The Beer Drop: SweetWater 420 Strain G13 IPA

We’re taking our first trip down to the Peach State for this week’s Beer Drop! But rather than stone fruits, we’re gettin’ into more ‘botanically’ inspired ales with SweetWater Brewing –

I believe the Venn diagram between the 420 and craft beer cultures has a pretty significant overlap, and apparently so do the folks at SweetWater, whose flagship 420 Extra Pale Ale has made them a household name in the Southeast and beyond. Now they’re taking it a step further with their brand new 420 Strain G13 IPA that packs a natural hemp flavor. Though it won’t make you feel like you’re exploring Amsterdam via space cakes, the homage and olfactory experience is unmistakable.

Pick up some of this brand spankin’ new brew now, and read on for my Q&A with Dane Lewandowski, SweetWater’s Illinois Market Manager, for more on this new 420 Strain series.

Tell us about 420 Strain G13 IPA!

420 Strain is a brand new line of beers that pushes the envelope of brewing by marrying hops, botanically-sourced terpenes and a proprietary hemp flavor blend. The styles may vary from IPA to stouts, each with a unique blend of terpenes and natural hemp flavor for intense aromas and smooth flavors. G13 IPA is the first style in this new line. It’s an aromatic, super-hybrid sticky IPA that’s still nice and soft on the palate with a very clean finish. Best served in a Nonic Pint Glass.  

What was the inspiration behind this new line?

SweetWater beers have always reflected our passions – water, conservation and the 420 lifestyle. For 21 years we’ve spread the 420 gospel to craft beer fans with our flagship extra pale ale leading the way. Now the climate is right for us to further plant that stake in the ground. 420 Strain speaks to the 420-friendly lifestyle we’ve always lived and loved.

On SweetWater

Before we get to the brewery, what’s your own beer background?

My father was a 20 yr+ homebrewer, now a brewery owner in Decatur, IL. I have always been a craft beer dude since college – I was the guy who would show up to a party with two six-packs of craft beer rather than a 30 rack of Keystones. Later in life, my beer career officially began when I helped to open Band of Bohemia in 2015. I then got into sales from there, and have continued to climb the craft beer ladder – now I’m slangin’ brews for the 15th largest craft brewery in the country, and having an absolute blast doing it!

What sparked the idea for SweetWater? And where’s the name from?

Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerny were college roommates working together at several Colorado breweries – a trip to Atlanta inspired Freddy to bring the West Coast brews to the South East, and SweetWater opened in February 1997. It’s named after a kayak trip down SweetWater Creek off the Chattahoochee River.

How has that influenced your branding and labels?

Fishing and being outdoors – especially on the water – is part of our DNA. Our iconic trout tap handles, and the trout and fishing scene on the labels are all a nod to that passion.

How do you name your beers?

Crack open a coldie and brainstorm!

Tell us more about home for the brewery – how are you involved in the community there?

We’re based in Atlanta, Georgia. Every summer SweetWater donates $100,000 for water conservation and natural habit protection initiatives. Locally in Chicago, our goal is to raise money for two organizations: Friends of the Chicago River and Surfrider – Chicago Chapter. Coming this fall is the return of our stackable cans – find 420, IPA, Mosaic IPA or Goin Coastal with limited edition “stackable” fish artwork – stack ‘em 3 deep to make a fish and snap a pic! For every #fishforafish hashtag we see on social media we stock a stream with a healthy native species.

What’s your favorite thing about SweetWater?

From a personal level it’s culture. Awesome beer helps, but SweetWater is surrounded by an awesome company culture that I think reflects in its beer. Not floating the mainstream gives us an edge to the consumer. We truly live the 420 Lifestyle.

How do you measure success there?

We’re making tasty beer and being good stewards of the planet.

Hot Hop Takes

Favorite craft beer festival:

SweetWater 420 Fest is all about music and great craft beer – held every year around April 20 and Earth Day in Atlanta. Outside of SweetWater, Field Museum has 2 awesome fests every year. Not every day you get to drink with dinosaurs.

Biggest beer pet peeve:
Beer Snobs. Not dissing Cicerones and their wealth of knowledge. But if it tastes good to you, drink it. If you don’t like a beer, don’t drink it. Everyone is different, that’s the fun of life!

Favorite brewery other than your own:

Feels like that changes all the time. All time favs include Left Hand and New Glarus. Right now – Old Nation and Big Thorn Farms are making some amazing beers.

Favorite beer other than your own:

Red Hook ESB or Newcastle – oldies, but goodies!

Pick a character from history to drink G13 IPA with:  

Bill Murray – because he’s Bill Murray!

Favorite beer quote:

“In Beer, there is Freedom.”

Biggest industry trend right now:

Opening a brewery. Feels like every small town has a brewery or one is “opening soon.”

Next big thing in beer:

Instead of how big can I make this beer, it will revert back to making sessionable, delicious, and crisp beers. Craft beer at a tailgate instead of Coors Light is my hope!

Thanks for catching up with us, Dane! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for future 420 Strain releases, but we’ll be crackin’ open plenty of the G13 while we wait.

1,257 check-ins and counting – toast (or roast) what Sean’s been drinking here. Have a beer or brewery you think should be our next drop? Hit us up ✉