Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Style: Pale Ale
Location: Chico, CA
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

The Sierra Nevada Pale ale is the flagship beer from Sierra Nevada Brewing. In recent years, I have found this beer becoming very widely available. Behind Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Sam's seasonal beers, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is probably one of the top 2 or 3 craft beers a bar or restaurant is most likely to carry. It is quite a success story for a microbrew.

The Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is golden amber in color with a slight haziness. A firm pour leaves a two-finger thick off-white head that fades slowly leaving behind a clingy lace. The nose has a bright citrus aroma along with some bready malt. There is a touch of piney hops as well.

The Sierra Nevada Pale Ale has a bready malt flavor up front with some sweetness. There is a big malt flavor in the middle of the tongue. Bitter hops starts to build as the malt rounds out. There is a wide profile of hops flavors present, but they are not as powerful as the nose would have you believe. A grapefruit-like citrus is most noticible, but there are floral hops and pine present as well. There is nice fizzy carbonation and a touch of astringency. The Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is medium bodied, which is full enough to hold up to its big flavors without being too heavy. The finish is balanced between bitter and fruity hops, with some residual sweet malt notes still hanging on.

This is a good time to mention glassware for tasting beer. While I'm not a stickler for matching various types of beer to different types of glasses, I do think if you want to seriously taste a beer then you will have a better experience if you are using a glass suited to tasting beer. The key is that the glass should be big enough to hold as much beer as you're planning to pour with plentry of room left over for a good sized head and also with extra room to spare for your nose. I recently picked up a couple of slightly-oversized pilsner glasses at Pier 1 Imports for $4 apiece and they have been well worth the investment. Oversized pint glasses (the type with the bulbous top) and goblets work equally as well.

The reason I mention glassware here is because the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of the best smelling beers out there. It smells like walking through a Cascade hops yard. If given the opportunity, do youself a favor and pour this one in a glass instead of drinking it straight from the bottle. Also, if this has been stored in a cold fridge, let it come up a few degrees before you crack into it. The aroma will be worth the extra effort, I promise. My only qualm with the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is that for all the big hoppiness on the nose, once the beer hits the palate the hoppiness takes a big step down. I'd love to taste a version of this beer where the hops get ratcheted up a notch or two.

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