“Sugar magnolia, blossom’s blooming, heads all empty, and I don’t care.” – Robert Hunter, Robert Weir
If you haven’t put two and two together yet, Dogfish Head Brewery had the Grateful Dead in mind when it brewed American Beauty. Inspired by the iconic band, the pale ale was created back in 2013 by asking fans to vote on ingredients for the recipe. Granola topped the list, and the brewery chose to complement it with wildflower honey.
For the first time in 2019, American Beauty has been released in six-packs, rather than 750-milliliter bottles. At 6.5% ABV, this beer is pushing the limits on “pale ale.” With its high ABV, added sweetness, and hoppy nature, it’s not hard to see how American Beauty might get off-balance. Does it? Let’s find out.
If you’re familiar with the Grateful Dead, American Beauty is easy to spot. Just look for the band’s classic dancing bears, which can be found on the label. The beer pours a copper color, with a decent head that it retains well.
The aroma has notes of caramel, vanilla and, yes, granola. But American Beauty also has a bit of a dank side, with notes of ripe orange and flowers. In a way, it reminded me of the scents you might get from a hot toddy.
If you’re looking for something that leans sweet and malty—and doesn’t sacrifice complexity to do it—then American Beauty is for you.”
That two-faced nature of American Beauty’s nose continues in its flavor. There’s a sweet side, certainly, with caramel, orange blossom honey and a slight smoky quality. That sweetness does subside a bit as you drink it. As with the aroma, there’s also a citrus and grassy side, but the hops seem more muted here than in the nose. The additional honey helps to create a full body, and there is a nice carbonation throughout. Think of sipping on honey tea in the sunshine, while munching on a bran bar.
Look, American Beauty isn’t my favorite. For me, it’s a bit too sweet for a hoppy beer, and one that I wouldn’t drink regularly. Does that make it a bad beer? Of course not. If you’re looking for something that leans sweet and malty—and doesn’t sacrifice complexity to do it—then American Beauty is for you. Just make sure to pair it with your favorite Grateful Dead album.