Beer Review 0460: Sierra Nevada IPA (Beer Camp #93)
Each year, Sierra Nevada put on what they call “Beer Camp,” which is where craft beer enthusiasts, with brewing experience or not, can go to the Chico, California brewery and learn everything there is to know about Sierra. They also brew beer that potentially could find its way into the yearly Beer Camp mixed twelve-pack that comes out in the Summer.
In order to attend Beer Camp, you have to submit a video of yourself at the Beer Camp website (sierrabeercamp.com). Ten finalists are selected by popular public vote, while ten more are picked by employees of Sierra Nevada.
As mentioned, in addition to touring Sierra Nevada, winners get to brew beer. A debate is had amongst winners about what kind of beer they want to make, and nothing is off limits, whether it be beer styles or ingredients. The best of the brews go into the Beer Camp variety pack, which for 2013, was released in July and contains these three beers: IPA, Belgian-Style Black IPA, and Imperial Red Ale. (This is a departure from previous years where four beers were highlighted instead of three — this year, four bottles of the three selected beers comprise the mixed twelve-pack, versus three bottles of four different beers.)
When these Beer Camp beers are selected for the mixed pack, they are given generic names — hence the ‘IPA’ moniker of one of this year’s selections. Unfortunately, the Sierra Nevada website gives no history on Beer Camp creation #93 (unlike the other two in the pack), but the back of the bottle says the beer contains whole-cone Cascade hops as well as Citra. At 6.9% ABV (alcohol by volume), Sierra says the beer is light in color, which disguises the depth of the malt backing.
Pouring produced a bright white, soapy, whipped and frothed head that had lasting power. The beer was perfectly golden in color, very similar to apple juice, and it had a bright clear body that was free of particles and sediment. Lacing was excellent, leaving thick and substantial pods of foam.
On the nose, we’ve got standard IPA aromas with hints of fleshy tropical fruit. There’s plenty of grapefruit and pine, and those classic scents mingle with pineapple and papaya, making for an inviting aroma. Add in the malt backing, which is fairly significant — sweet caramel and a bit of grain, and a dry soapy bitterness, and you’ve got a fairly intriguing beer that cries out to be sipped.
On the taste, the picture presented is pretty much the complete opposite of the aroma at first; it’s very floral and grassy but when swirled and allowed to open up, the palate gets hit by a rich, tangy grapefruit and some sweet tropical fruit notes. The middle brings on a very dry pine bitterness, which turns soapy toward the end of the taste, and the finish has dark notes of pine and some grapefruit rind. The bitterness is pretty heavy, nearly medicinal, but doesn’t quite hit levels that are super dry or crushed aspirin-like. Beer Camp #93 is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy but dry mouthfeel.
Unfortunately, those nice tropical fruits that you get on the nose that are the most interesting aspect of this beer are sadly not as fully represented in the taste. But that doesn’t make this a bad beer, by any means; this is a very dry beer that almost gets too bitter, but it navigates that line well and is actually quite drinkable and return-worthy. Think Torpedo (my rating: 91 points) but with much more cotton-mouth.
Sierra Nevada IPA (Beer Camp #93), 90 points. Price: $18.99 US for the Beer Camp twelve pack, where you get four bottles each of three different beers.