I like Sierra Nevada- but I do not get particularly excited about their beers. Given that they are pretty readily available throughout most of the United States their beers are not spectacularly hard to track down. That has never stopped me from enjoying their Pale Ale and Ruthless Rye IPA on a semi-regular basis. Sierra Nevada no doubt makes good beer- I’ve yet to be blown away by anything, but they make damn good beer. The last time I got excited about something Sierra Nevada put out was a 12 pack of four different IPAs they had worked on- the pack left a lot to be desired. Again, none of the beers were “bad,” but they were plain and uninspired- except for the Snow Wit, I did not care for that one much at all.
By now though I’m sure everyone familiar with craft beer has heard of their latest mixed 12 pack which has been making the rounds both as a packaged product and as a touring festival. The Sierra Nevada Beer Camp of 2014 this time has taken 12 different breweries to collaborate on 12 different beers- each brewery contributing a style and working with the folks at Sierra Nevada to create the mixed pack. These have been making the rounds long enough that I’m sure there’s been plenty of time for people to dig into the beers so that’s what I’m gonna talk about now- six at a time.
Rather than rambling on and on about each beer I’m just going to go through all the notes and give my overall thoughts on the beer in general. The mixed 12 pack came with a few mixed reactions on my end. I was stoked about the breweries Sierra Nevada collaborated with, but some of the styles do not lend to my preferred tastes, so it was also a good opportunity for me to expand my horizons a bit- though we’re about to see just how successful it was in changing my mind on certain styles.
Yonder Bock (Tropical Maibock)
Collaboration Brewery: Cigar City Brewing Company
Review: I love me some Cigar City beers and to be honest, I was more nervous than excited for Yonder Bock. I do not care for maibocks that much, but then again it’s probably because the ones I’ve had just aren’t exemplary of the style. Yonder Bock pours a brownish amber color, a fluffy white head and plenty of tropical fruits on the nose. It does not indicate this on the notes printed on the can, but I got a pretty significant pineapple character from the nose. For the most part all of the tropical fruits were lost on the first taste- as I continued to drink I was able to extract them once again, but they are very subdued. The caramel notes really take the lead here which is kind of a let down considering how great it smelled. So like I said before, maibocks aren’t really my thing, but as they go I could probably throw a few of these back- granted it would be after I make sure there isn’t anything else around that I want more. Rating: C+
Chico King (American Pale Ale)
Collaboration Brewery: Three Floyds Brewing Company
Review: This is probably the beer I was most excited about when I first read what was going to be in the 12 pack. I had Zombie Dust for the first time last year, fell in love and since then my expectations for pale ales have never been the same. The name of this beer is clearly a mishmash of Sierra Nevada’s brewery location and Three Floyds’ flagship pale ale, Alpha King. So having had Alpha King for the first time just a few weeks before trying Chico King I’m not sure I’m going to be able to fully explain my disappointment. Alpha King is a big hoppy pale ale with loads of grapefruit notes and lots of bitterness- Chico King compared to it…is water. Chico King pours like your typical pale ale with a nice amber hue and thin white head. The nose is really muted and I get almost nothing from it except for a slight bit of fruit. The taste is about what I expected from the nose, but not what I was hoping for. Super low bitterness, almost no hops and a muted biscuit malt which still isn’t very prevalent. It drinks very clean and isn’t what I would define as a bad beer, but it sure was disappointing. Sadly this is one beer where my expectations got the best of me. Rating: C
CANfusion (Rye Bock)
Collaboration Brewery: Oskar Blues Brewery
