With the release of Lil Shimmy Ye, from Twin Elephant, just over a week ago, I finally had the chance to partake in the dream matchup I've always wondered about - Lil Shimmy Ye versus Sneakbox, from Kane Brewing. They both have a similar profile in that they are both under 6.0% ABV, both brewed in New Jersey, both absolutely delicious summer beers and both pale ale's. It's just too juicy of a matchup to pass up. But then an added twist happened, I had one last can of Singlecut's 18-Watt left and threw that into the mix. The addition of a third beer raised the stakes quite a bit. All three are excellent beers and being able to see what can might tend to some bias, but for this a blind tasting was done.
So there I was, sitting at a table, waiting for individual taster glasses to be put into my hand as I closed my eyes and attempted to take in the nose and taste of each individual beer. It's amazing that at the time I thought all three would make for a good ole barnyard battle, but the learning experience in this made me rethink my logic once all was said and done. But before the experiment ended and the conclusion was made, it seemed like a fantastic idea at the time. So with that in mind, let's individually assess each beer before moving onto the verdict.
The one thing that stood out to me about Singlecut's 18-Watt was its nose. At 5.0%, it's quite the task to have a beer just jump out at you and yell, "GRAPEFRUIT!". This beer genuinely confused me because I knew the three beers I was having, but this is the one I had the most trouble placing. The taste isn't as obvious as the nose, but still is all grapefruit with some hints of sweetness. It's a great little beer to have if you can find it in New Jersey and quite the pricier option versus the other two.
This was the first beer I tasted and although the nose wasn't as strong or present as 18-Watt's, the taste is all there. It's the juiciest of the three beers that were tasted. Without a blind fold, the color gives it away, but with your eyes closed, it's a big tougher to realize that based on smell. Once flavor was brought into the equation, forget it, Lil Shimmy Ye shines as the beer to have when you want a lower ABV but that juiciness you might crave.
The artist formerly known as Hop Lab: Citra Pale Ale is now Sneakbox. A huge fan favorite and a favorite of mine, out of the three, Kane's Sneakbox shows restraint where the other two try to dominate with juicy flavors. Don't get me wrong, Sneakbox is quite the juicy pale ale, but there's an elegance to this beer in how it reigns it all in and it's not over the top. The Citra shines in the taste and is present in the nose. Tropical but not over the top, this is the summer sipper for the average beer drinker not into the whole "haze craze".
Not being able to see which can poured into what and knowing what I was having, made this a little tougher than I thought. But what I did enjoy about this experience was seeing how similar these beers might be and yet, how different they really are. It's easy to sit back and think about how they are in the same ABV range or same beer category but once the nose and taste comes into play, the three had stark differences from one another that made it even harder to judge. And yet, I was able to rank all 3 before finding out which one was which.
- 18-Watt: 4.25 / 5
- Lil Shimmy Ye: 4.75 / 5
- Sneakbox: 4.5 / 5
Lil Shimmy Ye won out of the three but the margin was narrow between it and Sneakbox. As much as I enjoyed 18-Watt, against the other two, it doesn't seem to stand out as much. It's a bit more bitter than the other two and it you're not a huge fan of grapefruit, 18-Watt just isn't for you. Still, it is a great summer beer even if the pricepoint for it is quite high.
But between Sneakbox and Lil Shimmy Ye, the contest was a bit closer. Both are different beers for different people and different times. I'd probably drink Sneakbox at a pool, on a boat, or at the beach, but Lil Shimmy would be my default pale ale to have anywhere else. The lack of availability of Lil Shimmy Ye (for now) also has me shifting towards Sneakbox on a regular occasion but I feel blessed that both exist within my immediate universe. Fingers crossed that in 2018, I am tasked with the difficult choice again to have to choose between three great drinking beers. Salud!