Sierra Nevada Jack & Ken’s Ale

September 7th, 2010 beckel

Then it was time for number three from Sierra Nevada. I just grabbed this bottle from Alvey at The Four Firkins yesterday and after hearing his praise on top of my overall excitement for the beer I can’t wait to get into it. This time around it is a Barleywine and a tribute to Jack McAuliffe who is credited for creating the first US microbrewery; New Albion in 1977 which operated until 1982. For which he more recently received a Recognition award from the Brewers Association (the trade organization that represents American craft brewers) in 2007. If this brew manages to be anywhere near as good as their well known Big Foot Barleywine I will be a happy man.

Pours a very dark, almost pitch black hue that is completely opaque. Over four fingers of tight creamy off white, almost tan head are produced and don’t dissipate for quite some time. As it slowly dissipates a good deal of lacing stays around the entire glass leaving a few millimeters of perpetual carbonation on the surface of this ale. Aroma is massive and fantastic. Notes of chocolate, molassas, toffee and modest bitterness contrast with solid malty sweetness and roasted grain esters. Flavor consists of deliciously rich coffee, butterscotch, caramel and a fantastic play of bitter roasted malt notes and bitter and citrus hop esters. As it warms plum and other dark pitted fruits become more prevalent and bring in some expected flavors of the style. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is smooth and slightly creamy. At 10.2% ABV this is certainly a slow drinker but it is in no way overwhelming or hot. For those accustomed to Sierra Nevada’s classic Big Foot, this beer is quite a bit richer with a great deal of sweet malt esters such as caramel & butterscotch, much stronger coffee notes and a distinctive plum character as it warms. The hops also play quite differently with the citrus notes being more notable and the bitterness still similarly intense though contrasting differently with the variety of sweet malt esters present. If you enjoy well crafted Barleywines done in an American style and aren’t afraid of some contrasting bitterness this might just be right up your alley. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Jack & Ken's Ale

Sierra Nevada Charlie, Fred & Ken’s Bock

September 6th, 2010 beckel

Today I have the 2nd beer in Serria Nevada’s 30th Anniversary line of beers. This time around we have an Imperial Helles Bock. This lager was brewed in conjunction with and to honor two influential homebrewers and authors who have contributed a great deal to the community; Charlie Papazian and Fred Eckhardt. While not my favorite style, and definitely not a common one I think it is an appropriate approach to appreciate two very knowledgeable men who have motivated so many to to experience the joy of homebrewing.

Pours a very light translucent copper hue. A massive three plus finger head is easily created and consists of a bouquet of tight white bubbles that quickly dissapate leaving only a few bubbles around the rim after about three minutes. Smells somewhat sharply of lager yeast, gentle alcohol, soft lemon and orange . Tastes of lager yeast, smooth malty sweetness, hints of caramel, gentle citrus and very soft bitterness. Clean simple hop notes contrast well with the sweet malt base and allow the yeasts gentle herbal characters to shine through brilliantly. Other than gentle notes on the noes one will be hard pressed to realize this lager is 8.3% ABV until you’ve consumed most of the bottle. As it warms a few astringent flavors show their face but over all the flavors of this beer are relatively clean and enjoyable. While not a style of brew I regularly compliment this lager was well thought out and well crafted. Those who enjoy the rare Helles as large as this will be glad they opted to try it. As will those who enjoy clean, reasonably crisp, full flavored light lager. If you’re still able to find a bottle, give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Charlie, Fred & Ken's Bock

Sierra Nevada Estate Ale 2009

May 19th, 2010 beckel

As this beer has sat in my fridge for far too long I suppose it’s damn time I consume it. A large variety of beers are fine to age but for many lower alcohol beers and particularly hoppy beers it is not the best approach. Sierra Nevada is already releasing their Estate 2010 as I write this post so I am sure this bottle will not have nearly as brilliant hop characters as it likely had initially. Oh well, it’s my fault for procrastinating. This exciting brew is the first release of Sierra Nevada’s Estate Ale, part of their Harvest Series. Consisting of only hops and barley grown on Sierra Nevada’s own estate in Chico, CA. Pours a very translucent bright amber hue that quickly creates over three fingers of off white head that leave a decent amount of lacing after settling a few minutes later. Smells nicely of grassy hops which play nicely with sweet malt and modest citrus esters. Tastes of rich, smooth, sweet malts, a decent amount of citrus, lemon, orange, grapefruit, modest bitterness and some gentle grassy & earthy esters. Body is medium and mouthfeel is wonderfully smooth and tight. The beautiful mouthfeel likely has something to do with the age of this brew. I am quite impressed by the delightful melding of hops and  malts present in this brew and equally impressed by the robustness of the hop esters still present after roughly a year of aging. Overall enjoyable bitterness is complimented with rich malts and delightful hop notes creating a very well rounded ale.  When I first saw this 24 oz bottle on the shelves of The Four Firkins I was amazed by its price tag of around $13 if memory serves me correctly and almost didn’t end up purchasing it. After consuming it I’m glad I did because I believe it will be appreciated by any fan of IPAs or Pale Ales. At 6.7% ABV this is one drinkable but very flavorful Ale. If this years edition of Estate Ale is anywhere near as well balanced I would highly recommend picking up a bottle, I probably will. While it is always fun to be surprised by an aging experiment I wouldn’t highly recommend aging (m)any India Pale Ales. If you can find an old bottle give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Estate Ale 2009

