Sierra Nevada 2015 Estate IPA

Sierra Nevada’s 2015 Estate IPA

Well now that’s hi-falootin’ for beer, even craft beer. Here what we gots is a “homegrown” IPA, certified organic, and using hops and barley that the SN people grew out on the back forty. It’s even dated like a vintage, 2015 in this case, and they call it an “Estate Ale”, and it’s $9 for a 24-oz bottle. Folks, we are dangerously close to using words like “terroir” and “provenance” here.

But it comes from Sierra Nevada, and this brewery has consistently scored well in my tests, they own 2 of my Top Five IPA slots, and three of their ales scored at 9 or better here. So it’s an expensive IPA, but the pedigree is good, let’s take it for a spin.

Cloudy, always a good sign when filters are not allowed to rip half the flavors out of an IPA. Dark for an IPA, and that’s usually a good sign too, this is a true copper color so the malts were probably tortured to perfection. The smell is hopped delicately, and nearly a liquor smell.

A sip? Not bad, not bad, but this 6.7% alk IPA has got a little oddity to it. Wet hops and organic barley make sure that this is certainly a rheinheitsgebot-compliant beer, but there’s a bit of musty to it. The taste hints at those things i don’t like about Belgian beer: a dusty old taste, like this was worn a few times and hasn’t been washed.

The barley really shines through here, in other SN ales the hoppity flavors are wildly in control. Here, the hopping is modest and balanced, so the malts all taste toasty and carmelized. But it’s got that Belgian taste to it, like a mushroom grown in a shoe. Sweetness is high, likely due to well-roasted grains without hi-hops to hide behind.

So, no. I’m not a fan of the organic estate-grown pure and hipstery IPA in my hand today. It’s just got that Belgian taste, which is trendy now, but i simply never acquired that taste. This hit the local store a while or two ago, and i saved up for a bottle before they sold out. Glad i tried it, and because of the SN brand i know that if i never tried it, i would kick myself and forever wonder if i had missed the greatest IPA evah in tha wurld.

So i had to try. I tried and it’s not for me. C’est la vie. Rating: 4.3, sorry Sierra Nevada. It’s got that “white ale” taste to it, and if you ask me, which nobody ever does, it could use more hops.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo Extra IPA

Full speed ahead! The name of SN’s Torpedo Extra IPA comes not from submarine warfare, though that is cool stuff, but from a contraption they invented to suck the life out of unsuspecting hop cones. Apparently it looks something like a torpedo, so there you have it.

Already legendary is their hoppy Pale Ale, a standard in the lore of craft beer from before we called it “craft” and a case can be made that SN Pale Ale and Samuel Adams Boston Lager are the twin pillars that today’s explosion of baby brewers is built upon. So they figgered out a way to make it even hoppier, and the Torpedo is the result.

Now, just imagine, if they could put the torpedo on wheels and bring it to where the hops grow? And they did imagine that, and the result is the winner of the Hoppier Than Thou Crown: SN’s Hop Hunter IPA. So this beer has some serious cousins, and a bit of pedigree to live up to.

It does the clan proud. The color is spot-on pale, the noseful is the trademark SN orange-blossom hops, and this beer is very eager. I mean it’s leaping out of the can before you get a chance to pour. Of a 12er of Torpedoes, 5 of them fizzed out the canhole and most of the others threatened to. This is fizzy stuff. I’ve had this before in the single 16-oz cans, and don’t remember them gushing like that.

The taste is just where you’d expect it to be, where i want it to be. Hoppier than the iconic Pale Ale, not as alumic as the stunning Hop Hunter, and as always there’s a very nice beer body underneath, tough enough to bear up the weight of hops, and malty enough to make this a beer worth drinking a dozen of. If you can. Dare you.

Truly, this is an outstanding beer. Hops are that normal citrus which SN has mastered, but here there’s a range of softer fruits and flowers which are not expressed in the Pale Ale and are battered into submission in the Hop Hunter. There’s almost a vanilla tone in the middle, there’s licorice minus the anise (use your imagination here), there’s skunktail and milkweed and a bitter that’s not just the zest or pulp of a lemon, but the bitter of a lemon seed, as anyone who’s been dull enough to bite one will attest.

At 7.2% alk this is not a casual hey-the-game’s-on beer but it is an exploration of the potential of hops as a spice. There is the matter of fizz, however. This bursts out of an unshaken can, and even with an unshaken belly it makes burps and even farts a-plenty. The labeling mentions that SN has a satellite facility in North Carolina, and since i’m on the Eastern portion of These United Things, i’ll assume that’s where this can was filled. I’ve had this one before in a 16-oz can and it wasn’t so uncontrollably carbonated, so i suspect that something’s off kilter at the NC plant.

To sum: the flavor and body are great but the behavior out of the Eastern Sierra Nevada brewery seems uneven. With the range of hop flavors here, the fizz is only a quibble, so we’re seeing the core recipe survive the cross-country trip intact. Bravo, that’s not always the case with expansion breweries. I’m going with a 9.3 rating here, and yes that shakes up the Top Five IPA’s. Dropped to the practice squad is Sam Adams’ 48ยบ Latitude IPA, and now Sierra Nevada claims 2 of the Five Berths.

I think it’s time to pronounce Sierra Nevada as an IPA Dynasty. Three of their IPA’s cracked 9+ on my ratings, and there’s another one in the fridge awating my greedy gullet: a very expensive “estate IPA” which is “certified organic” whatever that means in beerworld.