Tag Archives: Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Part 2

Yesterday I reviewed the first three beers in Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp 12-pack. Today I’ll continue with the final three and some thought on the pack as a whole.

Sierra Nevada Moxee MoronMoxee Moron Imperial Session IPA: Represents the Pacific Northwest and Rockies in collaboration with Bale Breaker, Barley Brown’s, Black Raven, Melvin and Odell Brewing. The “style” imperial session IPA is obviously a contradiction, or an oxymoron, and the town of Moxee is in the Yakima Valley hop-growing region, thus the name of the beer. This is a pretty straight forward West Coast style IPA, notes of pineapple, peach, mango and pine along with a solid bitter punch. This is balanced by a full malt backbone and packs a little punch at 7.5% ABV. Nothing wrong with this beer, but I would rather drink Sierra Nevada’s staple IPAs like Torpedo or Hop Hunter. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Sierra Nevada Stout of the UnionStout of the Union Robust Stout: Represents the Southwest in collaboration with Bagby, Beachwood, Lost Abbey, Smog City and Societe. I’ve been advocating for more stouts and porters that feature full malt flavor without double digit booze or whiskey barrel aging and this fits the bill. Pitch black with huge malt flavor led by coffee, chocolate, caramel and toasted bread. The hops add enough bitterness to keep the malts in check and at 7.3% ABV it isn’t a light beer by any measure. If this beer was available regularly I think it would become a staple winter beer in my fridge. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Sierra Nevada Pat Rye OtPat-Rye-Ot Revolutionary Pale Ale: Represents the Northeast in collaboration with Devil’s Backbone, Dogfish Head, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Stoudt’s and Trillium. A rye pale ale brewed with apples along with a big dose of hops. The hops come through first, notes of orange, passion fruit, tangerine and lemon. The subtle rye adds some spice and the crystal malts contribute some bready flavors and just a hint of sweetness. The beer is crisp and very drinkable, the flavors here are all in harmony.  Call me a homer if want, but this was my favorite beer of the bunch. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Overall I really enjoyed this years Sierra Nevada Beer Camp pack, all of the beers were good to very good and there was some good diversity of flavors and ingredients. There has been a number of complaints about the price (which is over $30 in some places), and I completely understand but to me it’s worth it as an occasional splurge. I would like it if they went back to 1-1 collaborations next year though. One of the things I love about collaboration beers is tasting the styles of breweries I rarely get to try but with 6 breweries collaborating you don’t really learn much about individual brewers. Still, I would recommend giving this Beer Camp pack a shot if you see it around!





Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2016 Part 1

Last year Sierra Nevada launched Beer Camp, a series of beer festivals in different cities across the country. As part of this celebration they brewed 12 collaboration beers each one with a different brewer in a Beer Camp host city. The 12 beers were sold as a 12-pack, which sold out incredibly quickly around here so I never got a chance to try it. The reviews I read all told a pretty similar tale, the beers were OK but expectations were much higher considering the names on the bottles. This year Sierra Nevada is doing a similar touring beer festival, but the 12 pack is slightly different, it features 6 different beers that are each a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and 5 breweries in a particular region of the country. I was able to grab a twelve pack and spent my weekend sampling a critiquing each of the beers, it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it. I’ll give my thoughts on three today and then do the other three and a summary tomorrow.

