The local favorite’s new sibling, Pale Mountain Ale, hits stores this week. Here's what bartenders think.
The beloved Rainier beer has a new sibling: Pale Mountain Ale, 16 ounces, 8.5 inches. Born in Woodinville, its proud parent is Pabst Brewing Co.
Forgive the older sibling if it’s a little jealous. There’s been much ballyhoo surrounding the arrival of the new beer, the first addition to the Rainier family in nearly 20 years. And the parent company dotes on it like an only child. The Pale Mountain Ale is packaged in fancy, retro-style bottles embossed with the iconic R.
It’s definitely not cheap like the classic Rainier. The suggested retail price: $11.99 for a six-pack (although they’re 16-ounce bottles, rather than the usual 12). It will be available in stores and bars by the end of the week.
The beer of choice at frat parties and dives, the classic Rainier has been ingrained in our drinking culture. That made it all the more heartbreaking when Rainier stopped brewing “our beer” in our state in 2003.
Well, its corporate company is trying to atone for that by painstakingly pointing out in its marketing that this new ale is brewed in Woodinville at the Redhook Brewery, using “Yakima Valley hops,” and that the recipe is modeled on a Rainier beer sold here during the 1930s and 1940s.
“Proudly brewed in Washington” is bannered across each bottle.
But will it be as proudly received and loved as the classic? We asked bartenders to sample the new beer and give us their tasting notes and reactions (yes, these people know their beer).
Chris Elford, certified cicerone and co-owner of the craft-beer bar No Anchor, to open later this summer in Belltown
Appearance: Deep copper-colored beer with a vibrant off-white head revealing mad decent carbonation.
Aroma: The malt adds a grainy quality that harkens to bread crust and biscuits. There are some mellow but pleasantly spicy hop aromatics. A bit of yeastiness, as well (not a bad thing).
Mouthfeel: Medium body, carbonation and mild hop bitterness clean up the malty sugars. I believe the kids these days are labeling this “drinkability,” though I have always been partial to “crushable.”
Taste: That telltale top-fermented ale fruitiness is there. Slight metallic flavor (not sure if this is a flaw or because of attributes of the water). Spicy, piney hops finish the impression, leading a surprisingly persistent bitterness. The 5.3% ABV is believable here, as there is none of the telltale burn of booze revealed in this one.
Overall impression: I know it’s just marketing, but for the record, “Pale Mountain Ale” is not a beer style. I call BS. Pale Ale, however, is very much a beer style, and this beer would most likely fit on the fringe of that category, though its red-copper hue would likely push it into red-ale territory. It’s a pleasant enough beer, and to that point will not necessarily excite too many craft-beer enthusiasts, but at the same time will not offend too many macro drinkers. That being said, little is memorable about it, and by the time I finish typing this sentence I will likely have already forgotten Rainier Pale Mountain Ale.
Andy McClellan, bar manager at Westward
I personally think the new Rainier beer tastes better than the Rainier we are familiar with. But I don’t think the quality of the beer is that great where you would charge 12 bucks for a six pack.
Connor O’Brien, bartender at Sun Liquor and Standard Brewing
Even though it’s still a giant corporation, I like that there’s an effort to move a piece of a classic regional brand back into the area it came from. I’m a native Washingtonian; I remember the old Rainier Beer motorcycle commercial, and the old “Round up” with the guys in their easy chairs out on the ranch, rounding up the giant Rainier bottles with big churchkeys. This brand is somewhere in my heritage.
Tastewise, it’s almost like an English Pale Ale. It’s malty, quaffable, a lot like an Altbier. It also reminds me of a brisker, cleaner version of Redhook ESB — a touch of malty sweetness and pleasantly crisp with just enough of a drying finish … It’s well-balanced. It would be great with a hot, sweetish bourbon, a Four Roses Single Barrel maybe.
Ryan Minch, bar manager at Rhein Haus
The 16-ounce size makes the $11.99/six-pack price tag a little easier to swallow. (But) with so many smaller breweries making high-quality beer at good prices, it’s hard to expect that Rainier Pale Mountain Ale will compete with the likes of Georgetown, Fremont, Reuben’s or Stoup, for example. Rainier, you heard we like local, but you gave us a brand that forgets why we drink it. We drink it because it’s cheap, because we don’t identify with Budweiser and because of the big red “R” on I-5 South.
Ian Roberts, owner of The Pine Box and co-founder of Seattle Beer Week
The beer is clean and actually pretty good. It’s not on par with the local craft pale ales, but I doubt that’s what they’re actually aiming for.
Robert Rowland, bar manager at Oliver’s Twist
Oh, it’s a beautiful grenade bottle, harks back to those banquet beer bottles. But it’s pretty hard to drink out of. Because of its size and shape, it’s a beer that should be poured into a glass. And that’s not how Rainier should be drunk … (The current Rainier bottle) is so iconic and sexy that no one would dream of pouring in into a pint glass. I would rather have the 12-ounce classic. The subtle flavor differences, perceived quality and the Made in Washington factor don’t offset the feel of a cold, iconic bottle at 2:45 in the morning after a grueling Friday shift.