Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPABeer No. 69 – Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA

Is this really a problem?

The New York Times is reporting that large-format, 750 ml and beyond brews will face, and maybe already are facing, an uphill battle with craft consumers. Among the complaints are:

  • Cost/value 
  • Sessionability
  • Brewers are putting all the good stuff in this format
  • This isn’t beer

Some of these points are more interesting than others. Like beer isn’t beer if it’s bottled and priced like wine and scotch and fancypants.

I’ll admit that price isn’t, at the moment, a barrier for me. And except for nights like tonight, with a late start forcing my hand to the 12-ounce section of the beer rack, neither is sessionability. That’s why it’s hard to take the complaints of these beer sommeliers – whose job it is to sell large-format craft beers – too seriously when they say large-format craft beers “can be problematic to sell.” To Mitt Romney, sure. But you work at a hip restaurant in New York City. You mean to tell us you can’t sell two or three beers? Because fundamentally that’s all large-format is.

Anyway, it seems the biggest challenge here is philosophical. Too many craft consumers have their identities wrapped up with their beer, defined positively as “it’s local” or negatively by what it’s not (“anything but Bud Light”). Fine, that’s not the best definition but we now have some parameters. We also have some assumptions, including “This is beer.” By comparison, what’s obviously not is wine, and bourbon. So when craft brewers start experimenting with barrel aging, craft consumers bristle. People don’t like to have their assumptions challenged.

Make no mistake, this isn’t about price or the lament of hipster sommeliers. We are entering the next phase of brew development and should support these efforts, not undermine them. Beer has been evolving for thousands of years. Dogfish Head Midas Touch (Beeradvocate 84, ratebeer 93) is an homage to three drink ingredients – barley, grapes and honey – discovered in the burial site of King Midas. You have to believe the ancient Greeks and today’s beer geeks didn’t use the same methods or stylistic flourishes.

Beer is evolving. It will continue to evolve. And I guess I can’t and won’t get too worked up over someone who wants to charge $14 for 750 ml of a Farmhouse Ale aged in red wine barrels. That sounds like something someone put a lot of time and effort into, and more importantly it sounds highly quaffable.

Beer Notes: It seems the whole-cone hops get lost in the caramel ryeness of it. But it is crisp – rather so – for a rye beer so maybe that is the whole-cone hops coming through. Pleasant finish, decent effort.

Beeradvocate Rating: 88

ratebeer Rating: 98

Hayward Abbey Rating: 84

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Beer No. 22 – Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Now this is how you make a beer. No honey added, no orange twist, no shandy of lemonade. It would make an ideal complement to wedge fries and curry sauce.

STYLE: American IPA

ABV: 7.2%

LOOK: Let’s start with the head. Fluffy isn’t the right word. It’s more like one of those moon rocks with holes throughout. The volume is there facially, punctured though it is. The color – a creamy, mellow amber.

NOSE: Sunflower seeds, pistachios, sweet pine needles, black licorice, fresh mint. Unfathomably complex.

MOUTH: Predominantly lemon, fresh, black cardamom, buttered nuts. Strong malty backbone, pizza crust and English muffins. Maybe a tad astringent with the finish, my only real complaint, if you can call it that, is that I wish more of the nose came through in the mouth.

Beeradvocate Rating: 92

Hayward Abbey Rating: 90

Sierra Nevada Summerfest

Beer No. 6 – Sierra Nevada Summerfest

I grabbed a six pack hoping to find a new summer fav. This uninspired offering leaves me wanting. If this is illustrative, and I’m not saying it is just to be clear, you might be inclined to ask if Sierra Nevada thinks they can charge $9 for six bottles of anything these days.

STYLE: Czech Pilsner

ABV: 5%

LOOK: Very light straw, nearly clear. Somehow lighter than water. I just put four paint samples on the nursery wall and can see all of them pretty clearly through the glass. Half-finger head and no lacing.

NOSE: Flat breakfast biscuits and generic spices play an unsatisfying prelude.

MOUTH: The first sip smacks like a barrel of hay. Grassy, faint hint of red licorice — the only real balance. Very light and not enough carbonation to get you through a hot summer day. Nice bitter finish, but nothing spectacular.

Beeradvocate Rating: 83

Hayward Abbey Rating: 72