Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Nevada’

Great American Beer Festival 2011 Winners

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

The country’s premiere craft beer competition, the Great American Beer Festival, was held this weekend in Denver, Colorado, as is traditional. The massive three-day affair saw over four hundred fifty breweries sampling beer to almost fifty thousand guests. The judges on the competition side rated almost four thousand beers from 526 breweries.

The festival has grown significantly each year since 1983, when the only awards given were people’s choice, and Sierra Nevada swept two of the three (their pale ale and porter beat out Anchor‘s porter).

This year’s winners list(PDF) exhibits an intriguing trend: a great shake-up in the biggest categories by several freshman and sophomore breweries.

La Cumbre Brewing CompanyThe largest category by far every year is American IPA. This year top honors were taken by Elevated IPA from newcomer La Cumbre Brewing Company in Albuquerque, New Mexico. La Cumbre was started last year by Jeff Erway and wife Laura, and stormed onto the scene with golds for American IPA, their international pilsener BEER, as well as a silver for their foreign-style Malpais Stout. None of these are easy styles to brew, so due credit must be given to Jeff. Next time I’m in Phoenix perhaps I’ll make a little trip over to Albuquerque.

The silver went to Oskar Blues Brewery for Deviant Dale’s. Oskar Blues, in Longmont, Colorado, basically single-handedly started the microcanning revolution, and I’ve been a fan of their beer for a while. They won a bronze back in 1999, but finally they are getting some significant recognition. Besides the silver for Deviant Dale’s, they picked one up for Mama’s Little Yella [Bohemian] Pils, as well as a bronze for the tasty Old Chub Scotch Ale.

Head Hunter IPA from Fat Head’s Saloon, in North Olmsted, Ohio, took third, down from second last year. They’ve only been around a couple years, but besides the two medals for Head Hunter they took silver in smoked beer in 2009, and this year won gold for their Baltic porter Battle Axe.

The imperial IPA category also saw a few freshman. Kern River Brewing Company in Kernville, California won with their Citra Double IPA. I’m a big fan of citra hops (I’ve made several beers that feature them) so I see why it’s a hit. This is their first medal.

Firestone Walker took the silver for Double Jack. This Paso Robles-based brewery is no stranger to awards at the Great American Beer Festival. They’ve won numerous Mid-size Brewery of the Year awards, including this year. They’ve taken home a lot of hardware, mostly in the IPA, pale ale (two this year), and strong pale ale categories, but this is their first win for an imperial IPA.

Bronze went to Epic Brewing Company out of Salt Lake City. Epic started only in 2008, but already they’ve picked up three medals, including a silver this year for fruit beer.

The real action was around the second largest category, barrel-aged strong beers. Four-year-old Nebraska Brewing Company in Papillion improved the showing of their Melange A Trois, a chardonnay-aged Belgian blonde, from an appreciable bronze to an impressive gold. They also picked up a bronze for their hefeweizen EOS. I see they have distribution in New York, so I’ll have to see if I can find them.

Bronze in the barrel-aged strong category went to Hoppin’ Frog Brewing Company in Akron, Ohio. for their Barrel Aged Naked Evil BBW. If you’ve heard of a Hoppin’ Frog beer, it probably was B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher, a two-gold-winning imperial stout. They also took a gold last year for their field beer.

Sun King Brewing CompanyBut the big name around the festival was Sun King Brewing Company in Indianapolis. This year they took a whopping eight medals total, four of them golds.

Sun King was founded in only mid-2009 by two Indianapolis brewers, Dave Colt and Clay Robinson. They knew each other from a number of brewpubs around the city, and then worked together for three years at The Ram. While working there they hatched a plan for the first Indianapolis production brewery since 1948.

They took top honors for Buffalo Slumber, a Belgian strong, Wee Muckle, their Scotch ale, Ring of Dingle, an Irish dry stout, and their coffee beer Java Mac. These were accompanied by silvers for BBJ (Bourbon Barrel Johan), their barrel-aged strong, Wee Pogue, a regular-strength barrel-aged beer (possibly a descendant of Wee Muckle or their regular Wee Mac), and an international-style Popcorn Pilsner. Sun King won a silver and bronze last year, but neither of those repeated.

For the moment, Sun King beer is only available on tap and in cans within Indiana. It sounds like this is somewhere definitely worth a pilgrimage: a brewer’s brewery.

Anniversary Ales, Volume One

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Tonight is the first installment of a very long term two-part series. I picked up two bottles of each of two ales celebrating the anniversaries of two breweries. I will try one of each tonight; the other bottles will go in my cellar for a year. The breweries are Sierra Nevada in Chico, California, and Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri. Sierra Nevada is celebrating their 30th trip around the sun, Boulevard their 21st.

