Sierra Nevada Brewing Company isn’t exactly a tiny, unknown microbrewery in need of promotion, since you can buy their beers in pretty much every state. But I recently got a chance to visit their headquarters in Chico, California and try some of their beers you can’t get in the store or are much more difficult to find.
Greyson and I went for an early dinner at their Taproom (be sure to order the beer cheese if you’re there!) and split two samplers. The samplers were pretty small, which is why we ended up going for two. We were glad we ended up being able to try so many different beers, and the samplers were very reasonably priced (I want to say somewhere in the $5 range? Sorry, I don’t remember!). One note – they don’t tell you which order to drink the beers, which is usually standard when ordering samplers for maximum taste enjoyment. We organized them by IBUs, going from least bitter to most bitter, which seemed to work just fine.
I tracked my tastings using the Untappd app (which isn’t my favorite, but it’s the best I’ve found so far. Any suggestions?) Spoiler alert – I really, really enjoyed most of them, but the overall winner for delicious drinkability (#1 qualification for growler purchase) was the Pilsner *- a result that surprised myself! We shared the growler with 2 friends when we got home, and it did not last very long! The Best Bitter was another surprise for a close second place and I would also recommend in the growler volume.
Here’s what I tried (all descriptions from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company website):
Knightro Dry Irish Stout: A fully nitrogenated beer designed as our take on the creamy dry stouts of Ireland with a decidedly Sierra Nevada twist. Knightro is black in color, but surprisingly light in body with rich caramel and chocolate malty flavors. It has a creamy mouthfeel and gentle carbonation from the use of a high percentage of nitrogen instead of the typical carbon dioxide. My score: 2.5/5
Narwhal Imperial Stout: Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come. My Score: 4.5/5
Northwest Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale: Northern Hemisphere was the first wet hop ale and it inspired the wet hop craze here in America. Wet—undried—hops go straight from the fields into our kettles within 24 hours. Because hops are incredibly perishable, using hops wet preserves all of the precious oils and resins for a unique drinking experience as evidenced by the intense herbal green flavors and citrus-like and floral aromas. Northern Hemisphere is part of our five-bottle Harvest series which features single hop, fresh hop, wet hop, and wild hop beers. My Score: 5/5
Hoptimum: Hoptimum is a hurricane of whole-cone hop flavor. Hopped, dry hopped and torpedoed for incredible hop flavor and complexity, Hoptimum is the pinnacle of whole-cone hoppiness and the biggest Imperial IPA we have ever produced. It features resinous hop varieties: Magnum, Chinook, Simcoe and a new experimental hop variety exclusive to Sierra Nevada. With intense hop flavors and aromas of grapefruit rind, pine, herbs and tropical fruit, Hoptimum is an aggressive drinking experience. Originally created as part of our Beer Camp program, Hoptimum throws down the gauntlet to all other IPAs. My Score: 5/5
Pilsner*: Our Pilsner won a gold award in the bi-annual “Olympics of Beer,” the 2010 World Beer Cup, in the German-Style Pilsner category. This traditional Bavarian lager is straw colored with a pinpoint balance between nutty malt flavors and aromatic noble hops. Our Pilsner is an excellent example of this light-bodied traditional style. My Score: 4/5
Nooner Session IPA: There’s no better way to start a lazy afternoon than with a group of friends and a few beers. Nooner IPA is a session beer that’s light in body yet big in hop flavor. By using intense, whole-cone American hops in our Hop Torpedo we pack this small beer with a hefty hop punch. Traditionally, IPAs have been bigger, stronger beers, but this session beer offers the same hop assertiveness with an easy drinkability. My Score: 4/5
Flipside Red IPA: Just when it feels like the dog days will never end, suddenly, the switch is flipped, the air gets cooler and it’s clear that autumn is on the way. Featuring a ruby-red hue and abundant tropical fruit and citrus hop flavors, Flipside Red IPA is the perfect beer for the final flash of summer. My Score: 2.5/5
Best Bitter: Brewed with imported English malts, this medium-bodied, copper-colored beer is a rendition of the popular English Bitter. Best Bitter is a true “session” beer that features a smooth toasty, biscuit-like malt character and finishes with a clean, spicy hop note. My Score: 5/5
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is a brewery with an environmental focus, delicious beers, and is always supporting great local and regional causes, and I’d heartily recommend their beers you can regularly find in stores (especially their original Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in a can). If you ever get a chance to visit their brewery in Chico or sample some of their less available brews, you won’t regret it!