Saturday, July 13, 2013


There is SXSW, the music, technology and film conference and festival held annually in Austin, Texas, and, there is the SXNW, the beer that is made by Widmer Brothers in Portland, Oregon. One would think that the comparison would end with the acronym, but, that is not the case.  The beer, SXNW, has as much diversity and complexity as the festival, SXSW.  

The SXNW is part of the Brothers' Reserve series, a range of specialty beers produced by Widmer Brothers.  For this particular beer, the brewmasters sought to combine Southwestern ingredients with Oregonian brewing experience.  They selected Mexican chocolate nibs, cinnamon, toasted pecans and green chiles from New Mexico.  These ingredients are combined with Munich, Chocolate and Extra Special malts, as well as Alchemy hops. The end product is a rather unique beer.

This uniqueness presented a challenge when it comes to characterizing the style of the beer.  The body of the beer is far lighter than a stout or porter.  Nevertheless, the SXNW reminds me of a more simpler and basic version of a mole stout.  (I have reviewed a few mole stouts, such as New Belgium Cocoa Mole and the Ska Autumnal Mole Stout.)

The SXNW pours a very dark brown, almost black color, with a thin, off-white foam that quickly recedes.  The Chocolate malts, along with the chocolate nibs present a strong chocolate or cocoa aroma with the beer.  That aroma is slightly toasted by the pecans and definitely given an edge by the green chiles.  Each of these elements makes its way into the taste of the beer.  The principal taste element is chocolate, with a little sweetness from the cinnamon and nibs that suggests molasses.  The pecans are definitely more present in the taste, giving a nutty or even woody element in the background.  The chiles provide just the right amount of taste, with little heat or spice.  Together, all of these ingredients produce different levels of aroma and taste that result in a rather interesting and enjoyable spiced beer.

When it comes to pairing this beer, the different flavors present some issues.  The safest pairing is cheese, tending toward nuttier and/or harder cheeses. I just enjoyed this beer as a digestif, which is a good way to enjoy this beer.

This beer is a limited edition and I am not sure that it is around anymore.  If you should see it, the beer should sell for about $12.99 a bottle.  The SXNW is definitely worth a try, especially if you like beers with a little chile or spice in them. 


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