Sierra Nevada – Torpedo Extra IPA

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Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA gets its namesake from the torpedo-shaped contraption that Sierra Nevada engineered to gain the biggest and best influence of their whole-cone hops additions during dry hopping.  To expand on that opening statement:  Dry hopping, as you may already know, is the act of adding hops to the fermenter after the boil – this preserves those oils that are lost in earlier hop additions, and more than anything it improves the aroma of the beer.  Also a noteworthy part of the opener is that Sierra uses whole cone hops for this beer, not the more common pellets.  What this means to the final product I’m not exactly sure, but it’s a deviation from the norm nonetheless.

Torpedo Extra IPA is a widely distributed, high volume beer as far as craft beers go.  It is medium strength for a big IPA at 7.2% ABV.   That is not to say it’s not special, though.  The aroma is a little on the malty side for an American IPA, but also with big citrus in the form of grapefruit and orange, and also lots of earthy pine wood.  It drinks full bodied, very rich and thick mouthfeel for an IPA of this sort.  Taste starts off quite sweet, I think thanks largely to the malts – and then slides into a floral, citrus, pine combination that just screams “proper American IPA”.   The above-standard malt addition is visible in the colour as well as the taste of the beer but it does not stand in the way of the hops character – the hops remain firmly and confidently the center of attention here.  The bitterness is muted by the malts though, or at least that is the sense I get.

This is a very fine drinking IPA that doesn’t demand your full attention to enjoy, but doesn’t shy away from such scrutiny either.  It has just the right level of maltiness for me, adding body and sweetness to the beer while still allowing the hops full autonomy and a lingering dry finish.

One more thing to note for my fellow BC residents:  I bought this at a government store for $5.99 (it’s 710mL), which makes it a very good value for the quality of beer you’re getting.  It was my first visit to a government store in a long time and I was floored to see it there.

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Sierra Nevada – Narwhal imperial stout 2013

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Sierra Nevada is based out of Chico, CA and as such is not terribly common here in BC.  The odd release does make it here, including (fortunately) their Russian imperial stout, Narwhal.  This is their 2013 bottling so it is quite fresh.

The beer pours an ink black with oily texture and sparse brown head.  The carbonation is quite light.  The aroma has a roasted quality, and is made up of bitter chocolate and alcohol notes.  There is definitely a spirit quality in the nose that signals that this is a fresh RIS.  There is a touch of black liquorice and molasses coming through as well.

The taste is primarily dark, dark chocolate.  Very little sweetness at all – the chocolate is bitter like very dark or baker’s chocolate.  Vanilla is the secondary flavour, with only the slightest hint of coffee.  The mouthfeel is lighter than I expected though not exactly light, and the carbonation is surprisingly present being that there was so little head – it tastes as though there is a significant hops presence that is coated in bitter chocolate that you can’t taste the hops.  Despite being so young, the finish is only mildly ‘hot’ with alcohol.  The alcohol comes across like… sangria to me.  There is alcohol- and wine-soaked fruits in there somewhere.  The ABV of this brew is 10.2%, putting it smack dab in the most common range of imperial stouts.

Imperial stouts are a beer style that can age well but do not necessarily need or improve with age.  Aging stouts is very much a personal decision, as for every gain in the flavour profile there is a loss somewhere as well.  I bought a four-pack of Narwhal so I will be aging at least two for the sake of science, but at this point I don’t expect that aging will improve this beer.  The alcohol is under control currently and the baker’s chocolate notes are probably as hard-hitting as they’re going to get.  I really enjoy this beer and am glad it is not overly sweet as some RIS’s can be, though I do wish the body was a little thicker.

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