Should you find yourself traveling to Yosemite National Park in California, you might just come across a beer called Ahwahnee Amber Ale from Mammoth Brewing Co. of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Named in reference to Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel, it’s actually the brewery’s Real McCoy Amber Ale re-packaged for sale at the park’s landmark lodging destination. Regarding the original, in case  you were wondering, that beer’s name was inspired by Dave McCoy, the man who founded the neighboring Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.

Mammoth The Ahwahnee Amber Ale bottle

Something else interesting is the fact that despite what you read on either label, the beer isn’t what one would stylistically call an amber ale. Rather, it’s an altbier made from what the style guidelines refer to as characteristic ingredients in the form of pilsner and Munich malts. Then again, for better or worse, my impressions are that it tastes like something else entirely.

Now, to be clear from the start, “malt” will be the word of the day from this point on. That, and if it’s alright with everyone, I’m just going to call the beer by its rightful name. So, with that in mind, let me just say that Real McCoy is really, really malty. From first sip to final finish, the palate is nothing if not awash in a hefty dose of toasted malt flavors. Yes there were other things too, like maybe a bit of burnt molasses, but for the most part the flavor and feel of the beer made it seem more like an amped-up Oktoberfest.

Mammoth The Ahwahnee Amber Ale

As for any hop character, to be quite honest I didn’t detect anything discernible. I suppose it’s possible the hops were overcome by the more-forward malt flavors, but there wasn’t any bitterness to speak of either. This makes me wonder if this Mammoth malt bomb was was simply a pour that was past its prime.

Mammoth The Ahwahnee Amber Ale
BREWERY: Mammoth Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
STYLE: Altbier
ABV: 5.5 percent
IBU: 20
PRICE: n/a
AVAILABLE IN: 12-ounce bottles
Whether you call it Real McCoy or The Ahwahnee Amber Ale, the bottom line is the beer isn't an amber, and I'd argue it isn't really an altbier either - the latter being due to not having the expected level of bitterness. All of that aside, the question then comes down to one of whether or not it's a good beer. From that perspective, for many the beer is probably fine if you prefer predominantly malt-driven styles. For me, though, as it warms the sweetness gets to be a little too much for my particular taste.
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