Beer Review 0461: Sierra Nevada Belgian-Style Black IPA (Beer Camp #94)
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.)
Beer Camp #94, originally brewed in December 2012 and named “Sleight of Hand,” is a Belgian-style Black IPA. Brewed with fruity Sorachi Ace and Nelson Sauvin hops, the beer has a Belgian yeast that is to contribute a second layer of fruit flavors. Beer Camp #94 comes in at 7.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 52 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
This IPA pours with a large collar of foam, off-white in color and creamy in texture, and it sticks around for a good while. As is typical with most Black IPAs, this beer is indeed black when out of direct light, but when put up next to a bulb, is actually a deep ruby red. Even with Belgian yeast, the body is clear, free of particles and sediment. Lacing is nice, leaving soapy patches, and the head has excellent retention.
On the nose, the oddities of this beer begin to shine through with an immediate hit of what I can only describe as dusty flint and campfire smoke as sniffed from a hundred feet away. That tends to dominate the nose but if you dig deep (easier when it warms a bit) you’ll pull out some of those classic malty aromas like coffee and chocolate, although the coffee is of the instant variety and not fresh roasted. The hops are here subtly with some lemon and a faint tropical juice. Not at all what I was expecting.
The taste starts out much the same, with instant coffee, and flinty-faded smokiness. But as the beer opens up, some of the flavors you’d expect to be front and center show up in ways that are delicate and actually play well with everything going on; you’ve got some nice lemon-forward tropical fruits, a bit of dry dark chocolate, and clove. The finish transitions into more of a fresh roasted coffee that puffs some lingering smoke and light tropical fruit notes. I found Beer Camp #94 to be full-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.
I think after you’ve drank about half the glass, you start to see where the members of Beer Camp #94 were going — a subtle Black IPA with some earthy, spicy attributes that tends to be atypical of the style. This beer is a grower, as in you need to let it warm a bit and see how you feel about it instead of passing judgment immediately. That said, I probably won’t return here, but I did end up digging this more than I initially thought I would.
Sierra Nevada Belgian-Style Black IPA (Beer Camp #94), 82 points. Price: $18.99 US for the Beer Camp twelve pack, where you get four bottles each of three different beers.