The Session #39 Sierra Nevada Fritz and Ken’s Ale

May 7th, 2010 beckel

The SessionToday I have what is sure to be a fun brew, and seemingly the last new beer to involve Fritz Maytag before the sale of his landmark brewery Anchor Brewing (more about that here). I haven’t participated in The Session for quite some time but after looking at this weeks I realized I have the perfect brew for this months topic: Collaborations. I love collaborative brews for many reasons. In fact I think they are an example of the life blood of the Craft Beer industry. With out cooperation, sharing and support of one another many Craft Breweries would not be where they are today. Not only is it more fun to work with others when brewing but there is also a ton to learn from one another. From techniques to preferences not to mention local traditions and ideas. In honor of collaboration I will be consuming Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary brew which is a collaboration between their brewer Ken Grossman and Anchor Brewing’s Fritz Maytag. I bought this bottle of  Fritz & Ken at The Four Firkins, another at Chicago Lake Liquors and even saw a few still on the shelves of Princeton’s Liquors when I was there earlier today. According to the bottle they decided to brew this Imperial Stout in honor of the Dark Ales and Stouts that seduced them in their early years. Lets see how it goes. Gently poured from a cleanly labeled, caged and corked 750ml bottle over four fingers of creamy tight chocolate colored head are quickly produced. Bubbles slowly open up and even more slowly dissipate. I poured my glass more than five minutes ago and there is still half a finger of reasonably tight head that has yet to settle. A good deal of lacing is present and likely won’t be going anywhere soon. Color is a very opaque dark black that lightens slightly when brought to light. Smells of roasted malts, smoke, chocolate, coffee, gentle malt bitterness and some notable alcohol. Flavor is massively smoky with enjoyable coffee and roasted esters and some residual sweetness to help create some sort of a balance. As it warms the smoky flavors loosen up quite a bit allowing the variety of dark malt esters to shine. Chocolate esters are highlighted exceptionally along with gentle coffee, smooth bitterness and an enjoyable amount of residual sweetness. Pitted fruit esters exist but are incredibly subtle. Body is on the heavy side, but not overly considering the style. Mouthfeel is very smooth and silky despite its massively rich malt profile. At 9.5% ABV this is definitely a sipper but not overly offensive with more than enough dark malt esters to hide the alcohol easily. Over all quite good but not anything particularly unique. If you enjoy Imperial Stouts that are nicely roasted and to style you should certainly enjoy this brew. I will definitely be aging my 2nd bottle to see what it has to offer in a year or two. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Fritz & Ken's Ale

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

February 20th, 2009 beckel

Today I have the newest year round ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing, Torpedo an India Pale Ale that due to distribution issues just hit Minneapolis shelves the other day. I am very curious to sample this ale as Sierra Nevada produces a number of hoppy beers but only now has a proper year round IPA and apparently it’s “Extra” so we will have to see how that plays in. I have high hopes and am also excited to sample this years BigFoot Barleywine that is in my fridge, but that will be a post for another day. Pouring this beer it is easy to get a three finger plus off white head so it may be wise to not initially pour directly down the glass. Head remains for many minutes and seems to hide the aroma a bit. This brew appears very amber in color with some copper hues as well and is very translucent. Smells of the two-row Pale Malt that Sierra Nevada tends to use as well as some nice but not particularly dominate citrus and floral hints. Flavor is decent, tastes similar to their Pale Ale with the Pale Malt but then adds an extra dimension with some nice bitterness presumably from the Magnum hops. Initial sips provide sweet maltyness that transitions into some grapefruit citrus and other floral hoppy flavors wrapping in some more malt contrast and then finishing nice and bitter. Medium body though light for an IPA and rather drinkable with a smooth mouthfeel. The label suggests this brew is a celebration of the character of whole-cone American hops and the wonderful complexities and balancing opportunities they provide and I must say I agree with their sentiment and they have done a rather good job. Though this ale contains many nice hop flavors it has more pale malt flavors than I prefer in an IPA and probably won’t be something I pick up regularly. A good choice for someone who is a fan of Sierra Nevada but would like something with more hop complexity and bitterness. Though not an Imperial India Pale Ale, the 7.2% will do well enough to keep you on your toes. I will certainly enjoy the rest of my six pack and could see an ale like this being particularly refreshing on a hot summer day because of its lighter malt profile. If you like hops but don’t want something too intense this might just hit the spot, though it isn’t necessarily the beer for the hop wary. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra India Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

