Talk to any fan of craft beer across the country and chances are they’ve heard of this beer. The iconic short stubby brown bottle with the green label can be spotted across a football field by its legion of hop crazy fans. Released in 1980 this is the beer that brought hops to the American beer palate.
Started by two friends in 1970 at a time when home brewing was nowhere near as popular as it is today, the two opened a home brew store to hone their craft; and 9 years later with the help of some loans from close friends Sierra Nevada was born. They named the brand after their favorite hiking grounds in Northern California.
Fast forward thirty years and Sierra Nevada is one of the most highly regarded beers around, and is the benchmark for many aspiring homebrewers to measure their recipes against. The brewery produces over 750,000 barrels of beer a year; and is the second best selling craft beer in the United States, falling closely behind Samuel Adams Boston Lager.
Sierra Nevada is considered an American Pale Ale or APA. It is warm fermented (doesn’t require refrigeration like lagers do), uses pale malt (a grain that has been dried at cooler temperature to retain its natural flavors and aromas), and hops. Now, under this concoction this beer could be any number of styles. Many countries have since adopted their own styles of Pale Ale. For example, in the U.K., the hops aren’t the leading character, but play more of a support role mainly used for aroma while the malted grain is the star of the show.
In the U.S. however, its all about the hops. Especially on the West Coast, the birthplace of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which uses whole cone hops to retain more of their natural resins for an intense hop flavor. Live active yest cultures remain in the bottle, a tactic known as “bottle conditioning” so the fermentation still occurs while the beer sits in your fridge or cooler.
This is a very approachable beer starting out with a near perfect balance of sweet and bitter while ending on a clean hop finish. If you’re just getting into craft beers, start with this one. Its our all time favorite.
Appearance: This beer pours an nice deep amber color with a nice thick and foamy “head” which disappears fairly quickly.
Smell: There are many different hop varieties out there with some being used for bittering purposes while some are used to impart a nice aroma. Sierra Nevada uses 3 different hop varieties, one of which is called Cascade, and because of this beer it is now the most widely used hop variety by craft brewers. This hop imparts a nice floral and sweet citrus like component to the beer while others may describe it as smelling somewhat earthy and slightly sweet.
Mouth Feel: Starts out not too fizzy nor too flat. Feels very light in the mouth. Super drinkable.
Taste: Slightly sweet, citrus, floral, and earthy. The malts plays well with the bitter hop varieties lending a nice contrasting flavor profile. Finishes with a nice hop flavor that lingers in the mouth.
Drink This Beer With:
- Anything spicy or any food with a very bold flavor profile.
- Mexican food
- Grilled meats (think elk steak or back strap!)
- Smoked meats(pulled pork, brisket, and ribs) or cheeses(gouda,habanero jack/cheddar)
- Spicy Wings
- Blackened Fish(salmon,trout)
Go for a contrast pairing by trying this beer with a light salad or some simple oven roasted chicken. Something that’s not too over the top as far as flavor is concerned. You may find the sharp bitterness of the hops brings out more subtle flavors in these kinds of dishes.
While hop forward beers may not be for most and in fact I believe many peoples first experiences with craft beer were an over hopped Pale ale shoved in front of them by an eager friend/beer connoiseur (who meant well!) we sincerely hope you have enjoyed our first featured beer review. It will be my sole mission to introduce to our readers to new styles of beer that will hopefully become a staple in your fridge at home or cooler at your next elk or deer camp.