Drop Top Amber Ale by Widmer Brothers of Portland, Oregon (itself a part of Craft Brew Alliance, which consists of Widmer, Red Hook, and Kona Brewing), is an incredibly smooth and silky Amber Ale with a very full mouthfeel. It's so smooth, in fact, that I was scratching my head as to why—a lot of the Ambers I've tried have at least a bit of sharpness to them from the hops, whereas Drop Top goes down like a Milk Stout. And therein lies the rub—they add a small amount of lactose to an already mild amber to achieve this effect.
It's not a bad effect—it's really very pleasant--but the end result is probably not what you (or at least I) expected when picking up a six pack of the stuff at a liquor store. If there's a downside, it's that it isn't as sessionable as I'd like it to be—after a couple of these, the flavor becomes a bit cloying and overly sweet (milk sugar/lactose doesn't ferment out like simpler sugars do, leaving residual sugar in the beer). No big loss for me, because Widmer sells a great summer blonde (Citra blonde—see review here) that fits the session bill quite nicely.
The upside is that, compared to other amber ales, this one will be better suited for fall and its bounty. While pairing beer with dessert is often very tricky, I'm thinking this one might go well with apple pie given its rich caramel flavor. Sweet food generally makes the hops stand out in a beer in a big way, to the point of unpleasantly strong contrast, but I don't think there's enough hop character in Drop Top (it contains relatively mild Cimcoe and Alchemy hops—alchemy being a proprietary blend) for that to be a problem. Apparently Widmer is doing something right with this one, because Drop Top won gold medals at Great American Beer Festival in 2004 and 2008.
Full disclosure for the independent craft beer geeks: Craft Brew Alliance, while comprised of three breweries that started small, is a publicly-traded corporation (NASDAQ: BREW) in which Anheuser-Busch has a 30-something percent stake through its ownership of the distribution channels. So if purely independent brewing is your thing, you've been warned. I for one haven't seen any downsides as far as quality goes and am happy to see this sort of beer in wide distribution at that only Sam Adams has rivaled in the craft beer market.