Time for another review and today’s beer is SweetWater Brewing Company’s Motor Boat ESB Ale.
Motor Boat is an Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB) style ale which is a part of SweetWater’s Catch & Release seasonal series. It is basically SweetWater’s take on a classic, English style ale by mixing things up with a hefty, dry hopping of Cascade hops. Motor Boat has been a hit with beer drinkers since it was first released, and it has even won back to back silver medals at the 2008 and 2009 Great American Beer Festival. Here is the brewery’s description of Motor Boat from a recent press release:
“Get ready for the return of the Motorboat, SweetWater’s slap-you-silly Catch and Release seasonal beer. This dry hopped complex take on an English Style Ale is built for speed and comfort, so lean in and enjoy the ride. Its smooth sailing from here as this beer drops anchor in Atlanta – and around the Southeast-long enough to get you through those scintillating summer nights and cool you down into fall.”
Motor Boat weighs in at just under 6% ABV and it is available in six packs and on draft. It is currently available wherever SweetWater brews are distributed (Birmingham area included of course), and it should hang around until October.
And now, onto the review:
Motor Boat Ale hits the glass to create a very coppery, almost amber colored body. Held to the light, those coppery, dark orange colored hues push through a bit more. There is a touch of chill haze on the glass, but other than that the body is pretty clear. There is a moderate amount of carbonation streaming through the beer. The pour got me about a finger of off white to light tan colored head. The head recedes rather quickly to a wispy top cap. There is just a touch of lace spotting the glass randomly, but the glass remains pretty clean otherwise.
The aroma of Motor Boat is more malt driven than anything. Getting a really nice bready, biscuity malt presence with just a touch of caramel coming through from time to time. The hops push in to bring out some pine notes and some citrus (orange and a touch of lemon) qualities. The smell is simple but very pleasant, making it a joy to breathe in at each sip.
The flavor almost mirrors the nose completely. I am picking up some bready (sometimes buttered bread) malt notes. Things sweeten up just a bit with that touch of caramel. Then the orange rind and blossom notes from the hops begin to work their way into the picture. Bright and slightly bitter, but not overly aggressive, citrus hops work well with all the malts. Things round out with light pine and floral notes. All these flavors seem to blend together effortlessly which is a testament to the detail and crafting that went into this beer.
Motor Boat has a medium mouthfeel with a medium carbonation to it. On the palate, this beer has acidic (citrus like) and bitter notes to it. The best way for me to describe it is that this beer has a really nice, juicy refreshment to it. The ABV is barely noticeable, with just a light warmth on the throat. Pine and citrus notes resonate in the aftertaste at times, but it finishes pretty clean overall.
Overall, Motor Boat is a wonderful drinking experience. It has the simplicity and mouthfeel to keep the beer refreshing and easy drinking, but has enough complexity to create wonderful notes in flavor and aroma. Everything about this beer comes together effortlessly to create a cohesive drinking experience that avoids being aggressive or over the top in any way. Some may claim this beer lacks “wow factor”, but I do not believe all beers need to be crazily hopped or contain a long list of off the wall ingredients. There is always a time and a place for balance, and it is no wonder this beer has done so well with the judges at the Great American Beer Festival because Motor Boat has achieved this beautiful balance of both malt and hops. With that said, this balance makes Motor Boat very accessible and I think it could work wonders to change the minds of people who may be a little afraid of hop flavors.
Next time you see Motor Boat on a Birmingham area store shelf or tap list, give it a shot if you are looking for a beer with plenty of flavor but still remains an easy drinker. It truly is a great local option to ease you out of the summer and into the fall months. Prost!