Sierra Nevada Family ValuesFamily Values Imperial Brown Ale: Represents the Midwest in collaboration with Dark Horse, Half Acre, Perennial, Schell’s and Sun King. This is a flavorful and very malt forward brown ale brewed with wild rice, oats, cocoa nibs and honey sourced from Midwestern states. It’s full bodied and plenty of chocolate, caramel and toasted bread flavor, and packs some punch at 8.5% ABV. There are just enough grassy/earthy hops to keep the beer from being overly sweet, and it drinks very easy for a bigger beer. Brown ales aren’t my favorite style but I really enjoyed this beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Sierra Nevada Sweet Sunny SouthSweet Sunny South Southern Table Beer: Represents the South in collaboration with Austin Beerworks, Bayou Teche, Creature Comforts, Funky Buddha and Wicked Weed. Again the focus is local ingredients in this saison brewed with corn grits, black tea, honeysuckle, peach, papaya, guava and prickly pear. The adjunct ingredients lead the flvor here, especially the peach, papaya and guava along with a little tea. This is complemented by the fruity hops which add some orange, lemon and grape notes. The beer is light and refreshing and sessionable at 4.9% ABV. My only criticism is that I don’t get much of that distinct yeasty flavor that I expect from a saison, if you’d told me this was an APA I would have believed you. Still, a very nice offering for summer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Sierra Nevada West LatitudeWest Latitude Session Rye: Represents Northern California in collaboration with Bear Republic, Faction, Mad River, Magnolia and Maui Brewing. A rye ale brewed with a solid dose of New World hops along with hibiscus. First and foremost, it is kind of disingenuous to call this a session beer at 5.5% ABV, the highest “limit” I’ve seen for session beers is 5%. I was also really surprised by how dark this beer was, not what I expected in a rye ale. That being said, the beer is delicious, spicy rye, some roasted malt barley and midnight wheat, fruity hops and hibiscus all come together to make a beer that is complex and delicious. This was one of my personal favorites in the sampler, I think there was one beer I liked slightly better, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out which one! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.


Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2015

I can’t believe October is almost over. I really can’t believe it is late October and I’ve yet to review an Oktoberfest beer. One of the most popular fall seasonal beers is the marzen, the malty lager that is one of the traditional beers of the German Oktoberfest celebration. Marzen beers used to be a fall staple for small brewers, I was introduced to the concept of seasonal releases by Sam Adams take on the style. The combined popularity of hop bombs and pumpkin beers has slowed the growth of the marzen style. Another issue that American brewers have run into is authenticity, too many American marzens are overly sweet. Sierra Nevada clearly wanted to make their Oktoberfest as authentic as possible, so they decided to brew a marzen as a collaboration with a different brewery in Germany each fall. The first beer in this series was brewed with Brauhaus Riegele in Augsburg and released this fall. Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2015 is available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles this fall, the beer will be a completely new recipe with a different German brewery next year!

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2015Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2015 pours a clear deep orange with a minimal white head. The scent features a solid hit of caramelized malted barley. The beer is clearly malt forward, but not overkill, notes of caramel, fresh baked bread and honey. This is balanced by some mild noble hops, grassy and earthy with some crisp bite in the finish. The beer is medium bodied with a clean lager profile, but packs a little punch at 6% ABV. While many American takes of the marzen/Oktoberfest style are so malt forward that they approach cloying, Sierra Nevada manages to achieve full malt flavor while maintaining balance and drinkability. This is one of the best versions of the marzen style I’ve tried, definitely worth checking out. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Sierra Nevada Reviews:

Sierra Nevada Hop HunterSierra Nevada Beer Camp Hoppy LagerSierra Nevada Snow PackSierra Nevada Celebration

Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA

While I am a proud beer geek, I am also a serious science nerd. My job as a chemist pays the bills but it is also something that I am passionate about. Brewing beer involves a ton of science, from chemistry to physics to microbiology, so these interests often intersect. When Sierra Nevada announced their new Hop Hunter IPA I was immediately intrigued by the provided description. Sierra Nevada had noticed the rise in popularity of “wet hopped” beer, which are beers brewed with hops that had just been harvested. Most beers are brewed with dried hops, but the drying process can result in a loss of some of the volatile compounds that add flavor and aroma. Hops are only harvested in the fall, so most brewers have a limited window to fully capture the flavor of fresh hop cones. Sierra Nevada seems to have found a solution, they steam distill the wet hops before they even leave the fields, isolating a hop oil that contains all of the key volatile compounds. This oil is then added to the brew kettle along with the regular hops. The result is Hop Hunter IPA, a beer with the flavor of freshly harvested hops. Hop Hunter IPA is available year-round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.

Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPASierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA pours a clear orange-tinted yellow with a mild white head. The scent is a huge burst of floral and resinous hops, there is so much hop aroma that the beer almost smells bitter. The hops also lead the flavor, notes of pine, lemon and cut grass, along with solid but not overwhelming bitterness. The hop flavor has the freshness that you predominantly see in wet-hopped beers. There is some light malt in the backbone, but it is clearly a canvas to showcase the fresh hop flavors. The beer goes down very easy and isn’t overly boozy at 6.2% ABV. Isolating the fresh hop essences to make wet hopped style beers all year is extremely cool, and this beer is a very tasty result. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Sierra Nevada Reviews:

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Hoppy LagerSierra Nevada Snow PackSierra Nevada Celebration

H2H Beer Review: Hoppy Lager, Sierra Nevada Beer Camp vs. Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union

Hoppy Lager SN vs JA

Many craft brewers are starting to brew lagers now, accepting that the longer fermentation times are worthwhile to add diversity to the styles of beer they can make. Budweiser apparently missed this fact when they made their Super Bowl ad, which seemed to assume that all craft beer was ale (amongst many other untrue assumptions). It’s no surprise that one of the most popular types of American lagers are beers brewed with large doses of aromatic and flavorful hops. Called India pale lagers or just hoppy lagers, these beers are a truly American creation. When done correctly the clean fermentation leads to a crisp and refreshing beer that highlights the pungent aromas and diverse flavor profiles of the selected hop varieties.

The Competitors: Beer Camp Hoppy Lager, the new spring seasonal from national powerhouse Sierra Nevada and Hoponius Union, one of the flagship lagers from local stalwart Jack’s Abby Brewing.

Sierra Nevada celebrated their touring Beer Camp festival series this summer with a 12 pack of collaboration beers they brewed with brewers from all over the country. One of these beers was a hop-forward lager they brewed with Ballast Point. For their new spring release Sierra Nevada tweaked this recipe for a slightly different take on the hoppy lager style. Jack’s Abby has been a lager-only brewery from the beginning, but they frequently venture outside the boundaries of traditional European lager styles. Hoponius Union is one of their most well known and popular beers, hoppy enough for any IPA fan but with a clean profile due to the cold fermentation with lager yeast. I thought it would be fun to compare the new offering from one of the most popular national breweries to a local favorite in this head-to-head review.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Hoppy Lager

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Hoppy Lager pours straw yellow with a moderate white head, and the scent packs a solid punch of floral and dank hops. The hops lead the flavor, notes of grass, pine and lemon. This is balanced by some mild malts that offset the subtle bitter punch. The beer is clearly a lager, crisp and clean with a very smooth finish. Overall this is a really good beer, tons of hop flavor and aroma in a easy to drink lager.

Jack's Abby Hoponius Union

Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union pours slightly darker, a more full orange, with a mild with head. The first thing you notice about this beer is the huge burst of hops in the aroma, floral with a hit of citrus fruit. The flavor is also hop forward but a little more fruity, touches of grapefruit, mango, tangerine and resin. There is some malt balance here, but this beer is clearly a vehicle to highlight the hops. The bitterness in Hoponius Union is a little stronger than Beer Camp, much closer to IPA level. While it has many of the characteristics of a well-made IPA, this is also clearly a lager, there are no yeasty esters involved and the finish is pristine. Jack’s Abby are truly masters of lager beer, and this is one of my personal favorites amongst their selections.

The Verdict: Despite making some of the best beers in the country, Sierra Nevada can get overlooked by beer geeks because they don’t have many hard to find “unicorn beers”. The thing they excel at is consistency, and Beer Camp Hoppy Lager fits seamlessly into their portfolio of well crafted and delicious selections. As much as I liked this beer, it wasn’t quite as good as Hoponius Union, one of my favorite local beers regardless of style. I’ll give Jack’s Abby the win, but both beers are definitely worth a shot.

