Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, CA

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)
Sierra Nevada is truly a national gem. One of the craft industry “veteran”
breweries, they were founded in 1979. They’ve not only become one of the
nation’s sixth largest brewery – albeit a fraction of the size of AB InBev –
and they basically define the American Pale Ale style. They’ve also managed to
grow right: they treat customers and employees with respect and they continue
to innovate with their products…not by “marketing” new brands, but by
constantly pushing the envelope on quality and flavor. As they prepare to open their second brewery in Ashton, NC, they’ve kept to their principles. What’s IN the package
continues to remain more important than the package itself.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Sierra Nevada story, there’s a nice profile of
founder Ken Grossman, who is notoriously publicity-shy, in this summer’s Beer
Connoisseur magazine.

This week, I grabbed one of their limited releases, the 2012 Southern
Hemisphere Harvest Ale. They snagged whole flower hops from New Zealand, dry
them and fly them direct to California where they hit the brew kettle within a
week of harvest. This happens in the spring, of course, because that coincides
with fall harvest in the Southern Hemisphere. Get it?

I cracked my 24 ounce bomber and was greeted by the fresh hop smell
of the finishing hops, New Zealand Motueka & New Zealand Southern Cross. It
smelled as if it was freshly drawn from a brewery keg.

It pours a clean copper color, with pungent floral dryhop aromas. The head is
beautiful – soft and fluffy – and clings to the glass throughout. The nose is
full, malty & sweet and balanced immediately by a sharp, spicy,
full-spectrum hop bite. There are notes of pine, citrus and a bitter nuttiness.
The balance is outstanding, with a lingering malty sweetness and herbal

As regular readers know, I’m not exactly a hophead, but this is absolutely
outstanding and an example of how high IBU beers should be. It also reinforces
my image of Sierra Nevada as one of the world’s finest regardless of size.