Far From India: India Pale Ales in the 21st Century. Sierra Nevada Experimental Hop IPA (2018), Chico, California
Date: March 20, 2019
The Story— Although we love focusing on small independent breweries, sometimes a tip of the hat has to go to big independent breweries. Craft beer wouldn’t be what it is today without the icebreaker ship that Sierra Nevada was in the 1980s. It began as a “micro” then, we’d call it a “nano” now, but the oh so common today “a couple of guys with a dream” was almost un-dream able back then. God bless them.
Sierra Nevada went through decades almost without a misstep. The “whatcha got new?” market has forced them to be more aggressive, more adventurous, and somewhat less consistent, but they’re still one of the few breweries that we’ll pick up a 12 pack in order to get four new beers and know without doubt we’ll be glad for the extra cans.
They also have the spirit and resources to be one of the leaders in showcasing experimental new hops. Years in the making, new hops bring all sorts of flavors of fruits and spices and dankness and hit the market now with such frequency that they’re frequently just given a number until they prove their market value.
According to their website, this beer features the native-grown FZMR2 hop varietal, known for its mango-forward flavors, as well as HBC598, 438, and NeoMexicanus. The result is a danky, juicy, citrusy IPA with big flavor and aroma and low bitterness.
We were slow to find and drink this series and tasted it 11 months after its brew date. That long should have produced a sharp drop in hop quality and — if there’s even the slightest contamination– some off flavors. Neither was evident, and that’s a reason we buy Sierra Nevada beers with no regrets other than the implied loss to something more local.
We should note we’re not huge fans of the New England big-hop-low-bitter trend. I’ve paid for those hops, dang it, and I want their full potential, and Ellie’s become quite the hop head over time. But done right, a low bitter beer with hop flavors can still intrigue and beg for continence over an evenings encounter.
The Beer— Very gentle IPA – Soft grapefruit, some prunes with herbal in the finish with a gentle lingering fruit late. Even pale malt with orange, cherry as it drinks and quite nice for almost a year out. — shows what quality control can do – 11 months from brewing and still very moreish
Value — Very good to excellent. about fifteen bucks for a twelve pack. Sorry, but the ecomomies of scale of a brewery like Sierra Nevada means they can still hone to their commitment of “craft” at far less cost than they guys you love down the street.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.