malt.  We also used chocolate rye malt, something we have never used before, which gives it the desired color and also a different malt flavor with a little spiciness. We also used a Belgian Melanoidin Munich malt that we have not used before, which gives a great body to the beer and also contributes to the reddish color. To balance these big malt characteristics, we went for some fun, tasty, tropical hops. We used heavy amounts of Waimea and Mosaic to help make this chewy 7.6% beer into something enjoyable, refreshing, and making you want another.

Where’d the name come from?

Wookie Down is a tribute to the game some of the SweetWater guys and gals invented at Bonnaroo one year – they’d spot a festival-goer who’d partied too hard, and slap a 420 sticker on them.

Who is El Danko?

El Danko is the Dank Tank’s mascot – he was inspired by a neighbor of the original brewery on Fulton Industrial Boulevard.

You’ve got a new pilot system dubbed The Hatchery, can you tell us about that?

Our new pilot system, a 5-barrel brewhouse called “The Hatchery,” allows the brewers to stretch their creative legs – basically get out all the random and weird recipes in their heads, without the fear of wasting a ton of ingredients in a larger tank.  It’s also a cool way to involve our taproom visitors – we put The Hatchery brews on tap during regular tours and tastings, and ask guests to tell us what they think about them.   This gives us incredible insight into what SweetWater fans are craving.  The absolute best Hatchery brews are bottled and sold in our variety packs (first one was Mosaic IPA, in the spring 2017 tackle box; look for the next bottle in the summer variety pack).   In addition to creating new brews, The Hatchery also allows us to run tests on core brands and make sure seasonal recipes are 100% dialed in.

SweetWater Wookie Down Label
SweetWater’s latest Dank Tank creation Wookie Down should be in stores and at your favorite beer bars soon. (Photos: Courtesy SweetWater Brewing Co.)

Wookie Down – The Details

Style: Imperial / Double Red Ale
Malts: 2 Row, Wheat, Chateau Melano Munich, Chocolate Rye, Chocolate
Hops: Simcoe, Mosaic, Waimea
ABV: 7.6%
IBU: 60

Brewer’s Notes

Aroma: True to a more piney IPA, bit of citrus, a little coffee, roasted malts
Color: Chocolate and chocolate rye malts provide the deep mahogany red
Taste: Mellow dark chocolate, the bit of citrus from the nose comes through in the taste
Finish: Bitterness is there but vanishes rather than sitting on your palate, providing a smooth mellow finish
Overall: The balance between the hops and the malts delivers a bitterness, but vanishes rather than sitting on your palate

Tim’s Tasting Notes

This sucker pours dark red, like a rich mahogany, with a creamy head that sticks around through most of the glass.  Aroma is resinous pine and grapefruit with just a touch of malt.  It has a pronounced bitterness but not offensively so.  Pine and grapefruit come through on the flavor as well, with some malt notes of dark chocolate with a touch of coffee and very light caramel notes.  The bitterness did hang around a bit for me between sips.

Overall this is a great beer.  If you’re a hop head that enjoys that classic West Coast pine and grapefruit profile but you want a bit more character then check this one out.  Don’t be scared by the mention of malt, Wookie Down has some malt character but is not malty.  The brew released at SweetWater on March 17th and should be in stores and your favorite bar soon.  (Not available at the Mos Eisley Cantina, sorry.)

Drink This Beer PodcastFor more info on your favorite beer and breweries check out the Drink This Beer Craft Beer Podcast.  New episodes every other Tuesday.  Listen and subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.  If you like what we’re doing, please leave us a review.
On Drink This Beer we talk to craft beer creators and innovators across the US and around the world.  Want to hear your favorite brewery on an episode?  Just drop us a line and let us know!