I was walking through the beer aisle the other day and I noticed a local beer whose existence was previously unknown to me, an imperial red ale from Sideswipe Brewing called Defaced. I’d not heard of its release via social media, nor had I spoken to anyone who had tried it. This was not what I was in search of, but Sideswipe’s core beers are very solid and I’m a sucker for their labels, so I didn’t hesitate to snag a bomber. A few days later I sat down at my computer to see what others were saying about this beer and didn’t find much—no ratings on beeradvocate or ratebeer, and no description on the Sideswipe website. Nicholas Decker wrote three sentences on the beer as part of a profile of various holiday beers for Columbus Alive, but the tasting notes weren’t much longer than an untapped review (as a point of clarification Defaced is not a holiday ale). Last night I cracked open the bottle and after a few drinks I realized that I was duty bound to tell the good people of Central Ohio more about this wonderful new addition to the Columbus beer family.
- Brewery: Sideswipe (Columbus, OH)
- Style: Imperial Red Ale
- ABV: 9%
- Cost: $6.99 for a 22 ounce bomber
The label shows a disembodied arm and hand holding a mask that has presumably been forcibly taken off of its owner. It is immediately recognizable as Sideswipe beer. The description on the label describes the beer in this way:
“Get ready for a beer that lands like an elbow drop from a high flying lucha libre brawler. Wrestling toasted malts and bold hops into submission, this imperial red ale is bursting with color and flavors of sweet caramel and toffee. Take this hoppy ale to the mat.”
The beer fills my tulip glass with a handsome, deep reddish brown liquid, roughly the color of Mars, topped by 2+ fingers of cream colored head. The clarity is good and the head retention impressive, with five millimeters or so still present five minutes after pouring. It’s not the most aromatic beer but what I do smell is intriguing. There’s a blend of sweet caramel from the malts and citrus notes from the hops, the combination conjures a treat that may only exist in my imagination, caramel coated oranges. As I take a drink my tongue is greeted with rich flavors of caramel and toffee followed closely by a cavalcade of citrusy American hop flavors. On the first drink the intense hoppiness of the finish catches me by surprise and I’m not sure what to think of it, but by the third sip I’m loving it. There is something about the way the hops express themselves in the presence of the caramel malts that strongly suggests oranges to my senses, but there’s unmistakable hints of grapefruit in there as well. The finish is unexpectedly dry for a beer that clocks in at 9% abv and has such a rich malty flavor profile. The bitterness is enough to remind you this is a big hoppy beer but not unpleasant, and the alcohol well hidden.
Many moons have passed since Sideswipe last introduced a new beer in packaged form, but like the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. Fans of malty beers will appreciate the caramel and toffee richness, while hop heads will love the big punch of citrus from the Pacific Northwest hops. It’s a treat to get the richness of a malty beer on the front end, coupled with the dry, moderately bitter finish of an IPA. I’m particularly impressed at the way the two flavors play off each other. Compared to other Imperial Red Ales it’s not as quite as hoppy as (GABF gold medalist) Fat Head’s Bonehead Red but decidedly more hoppy that Tröegs Nugget Nectar. If you are a fan of those beers you need to seek out a bottle of Defaced and try it for yourself. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go whip up a batch of caramel coated orange wedges, spritzed with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.
Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers in the world, 8 = very good, one of the top beers in its style category, 7 = good, a solid beer I’m happy to be drinking, 6 = average, not bad but not something I’m likely to buy again, 5 = below average, 3-4 = poor, should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.