Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Tumbler

As promised, my review of Sierra Nevada's seasonal brown ale:


Perhaps that's not totally fair. I'll say that this beer did not live up to my expectations. Brown ale is probably my favorite style and one of the least represented beer types, so I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, I think some might drink this beer and continue not to be impressed or interested in brown ales. Personally, I love the idea of ales that were brewed before the advent of pale malts and before lager took over. The blanket term "brown ale" can refer to dozens of beers and styles beyond "American brown ale" or "English brown ale" etc. There is such a wide variety of flavors and colors within the range between pale and black that's so ignored, well, why wouldn't you love it? I love it so much, in fact, that I recently brewed one up for an event at which it'll be given away.

Tasting notes:

Aroma is biscuity and malty. Not much hop aroma. The flavor is a bit lacking and one dimensional. No sweetness and very little body. I might have been having an off night, but it even seemed a little fizzy to me. Sierra Nevada's pale ale is sweeter and fuller than their brown ale which is sort of the opposite of what I might have expected. The flavor and the finish is mostly plain, with some hoppiness which is pleasant but stands alone in an otherwise mostly-uninteresting beer.
Grade: I don't give grades to beers, because I'm not a bureaucrat or a bro. It's not a bad beer but not a great beer. I'd order one if there were nothing else around, but I probably won't seek it out. My overall rating is: Crocodile.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Session #44

I'll be joining the ranks of "The Session" this week (or at least attempting to). The Session is a collaboration of beer bloggers who team up to discuss a certain topic on the first Friday of every month.

This week the theme from our host, The Beer Wench, is "Frankenstein beers". It should be an interesting one. I don't know that there is anything that's categorized as a Frankenstein beer that I would intentionally drink. In my mind, these beers usually seem to be designed and shaped by marketing departments more than history or good taste. Perhaps it's the German in me, but to make an analogy, I would much rather have a well-built car than "the biggest car in the world" or a car that's half car and half scooter. I like car-cars, and beer that tastes like good beer. Something new and interesting can be nice, but it's rare that a reinvention of the wheel is an improvement on the original. Newness is not greatness, it's just sellable.

Now, before I start to sound like a torch-holding member of an angry mob, it's also important to note that almost every beer style probably started as a Frankenstein beer. Lager brewing was rejected in parts of Germany for years as an unwelcome "Frankenstein" beer compared to the top fermented Kolsches and ales of the time. Even beers we think of as being pretty regular, like American pale ale, was a Frankenstein version of English pale ales and ESB with citrusy American hops and loads of late hopping. By today's standards, they may seem dull or uninteresting, but 30 years ago something like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would not have tasted similar to most beers called "pale ale". Same goes for porter, lager, steam beer, IPA etc.

Every new idea and beer style was frankenbier at some point. So while I might not enjoy novelty brews just for the sake of novelty, all the beer we drink was a Frankenstein beer at some point, even ones which are steeped in tradition. So let's keep making and drinking Frankenstein beers, but let's do so with an eye on the future. I'd hate to see craft beer replaced by novelty beer. And that, fellow beer drinkers, is what we get to decide. We do so by drinking quality beer with an open mind, and by rejecting fads that reduce the quality of craft beer that we love.