January 9th, 2009 beckel

Though I appreciate many of Sierra Nevada’s Ale’s their Celebration Ale is one that I had not sampled and is often commented upon as being delightfully hoppy. So when I started seeing it in 12 packs I knew my days of not sampling it were dwindling and ended up picking on up a few weeks ago. Today we will be consuming my last bottle of this holiday inspired India Pale Ale from Chico, CA. I poured this brew a little heavy and it filled the glass largely with white frothy head, though a mistake it showed me how much head retention this ale actually has and it’s a ton. After topping off the glass head still remains for many more minutes and leaves a good amount of lacing on the glass, quite solid. Aroma is full of grapefruit and other citrus hop scents and just a little malt, very nice. Color is bright red with a some copper tones and very translucent. Flavor is certainly hoppy as one would expect. Initially I get some rather bitter hop flavors that lead into a grapefruit citrus flavor. Mouthfeel is rather smooth and the body is rather light. With the bitter flavors in this ale I doubt you will really notice its 6.8% ABV. As you continue to drink this beer and start getting used to its hop profile you will increasingly notice the somewhat sweet finish that the malt creates. This is absolutely a decent beer and fans of hops such as myself will likely find this a refreshing ale if it ends up in their hands but I must say honestly I was a bit disappointed. Currently I think this is a solid very drinkable ale that would be very nice on a summer day when looking for something hoppy I just feel Sierra Nevada has the skills to make this ale a bit more balanced and complex. With that said if you are not a fan of hops this ale is not for you, but would be wonderful for cleansing your palate when eating some nice spicy Asian food. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager

July 26th, 2008 beckel

I have passed up this beer numerous times in the liquor store, so when I saw it while filling up a mixed six pack I decided it deserved a try. Summerfest from Sierra Nevada is a pilsner style lager clocking in at 5% ABV, not my favorite style of beer but lets see how it goes. Pours a very transparent yellow color typical of a pilsner, head is incredibly plentiful and creates a lovely eruption of bubbles as it cascades. Smells of light pilsner malts somewhat sweet, slight hop aroma present. Mouthfeel is light. Tastes of corn and slightly sour malt complimented by hop bitterness but a slightly sweet aftertaste. More complex flavor than most pilsners that I’ve had and likely a refreshing drink on a hot summer day. A decent beer but not quite my thing, if your looking for a lager with some flavor this might not be a bad choice. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Summerfest

Sierra Nevada Big Foot Barleywine

July 14th, 2008 beckel

Sierra Nevada is lucky to have an array of quality beers and good distribution throughout the United States. One that deserves a good amount of praise is from their limited selections: Big Foot a barleywine style Ale. This 2008 edition pours with a very impressive tan head. Color is a nice dark red almost slightly brown. Aroma is grand, bitterness is present as well as sweet roasted malt, light fermented fruits are lightly detectable. Mouthfeel is medium, not too heavy. Flavor is very intense. Coming in at 9.6% ABV the level of hop bitterness in this barleywine is no surprise, what is however is how nicely the sweet malt compliments the flavor. Definitely a strong beer but it has many sweet notes on the palate as well as including less sweet, almost burnt roasted malt flavors. This is a very good example of a properly balanced barleywine, if you like strong beers and intense complex flavors this one is definitely worth your time trying. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale

June 15th, 2008 beckel

The Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale is part of Sierra Nevada’s Hemisphere series. It consists of 3 beers that doing creative things with fresh hops. This beer was brewed with fresh hops from New Zealand that were used about one week after being harvested. Pours a beautiful deep amber, it is filtered but still displays a very rich color. Good few inch head is quite light in color. Smells very strongly of hops, a bit bitter with a little hint of sweetness in the end. Not surprising considering its 66 IBU. Flavor is incredibly hop filled, especially for a pale ale and the taste will linger in your mouth for quite some time. It is rather bitter but the mouthfeel is smooth and the malt balances out the flavor decently. At 6.7% this beer is surprisingly nonalcoholic for the strong flavor it portrays, it is obvious the freshness of the hops really has an effect on this beer. I would encourage anyone who enjoys hops to try this beer if for nothing more than to experience the hop profile. It is probably one of the most complex pale ale’s I have ever been able try, though with its price tag I don’t think I would drink it regularly.sierra nevada southern hemisphere harvest ale