Beer Review 0034: Sierra Nevada Tumbler

Tumbler is the autumn seasonal offered by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, based in Chico, California. This beer is a brown ale, a style typically popular when the seasons start to change into the colder months.

On the packaging, Sierra Nevada asks you to grab a glass of Tumbler, find a chair and watch as the leaves “tumble” down, hence the name.

This beer is brewed with four different types of malts and is advertised as offering a “smooth malt character.” The aim is to have this beer have a coffee flavor, but not just any coffee flavor; they want it to taste like freshly roasted coffee, not something that has been sitting in a pot for days. As such, they do a special malting process on this beer to capture that flavor. Sierra Nevada also uses chocolate malt in this beverage. The ABV (alcohol by volume) comes in at 5.5%.

The bottle advertises this as the 2011 version of Tumbler. This beer can’t be aged, so its slightly odd that they put that on the bottle. This is the second year Sierra Nevada has brewed Tumbler; it replaced the usual fall Anniversary IPA in 2010.

My pour delivered a fantastic looking beer with an average to large head that turned rocky and billowy but lasted, eventually forming a thin cover as I drank. The color was a very deep and dark tawny brown that was hazy and cloudy, but not quite totally opaque. The lacing was fair in amount; several spots clung to the glass but not large sheets.

From the awesome appearance to the disappointing aromatics: There’s just much to report in this department. Yes, the roasted coffee and chocolate is there, but that’s about it. No hops or yeast to report, but there is an off/irritating aroma: metal. Something sharply metallic going on in this one. I even waited for the beer to warm thinking maybe it would help the aromatics out. No dice.

The aromas transfer to the flavors (minus the metal.) The palate is greeted with mostly roasted coffee and some dark chocolate hints, leaving a slightly bitter but mainly sweet finish. The absent hops show up!

Tumbler would be a good beer for you if you’re into coffee and chocolate flavors. But if you’re a brown ale connoisseur, prepare to be disappointed. There’s much better brown ale out there than this and that is disappointing to say considering Sierra Nevada typically churns out some great beer. And that’s not saying Tumbler sucks, but the complexity is not here and despite this being an easy drinker, it’s pretty boring. Perhaps this is what they wanted? They did say “smooth malt character,” and that it is…and they did nail the whole freshly roasted coffee thing versus two-day old coffee. But this beer is just too safe.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler, 73 points. Price: $8.99 US for six pack.

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