Review: By the time I cracked open this can I was starting to get a really bad feeling about the future of the rest of beers I had yet to try. When a pale ale by Three Floyds fails to deliver the pessimist in me starts projecting negative feelings on things I haven’t even opened yet. Then I tried CANfusion. From Chico King to this I would have been tempted to rate this an A+, but I kind of had to temper my emotions. I was just relieved that I finally opened something that I liked. CANfusion again pours amber in color with a thin white head which stuck around nicely. Immediately on the nose I got spices and hints of citrus- nothing mind blowing, but considering the lackluster nose on the previous beer I was excited. My first impression on the taste are that it is super sweet and reminded me of drinking juice. I got a lot more citrus out of this than I did from the Yonder Bock, which is surprising considering the Yonder Bock is labeled as a tropical maibock. The taste is far beyond what I was really expecting from the nose except for the citrus notes which lend to the beer’s sweetness on the front end while the rye spice on the back ends rounds this out nicely. Very easy drinking, but it’s still far from being the quality I was really hoping for from these collaborations. Rating: B
Tater Ridge (Scotch Ale)
Collaboration Brewery: Asheville Brewers Alliance
Review: Here’s how weird my pallet is, or how picky I am about the things I put in my mouth [insert giggle here]- I don’t like potatoes, but I like french fries. Pumpkins gross me out, but I love me some pumpkin beer. Basically for all the things that I don’t like or that gross me out, if you put it in beer, I’ll probably drink it- rather or not I like it, that’s a whole different story. Tater Ridge is a collaboration scotch ale brewed with sweet potatoes, but if you ask me you’d never know it if the label didn’t say it. The beer pours a deep dark reddish brown with very light head that dissipates quickly. The nose is all about the malts, but when I breathe in deeply I get a lot more dark fruits. You’ll notice though that I didn’t say I smell sweet potatoes, which will continue in the taste as it mimics the nose pretty closely. As a scotch ale its pretty tame and boring, but like the others its very drinkable and smooth. Rating: C+
Myron’s Walk (Belgian Pale Ale)
Collaboration Brewery: Allagash Brewing Company
Review: As a beer drinker with an ever growing pallet I have to say that I still just can’t latch on to Belgian beers or Belgian inspired beers. This lends to my indifference to things like saisons, but one style I don’t have a lot of experience with are Belgian pale ales. Right now pales ales are probably my favorite style (at least where my taste buds have been leading me as of late) so I was hesitant but excited to give this a try. This beer pours a beautiful golden color with a pillowy head, most of which sticks around nicely. Very light Belgian malts on the nose as well as some grassy aromas and just a little bit of funk. The taste really caught me by surprise- very light, clean and crisp with only slight bitterness from the hops. This is a very smooth and drinkable pale ale that seems more like an American pale right when it hits the tongue but finishes with more of the Belgian qualities. Rating: B+
Alt Route (Altbier)
Collaboration Brewery: Victory Brewing Company
Review: Unlike the Chico King I had almost zero expectations for Alt Route. The hope being that since I haven’t had many altbiers this would kind of take me by surprise, all the while fully expecting that it would be kind of meh. In this case my expectations were met pretty unspectacularly. Alt Route pours dark brown with a very thin white head and smells of nothing but malt. The nose gives this very little character right out of the gate leaving a lot to be desired from the taste. With so much riding on the flavor of this beer based on the uninspired nose it really falls flat. I mentioned how the twelve pack of IPAs from Sierra Nevada didn’t really have a bad beer except for the Snow Wit- Alt Route is the Snow wit of this pack. Is it technically bad- not really- but it could be so much better. As it is it’s just boring and bland with very little actual flavor and more tastes like how I’m assuming the wort smelled as it was brewing. If there’s a saving grace here, I’d still drink it over any adjuncts out there given the choice. Rating: C
So there’s the first six beers of the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Collaboration 12 pack I had the opportunity to try. Overall the first six beers really did not inspire a lot of confidence going into the last six, but luckily I saved some of the ones that I had heard were very good for last. Though I fully expected Chico King to be far better than it turned out to be, so I had to take a step back and temper my expectations for some of the remaining six beers- however one of them was not all it probably should have been. Stay tuned for part two of my review of this mixed 12 pack!