Nick Carr on September 19, 2016 0 Comments Quick Characteristics Brewery Left Hand Brewing Location Longmont, CO Style Extra Special Bitter ABV 5.3% IBU 27 Hops Magnum, Willamette, Cascade, US Goldings Malts Pale 2-row, Crystal, Munich Wheat, Black Shelf Life 6 to 9 months Suggested Glass Mug or Nonic Pint Serving Temp 50-55°F Availability Year Round Food Pairings Fish & Chips, Grilled Cheese w/ Lacashire, Bread Pudding, Maple Cheesecake I continue to search for an ESB that’s regularly available here in my neck of the woods and can take the place of Alaska Brewing Company’s. It was a sad day, one I’m pretty sure of lamented on before in other reviews, when I found out Alaska was nixing theirs. A while back, through some writing research — I don’t really remember what I was researching — I fell upon a possible candidate that had been here all along; Left Hand’s Sawtooth ale. Now, it’s hard to say exactly how I missed it, but I think it had a lot to do with Left Hand labeling it as simply an Amber style ale. So, it passed again and again beneath my gaze at the grocery store and various bottle shops and, I’m slightly embarrassed to say, I never gave it a second glance. There were always more exciting things, at least in my mind, to go after. So it sat, and sat, and sat; untried and uninvestigated. That is, until I realized it might be something more than advertised. I just want to make clear here that I have no problem with Ambers, but they aren’t really a go to style for me. Couple that with, the fact that, like I said, there always seemed to be something newer that I should be investigating and reviewing, and you have a very lame excuse as to why I’d never taken the time with Sawtooth Ale. But, we rectify that now. Today. Shop for Left Hand Brewing Gear on Amazon Come to learn Sawtooth is Left Hand’s flagship beer and the whole reason Dick Doore and Eric Wallace decided to start Left Hand Brewing in the first place… I know, I know, my embarrassment deepens. It was first brewed back in 1993-94 and won a gold medal in the Great American Beer Festival right off. Actually, Left Hand Brewing won a spectacular 6 medals that first year in ’94, which speaks to just how good the company and their beer were from the get-go. Sawtooth Ale would go on to win multiple awards across the intervening years in several big competitions, including another gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2013. At the World Beer Cup, it won gold in 2014 and a silver just this year. The ale is named for Sawtooth Mountain. A peak in the Front Range that’s visible from the brewery. The label has gone through three redesigns. The newest is classic Left Hand with lots going on and lots of color. Of course the Sawtooth Mountain takes center stage with a crosscut saw below as the Left Hand Brewing Company banner; the sun, flames, and more crosscut saw blades makeup the background for the Sawtooth Ale script. There are four sign language hand symbols spelling out L-E-F-T in a diamond pattern around the sun. All in all, a nice flashy label with lots of symbols. But what’s even funnier, is going to their website and looking at the art spilling forth from behind all their bottles, minus the nitro series. Awesome stuff! They should release an adult coloring book with just their website bottle art. I’d buy it. THE TASTING Below are the tasting notes I took while drinking Sawtooth. If you tasted this beer, please share your thoughts with me in the comments below. Pour and Aroma: In the glass, Sawtooth sits a nice ochre-tinged amber. Medium carbonation draws lazy lines through the liquid. Clarity is superb. Two finger spummy, off-white head builds on the pour and slowly recedes over a few minutes. Leaving sticky, haphazard lazing on the glass, it settles to a thin but determined cap. Aroma brings sweet caramel, toffee, light toasting. Slight earthy, herbal notes form the hops. Some traces of light fruity esters; a bit like alcohol infused peaches maybe. Very subtle though. Mouthfeel and Taste: Body is an enticing medium-full. Mouthfeel is round and smooth, no doubt helped along by the softer carbonation. Taste is big full caramel on the front. The hops add an earthy, herbal, slightly spicy balance mid-palate. It’s pretty sweet at the front, but has transitioned to a drier slightly bitter, oh-so-lightly roasty form of itself by the time it reaches the back. Finish is pretty balanced; a slightly dry malt ending. The herbal, earthy bitterness pleasantly dominates the aftertaste making another sip inevitable. FINISHING THOUGHTS I’m not sure why they continue to advertise it on their site as an Amber. Maybe it sells better with a designation more American’s recognize. Left Hand themselves call it an American ESB in other places online. I’m just gonna call it an ESB, and as the awards it’s received show, it lives up to the designation. I think one of the reasons I enjoy Bitters is the marked difference between their subtle hop character and the exuberant “look at me” profiles often found in American pale ales and IPAs. This one has nice bittering, though some hop-heads would no doubt scoff at it. More than that though, is the flavors of the hops. Though American in variety the hops they use give the herbal, earthy, woody, and slightly floral qualities of English varieties. Add in the nice malty profile and it just may be a replacement for the much missed Alaskan ESB. It goes without saying, however, that Sawtooth Ale will no longer sit lonely and ignored on the grocery store shelf.