Recently in Sierra Nevada Category

Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Bigfoot

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Sierra Nevada seems to have a weird reputation. On the one hand, most of us cut our teeth on the likes of their basic Pale Ale (and I suppose freshly minted beer dorks are digging into Torpedo these days), but these are mass produced beers that don't usually inflame beer nerd passions for very long. Don't get me wrong, that pale ale has long been a beacon of light in otherwise inhospitable beer wastelands like sports bars or wedding receptions, but we're creatures of novelty. Fortunately, Sierra Nevada groks that notion, and thus they manage to put out a lot of more experimental stuff alongside their standards. From what I gather, the really out-there stuff doesn't really go far and wide, but occasionally they make an appearance all the way out here on the east coast.

Bigfoot is one of their standards that is frequently recommended to nascent beer nerds. Want to try a rock solid American Barleywine? Get yourself a Bigfoot. Want to dip your feet into the realm of cellaring beer? Buy a 4 pack of Bigfoot and drink one per year. They've been putting this beer out every winter since the early 80s and it's widely available, so that's a big part of its reputation. Heck, one my local bottle shops is selling 4 year old bottles of the stuff.

Anyways, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Bigfoot, Sierra Nevada aged a batch of this stuff in old whiskey casks for over a year. The hops have mellowed and the oak adds that rich caramel and vanilla character, making this very different. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this sucker, though perhaps I shouldn't have been:

Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Bigfoot

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale - Whiskey Barrel-Aged - Pours a very striking clear amberish copper color with a finger of off white head. Smells strongly of citrusy, piney, resinous hops, with just a bit of the whiskey barrel character and some caramel too. As it warms up, the whiskey barrel becomes more prominent. Taste is filled with a rich caramel, vanilla, and oak character, with the hops emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish, which has a nice, balancing bitterness as well. Again, as it warms, the whiskey barrel aging components really open up and some booze makes itself know in the middle to finish as well. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, very smooth, with a full body and richness from the barrel aging. Overall, this is a superb BA barleywine. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.2% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 4/13/13. "2013 Expedition"

Definitely a worthwhile beer to seek out. It's not a Sucaba killer or anything, but it's damn good. I didn't have any trouble finding this on the shelf, but I gather that it went pretty quickly, so if you see one and it sounds like it might be up your alley, get it.

Febrewary Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. An interesting turnout this month, as a few stalwarts were absent, but new attendees picked up the slack. This time around, we visited a Mexican BYOB with quite the ostentatious decor:

February Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

Phew, that place has some brightly colored furniture. But amazing salsa and good food too. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so you can and should be skeptical of my notes. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale - Wow, very rich malt flavors here, like a Scotch ale, but with something more. I got a distinct barrel aged character out of it, though this not one of those versions (apparently there are bourbon, port or brandy barrel aged versions, which I'd love to try). Fantastic beer, got the night going in style, though it may have set the bar unreasonably high for the following beers. I'd love to get me some more of this. A candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Appalachian Jolly Scot Scottish Ale - A somewhat local PA beer, this is another malt-forward ale that, unfortunately, didn't stand up too well to the Hairy Eyeball. It was fine, to be sure, and I'd probably really enjoy one of these by itself, but it came off as being a biton the thin side after the rich flavors of the Hairy Eyeball. B
  • Blue Moon Belgian White - I know, it's brewed by Coors, but hey, it actually worked really well at this point in the night. After two malt forward beers, it was a really refreshing change of pace, and I honestly have no problem with this beer anyway. Obviously not something I would ever go out of my way for, but a lot of places that only stock macros will have this on tap, and it's actually a nice beer. No, it won't melt your face, but it's a good gateway beer. Lots of wheat and citrus, it's refreshing and made for a nice palate cleanser tonight. B
  • Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale - Big brown ale brewed with Maple Syrup, you do get that character coming through pretty strongly here. A big, rich ale, no real hop presence, but lots of malts and that maple syrup adds a nice richness to the proceedings. Very well done, and another candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA - Well hopped (citrus and a little pine), plenty of balancing malts, and some of that distinctive rye character (though I never got the full-on rye bread character people seem to talk about). It didn't blow my mind, but a very solid beer that I could probably drink often. B+
  • St. Bernardus Prior 8 - Not pictured (late arrival), but it's a classic. Already reviewed here.
  • Southern Tier Creme Brulee (Imperial Milk Stout) - Another beer I reviewed a while back, this is one of the more interesting beers of the night. Massive aroma, intense flavors of chocolate, caramel, vanilla, maybe even some coffee. I could just sniff this stuff all night. Great stuff, maybe even a little better than I remember (though I think my chief complaint last time was that it's a bit too sweet to drink a whole bottle). A strange beer because I wouldn't call it one of my favorites, but it's so distinctive and interesting that I'd highly recommend it to just about anyone. A great dessert beer.
  • Dominion Ale - Any beer that follows the intense flavors and aroma of Creme Brulee was probably doomed to failure, and this turned out to be a rather standard English Pale Ale, a style I'm coming to dislike quite a bit these days. I always feel like there are buttery off flavors in these beers, and this one is no exception. I even threw in a small slice of orange, which helped mellow it out a bit, but blegh. Not a fan of this beer. D
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale - My homebrewed winter warmer style beer (a kinda spiced red ale), this thing has to be my best beer yet. Very nice spicy aroma, picking up lots of that cinnamon and clove, tastes quite nice, almost creamy mouthfeel. I really hope this wasn't some sort of fluke. I should really do a recap of all my homebrews at some point on the blog, so no rating for now, but I would seriously put this up against any of the winter warmer style beers I've had over the past couple years.
  • Boxcar Brewing A Long Winter's Night - This is probably as local as I can get. The (tiny) brewery was literally a few blocks away from where we were tonight (and this limited edition brew doesn't even warrant a page on BA, apparently). This winter ale was very interesting. I didn't get a lot of spice or anything out of it, but it was a very nice cloudy brown color with... it's hard to describe. Roasted chocolate? But not at all like a stout. More like a brown ale, but with no coffee and some chocolatey overtones (to be honest, it's very much like their regular brown ale, but perhaps less nutty). Very solid beer. B
All in all, a pretty great night! We didn't manage to get to all the beers in the picture, though I ended up taking a can of pale ale home with me, so perhaps a review of that in the coming weeks... That's all for now.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp

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Before tonight, I have a vague inkling of what Sierra Nevada Beer Camp was - a sorta Willy Wonka-esque contest with the prize being a tour of their brewery, along with a chance to brew your own beer (collaborating with the other winners and the Sierra Nevada staff). Apparently you win by entering a creative video explaining why Sierra Nevada should pick you to attend - so I would never win! And until now, I was pretty sure I'd never actually get to taste any of these beers either, but imagine my luck: on the same night I got my hands on Pliny the Elder, I spied several Beer Camp beers on tap. Most excellent:

Sierra Nevada Exportation

Sierra Nevada ExPortation - So Beer Camp #25 was a Baltic Porter style beer brewed in honor of Philly Beer week by some Philly beer geeks who won a spot a Beer Camp. It was called Philadelphia ExPorter. Now I'm not sure what genius (not being sarcastic here, whoever had this idea is genius) is responsible, but someone had a brilliant idea: Hey, let's take this Baltic Porter over to Russian River and have them age it in some Pinot Noir barrels. Fuck. Yes. It pours a nice opaque black color with a finger of tan head. The smell is outright twangy. The funk almost, but not quite, overwhelms the typical roasty aromas. In other words, it's fantastic. The taste has a similar profile: funky sourness almost, but not quite, overwhelming roasty Porter flavors. Relatively full bodied, but a smooth and easy to drink mouthfeel. The thing that's most amazing here is that, well, I'm not a huge fan of porters, nor have I truly acquired a taste for sour beers. And yet, this beer is almost perfect for me. It's like the two styles cancel out the things I don't like, and amplify the things I do. Amazing. And keep in mind that I had just drank a glass of Pliny the Elder, so the bar was set pretty high here. The only bad thing about this beer is that I will most likely never get the chance to drink it again (unless I head back over to that bar in the next couple days - certainly a possibility). A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV on tap. Drank out of a pint glass on 6/23/11.


Sierra Nevada Hop Smack

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp #48: Hop Smack - This one has a less clear provenance. It's not even listed on the Beer Camp site, nor does it appear on Beer Advocate. I did find the RateBeer page, but it only has one review! Basically, it's one of them American Black Ales (or whatever the hell you call them)... actually, it said it was a Double American Black Ale. My experience with the style is limited, but since ExPortation was so awesome, and since I was unlikely to ever even see this again, I gave it a shot. It pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of head. Smells surprisingly hoppy - almost no roastiness getting through to the nose. The taste is almost wholly like a DIPA. Sweet, hoppy, and bitter. At first, no roastiness at all was apparent - if you blindfolded me and made me taste, I probably would not have guessed that it was an American black ale. As it warmed up and I got to the bottom of the glass, I got the faintest hint of roastiness out of the beer, but it wasn't much. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not a terrible beer or anything, it just doesn't seem like a particularly good take on the style. That, or my palate was obliterated by the likes of Pliny and ExPortation (both very strongly flavored beers). I'll give it a B-, as I was disappointed, but I suppose others might find more to like.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass on 6/23/11.

