Tasting Notes: Sparkling Swan Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company

LagunitasSparklingPourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we settle in for Thanksgiving by raising a glass of Sparkling Swan Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).

Introduced earlier this month as the little sister to Lagunitas’ infrequently released Dark Swan Sour Ale, Sparkling Swan is a highly-carbonated beer-wine hybrid “brewed with red wine grapes” that offers a “super bubbly” champagne-like experience, “but with a gentle kiss of hops and a light malt backbone like a beer.”  Coming in at an easy-drinking 6.5% ABV and 28 IBUs, the purple-hued Sparkling Swan is “perfect for any celebration” headed your way this holiday season.

Sparkling Swan is available now and will be hanging around through February 2019.  You can expect to find this Limited Release available in 12-packs of 12 oz. bottles at select craft beer retailers located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois, Washington and throughout the rest of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s distribution area.

Now that we are all caught up on the technical data, let’s get into these Tasting Notes so that we can experience the true majesty of a Sparkling Swan!

Tasting Notes for Sparkling Swan Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company

Appearance: A cautious pour produces a beer that is a shimmering purple in color (similar to that of grape juice) and wearing over two fingers of pink to soft purple hued foam.  When held to direct light, the purple tones intensify and take on a ruby red radiance. Despite its dark appearance, the beer is clear and pulses with a highly active carbonation presence.  The brightly colored head quickly collapses down to a thin ring that occasionally notches the glass with a wisp of lace.

Aroma:  First Impression – Sparkling Swan basically smells like someone filled this glass halfway with a fine Cabernet Sauvignon and then topped it off with some Welch’s . . . and that’s pretty friggin’ awesome.  Red wine grapes and concord grape juice combine to produce a sweet, fruity character that offers added notes of raspberry, cherry and plum. Light, floral and fruity, the hops surface near the end of the profile in an attempt to balance that sweet fruitiness and also act as a pleasant fragrance that rounds off any trace of lactobacillus.

Taste: Very similar to the nose, the flavor profile opens with grape notes that range for red wine complexity to the incredibly approachable and sweet presence of concord grape juice.  The fruitiness open further to present distinct tones of tart cherry and black currant. The beer is nice and tart, but it has a very clean lactobacillus tartness that is completely devoid of funk or added earthiness.  Crackery malt and a touch of floral hops finally turn up near the finish to temper that sour/tart character a bit.

Mouthfeel:  Light side of medium in body with a bright carbonation, this beer is super easy-drinking and has a refreshing effervescence to it.  The tart and sweet characteristics do a good job balancing themselves out and result in a pretty dry experience overall.  The ABV is well hidden but does supply a slight warmth in the throat.  Concord grape juice and floral hops linger a bit in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts:  In a nutshell, Sparkling Swan Ale is red wine and champagne sophistication meets childhood memories of grape juice boxes.  It has a certain level of complexity while still remaining playful, familiar and approachable.

Full of personality, this beer makes the following claims as to why it is a solid choice for holiday gatherings:

  • Beautiful to look at, it has that wow factor that will definitely grab the attention of everyone in the room.
  • Hand it off to either the wine faithful or the traditional beer lovers at the table and it will most assuredly get a fair share of perplexed but intrigued “That’s a beer?” inquiries.
  • As far as the meal goes, it has the tartness to work alongside any plate that has cranberry sauce on it, the effervescence necessary to cut through fatty meats and rich gravy, and has the staying power to hang out for a cheese course or any desserts that are chocolate or fruit-focused.

That is certainly one hell of a case, but the best attribute of this beer just might be that it does not have to be limited to special occasions and holiday feasts.  Full of daily drinker potential, Sparkling Swan is just a fun, easy-drinking and tasty brew that is absolutely worthy of your attention at any point or time this holiday season.  Be sure to check out this Limited Release while you can.  Prost!