Previous Sierra Nevada Reviews: Sierra Nevada Snow PackSierra Nevada Celebration

Previous Jack’s Abby Reviews: Jack’s Abby Barrel-Aged FraminghammerJack’s Abby Bride MakerJack’s Abby Brewery/Hopstitution BAMJack’s Abby Copper LegendJack’s Abby Session Rye IPL, Jack’s Abby Mass RisingJack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil BrewJack’s Abby Wet Hop LagerJack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner

Sierra Nevada Snow Pack

In the days before specialty beer stores that allowed you to buy everything by the single bottle, one of the quickest ways to sample a number of offerings from a brewery were sampler packs. Some packs also contain special beers that are only bottled for the mix packs. When I am having people over or getting together with friends, I tend to lean towards samplers still. They are easier to transport than a bunch of loose bottles and you get a crowd-pleasing variety. I recently got together with some college buddies and grabbed a Sierra Nevada Snowpack, their winter sampler featuring Coffee Stout, Boomerang IPA, Porter and their quintessential Pale Ale. Fortunately there were some leftovers, so I was able to do a quick review of each of the beers in the pack. I really enjoyed all of the selections and highly recommend picking this 12 pack up.

Sierra Nevada PorterSierra Nevada Porter: Bright coffee and chocolate malt flavor balanced by a solid hit of earthy hops. Smooth and drinkable with a crisp bite to finish. I had never tried this beer before, I really liked it. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5

Sierra Nevada Boomerang IPASierra Nevada Boomerang IPA: A big burst of fruity Australian hop varieties (thus the name) in the scent and the flavor. Very hop forward and bitter with just a touch of malt in the backbone. This is a textbook West Coast style IPA, and my favorite beer in the sampler pack. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5

Sierra Nevada Coffee StoutSierra Nevada Coffee Stout: Malty and rich with a full mouthfeel. The coffee flavor is evident, especially as the beer warms, but it doesn’t overpower the roasted malt flavors. The dry and slightly bitter finish reminds you of black coffee. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Sierra Nevada Pale AleSierra Nevada Pale Ale: One of the most important beers in American craft, the prototype for hop-forward US ales. Light and drinkable, but full of flavor and beautifully balanced. Piney and floral hops and a solid bitter kick without approaching IPA level. This beer is a classic for a reason. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

Previous Sierra Nevada Reviews:

Sierra Nevada Celebration

Sierra Nevada Celebration

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, CA is one of the original craft breweries in the US. Ken Grossman, an avid home-brewer and owner of a homebrew supply store was frustrated with the quality of the hops available to home-brewers. This led him straight to the suppliers, where he started ordering whole cone fresh hops, and the hop-forward beers of Sierra Nevada were born. Sierra Nevada brewed its first batch of beer in 1980, and quickly developed the recipes for their flagship stout and pale ale. In 1981 Sierra Nevada developed Celebration Ale, their winter seasonal beer that is widely credited as the first American style IPA. Celebration Ale is a fresh hopped IPA, most hops are harvested in the fall and then dried before they are used to make the beer. Fresh hopped ales use the freshest possible dry hops. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale uses three of the most classic American hop varieties; Cascade, Centennial and Chinook. This results in an IPA that redefined the style and helped spark the craft beer revolution in the US.

Sierra Nevada CelebrationSierra Nevada Celebration Ale pours a clear amber red with a mild white head, and leaves a solid lacing on the glass as you drink. The smell is all classic American hops, citrus, pine and earthiness. The taste is very hop forward, lemon, grapefruit and some resin. There is a enjoyable mouth-puckering bitterness with each sip. There are some malts in the backbone that provide a touch of sweetness and add some hints of caramel and toffee. Overall the beer is hop-forward but nicely balanced. Even with the bitterness the beer is easy to drink, and leaves a pleasant tart aftertaste. It is no wonder that this beer helped make the IPA one of the most popular styles of American craft beer. Even after all of the changes in the market and variety of beers available, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale still holds up. Pick some up for the holidays before the supply is gone! Hoppy Boston score: 4.50/5.