For this occasion Boulevard has chosen a pale ale brewed with fresh hops. I anticipate this will be tasty today, but the hops probably won’t stand up to a year in the cellar. Sierra Nevada went with a barleywine, a style much better fitted to ageing, given its strength and body.

The 21st Anniversary Pale Ale is a deeply hazy rust-colored beer. The sandy brown head is quite creamy, but there just isn’t very much of it. The nose is quite elusive. A light pepper and tangerine hop aroma comes first, followed by a variety of spices including cinnamon and fennel. Some straw and a light breadiness from the malt before more hoppy citrus comes as oranges and lemons.

The flavor is likewise ephemeral. A rich spiciness from the hops just seems to be asserting itself as it fades into citrus and a malty sweetness. This, too, passes, leaving just a bit of a lingering bitterness and perhaps some of the spice. Coriander, black pepper, and anise make up this spice, and lemon and tangerine the fruit. There is enough residual sugar to give a bit of a body, but it is remains very light. As the beer warms, the flavors linger longer and the bitterness becomes a bit more pronounced.

Now the barleywine. This is actually part of a series Sierra Nevada made in collaboration with four pioneers of the craft brewing movement. Unfortunately this is the only one I saw around here. If you have one of the others I’d gladly trade for it. Jack McAuliff (of the legendary New Albion Brewery) came out of retirement to brew this barleywine with Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada.

Jack & Ken’s Ale pours a black most dark, with a generous creamy bronze head. The nose is rich and sweet. A strong roasted malt character and rich nuttiness meld with a caramel malt sweetness and just a bit of fruit from the hops. The alcohol comes through with a faint bite. This beer is exactly what an American barleywine is supposed to smell like.

The flavor is likewise big and roasty, but the hops will not move aside for the malt. The rich nutty and roasty taste is balanced by the strong yet supple alcohol character. The blend of coffee and alcohol flavor and full bodied creaminess make this beer taste quite a bit like a white Russian. The acridity of the roasted malt and sweet hazlenuts and toast remind you that it is, in fact, a beer. Subtle grapefruit flavor from the Cascade hops marks it as an American one. Though the palate is full and the malt rich, there is just a bit too much alcohol flavor, making this beer taste excessively boozy. With another year I would imagine that will subside.

+Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Jack and Ken’s Ale

4.0 (5-9-7-3-16)

+Boulevard 21st Anniversary Fresh Hop Pale Ale

3.8 (3-7-8-4-16)

Sierra Nevada 2009 Celebration Ale

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

2010-03-02-celebrationTonight I will be tasting the 2009 Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California. This is the newest in Sierra Nevada’s venerated line of hoppy winter beers.

The 2009 Celebration Ale pours a golden amber with a healthy bottle-condition haze. The tan head is absurdly thick and creamy, like meringue. The nose is richly hoppy. A tart grapefruit aroma prevails, accompanied by lemongrass and pineapple. A hint of malty sweetness comes through, but the grapefruit makes it difficult to detect.

The flavor of the Celebration Ale is supremely hoppy. Grapefruit dominates, to a fault. Almost nothing else is noticeable besides, even the bitterness from those hops. The tart citric flavor seems a bit flat, and is refreshing for only a little while before growing impertinent. The body is full and light but can’t make up for the lack of character on the taste.

+Sierra Nevada 2009 Celebration Ale

3.4 (5-8-6-4-14)

12 Beers of X-Mas: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Sierra Nevada Celebration AleAll good things must eventually come to an end. For instance, every night at 2 AM. Or The Riches. But in this case I mean my coverage of the 2008 holiday season. Tonight I am having the twelfth beer of X-Mas (does twelfth look strange to anyone else?): from Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico, California comes their annual Christmas beer Celebration Ale.

If you couldn’t tell from the picture I shook this one up a little bit on my way home. Oops. Anyway, it poured a lightly hazy deep amber, almost tawny. The head is thick and creamy, with the color and feel of champagne. The nose is strongly hoppy with floral notes of potpourri and a citric herbal aroma like lemon grass. Playful and light yet complicated, the aroma can actually stop you on your way to take a drink.

The flavor is at first quite bitter, but it takes only a moment for the tongue to acclimate. Soon earthy and herbal hop flavors emerge, decorated with lemon citrus notes. A strangely light but almost cloying sweetness follows. Some malt is apparent as well: caramel and a bit of grainy flavor. The palate is thick but not too much so, the bitterness robust but not too much so, the sweetness cloying but not to much so. This beer is remarkably mild for its 6.8% legs.

+Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

3.8 (4-8-7-4-15)