There was another Beer Camp beer on tap, but it seemed like a plain old Pale Ale. Don't get me wrong, I would have tried it, but after having a DIPA, a strong sour beer, and a Double ABA, I think that would have paled in comparison (pun intended!)

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: A Screenplay

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1. INT. SIERRA NEVADA BREWERY - LATE OCTOBER

Six men sit around a table. A projector is displaying a marketing presentation on the screen.

BREWER 1: What the fuck is this shit about?

BREWER 2: Who fucking cares? Free beer!

BREWER 1: Hey shitdouche, you work in a brewery! You drink free beer all the time!

BREWER 2: You're just jealous because I got the fucking good stuff!

KEN GROSSMAN: Hey! Every beer we make is "good stuff"

BREWER 1: Yes, sir...

BREWER 2 (in unison): Yes, sir...

MARKETING WEENIE: Ok folks, let's get started. We here in Marketing are proud to debut the label designs for our new Holiday ale.

BREWER 1 and BREWER 2 start fidgeting anxiously.

KEN GROSSMAN: Great! What's it called?

MARKETING WEENIE:Picture this: A quaint little cottage in the countryside. Surrounded by evergreens, snow adorns its roof, smoke curling up from its chimney...

HEAD BREWER: Hey, shit-for-brains, he asked what it was called.

MARKETING WEENIE sighs, pausing for effect.

MARKETING WEENIE: It's called... Celebration.

KEN GROSSMAN: Love it, love it, love it. Let's go home.

MARKETING WEENIE: Well, wait, shouldn't we try tasting it first?

KEN GROSSMAN: Holy shit, yeah, duh, forgot about that. Where is it? All I see in this bucket here is a bunch of pale ales and IPAs.

BREWER 1 (under his breath): Fuuuuuuuuuuck

BREWER 2: What the fuck are we talking about here?

HEAD BREWER glares at BREWER 1 and BREWER 2

MARKETING WEENIE: You guys were supposed to bring a few bottles of the new holiday ale for us to taste.

BREWER 1: Yeah... so, uh, we didn't brew any.

HEAD BREWER: What!? So what the fuck is in all those fucking beer tanks out there!?

BREWER 2: It's actually a pretty bitchin' IPA.

HEAD BREWER: What about all the cinnamon and nutmeg we were going to brew it with?

BREWER 1: Brewer 2 heard a rumor it would get him high...

HEAD BREWER: That's the dumbest fucking thing I've ever heard.

BREWER 2: Duuuude, it totally works.

KEN GROSSMAN: Really?

MARKETING WEENIE (in unison):This is unbelievable. You assholes should be fired!

KEN GROSSMAN: Eh, not so fast. Do you still have any?

BREWER 2: What, cinnamon?

KEN GROSSMAN: Yeah, let's fire that shit up!

HEAD BREWER: I'm game.

MARKETING WEENIE: So what are we going to do about the holiday ale?

BREWER 1: Shit, man, bottle that IPA and slap those Celebration labels on it. Done. This ain't fuckin rocket science.

KEN GROSSMAN: You guys are fucking brilliant. I'm giving you all raises.

MARKETING WEENIE: This is amazing.

KEN GROSSMAN: Except for you, you're fired.

2. INT. COMPUTER DESK - 11:15 PM

Sierra Nevada Celebration

MARK: Yeah, so it's pretty good, but I have no idea what makes this a winter seasonal. Pours a nice clear amber red color, with a solid, light colored head. Typical IPA smell of malt and hops, and a taste to match. Nice citrusy start, dry bready bitterness in the finish. There's absolutely nothing about this that screams "Holiday" (except for the label), but it's a good beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

So I'm looking forward to Sierra Nevada's upcoming summer seasonal, a Russian Imperial Stout. (What? That makes about as much sense as this one!)

Update: This should go without saying, but I obviously don't think Ken Grossman (and his brewers) is a cinnamon snorting addict. However, I do think it would be funny if he was.

Again Update: Apparently I missed the opportunity to make fun of Sierra Nevada's "green" industry practices (which are praiseworthy, to be sure, but also probably ripe for hijinks).

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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