Beer Review 0540: Sierra Nevada DevESTATEtion Black IPA

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Each year, Sierra Nevada (Chico, California) brew up Estate Ale, produced from ingredients that are locally grown at the brewery. The beer is typically a wet hop ale, and comes in a waxed 750 ml. bottle — I’ve reviewed Estate Ale in the past, but wasn’t very impressed; I gave it 75 points.

2013 sees Sierra having to switch the program up a little on what is normally a completely local beer due to weather. High winds and drought conditions arrived in the spring in Chico, destroying the barley used in the Estate beer. Instead of just not producing the beer, Sierra Nevada decided to salvage what they could and continue tradition, if a bit altered. This year’s version is appropriately called DevESTATEtion, and it uses other organic malts instead of those grown in Chico, but keeps the Sierra Nevada wet hops. The style is a Black IPA, and it comes in at 6.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 67 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Hops used are Chinook, Cascade, and Citra, and they are un-dried, picked and shipped from the growing fields within 24 hours, hence the term “wet hop.”

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The pour roused up a large, frothy head that had some long staying power. As it finally diminished, it looked like whipped frosting atop a very dark red beer. The body was clear, free of particles and sediment, and like most Sierra Nevada beers, lacing coated the glass in a thick fog, looking like clouds attached to my tulip.

On the nose, we’ve got the real story of the beer: balance. There’s nice notes of chocolate and coffee, and they mingle very well with tempered scents of grapefruit and pine. Overall, the hops are light and fruity; while they have an astringent grapefruit/pine edge to them, notes of lighter fruits like orange and even tropical fruits overtake and combine with the malts, making for a fruity coffee and chocolate aroma, with a touch of roast and grain. It’s very nice, subtle, and inviting.

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A sharp bite of grapefruit and pine greets the palate, but it quickly smooths with the addition of sweetened coffee and milk chocolate. You’ll immediately notice how creamy the mouthfeel is, which also serves to soften the hops. The finish changes things up a bit, transitioning to citrus hop notes, especially orange peel, and hitting up the milk chocolate again. You know those chocolate oranges you get at Christmas that you smash onto a table to break apart? THAT’s the flavor at work here. As the long finish unwinds, the coffee returns, as does a bit of pine bitterness. I’d call it a drying bittersweet. DevESTATEtion is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel.

While I like Black IPAs, it’s never been a style that I gravitate toward when just drinking beer. But this beer would change that mindset for me — it’s a Black IPA that doesn’t end up tiring out my palate with so much extreme flavor. This is a very nice brew, and lemonade was indeed made from lemons here. Color me surprised, because I didn’t have high expectations going in. And without a doubt, this brew kills the regular Estate Ale. A blessing in disguise! Perhaps the gods are sending a message…

Sierra Nevada DevESTATEtion Black IPA, 91 points. Price: $7.99 US for one 750 ml. bottle.

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