Sunday, October 10, 2010

418. Sierra Nevada Homegrown Estate Ale

Say hello to wet hop season, which is pretty much our favorite seasonal time for beer—so many delicious and delightful beers. We spent the earlier part of the day picking hops on the local bike path—that’s right, there’s tons of hops growing along the bike path—to make our own fresh wild wet hop beer tomorrow. Dayton may not have a lot going for it, but it does have a fair share of randomly growing wild hops. Combine a hunter/gatherer significant other with someone who is dumb enough to brew beer with random wild hops from the side of a bike path, and you’ve got a recipe for beer chicanery. As for Sierra Nevada, this isn’t our first time encountering their brand of beer-induced nirvana—we’ve previously sampled Charlie, Fred, & Ken’s Imperial Helles Bock, Southern Hemisphere Harvest, Bigfoot, 30th Anniversary Fritz and Ken’s Ale, Kellerweis, Celebration, Torpedo Extra IPA, Anniversary Ale 2009 and Harvest Wet Hop Ale 2008, making ten beers all told from the sundry estates in Chico.

Described on the front of the bottle as “handmade, homegrown, and completely natural,” and using “organic wet hops and barley,” Estate Ale pours a rich orange copper—it’s clear with a creamy eggshell head, and bright as a burnished penny. There is also a fair amount of lacing left on the glass. The nose has spicy and resin hop flavors with a faint malt caramel and creaminess. Flavors start sweet and dry; there is caramel and biscuit maltiness before the hop spiciness and bitterness enters the picture. The middle has earthy hop flavors mixed with citrus and spicy pine; there are also lower levels of caramel sweetness. The finish has a slight sweet tinge, produced in part by the carbonation bite that rolls over the tongue, bringing with it brightness and spicy resin bitterness that lingers pleasantly on the palate. Estate Ale has a sweet caramel and hoppy bitter mouthfeel, although the body is noticeably lighter than we would have anticipated. This may be in part via the carbonation, which is bright up front but restrained as a whole, which does lighten the beer. Hop flavor and aroma are well done; there might be a slight touch of grassiness in the finish (although there is far more spicy pine resin hop flavor), but bitterness is kept in the background, allowing the flavor and aroma to shine through. A delicious start to the best beer season of the year. We’d like to find a home in Sierra Nevada Estate Ale.

From the bottle: “Here in the sun-drenched fields of California’s North Valley, the black soil is rich with promise. In winter, rows of barley seed are laid in the freshly tilled dirt. In spring, trellises are set for hops. From our fields comes a remarkable homegrown ale, made with organic wet hops and barley grown at our brewery here in Chico and one of the few estate-made ales produced anywhere in the world! This Estate Ale is rich with flavors of the valley—featuring hops with earthy, grapefruit-like flavors and layered spicy aromas and barley with mild sweetness and smooth toasted flavors. Together, these crops grow alongside the brewery to make a truly unique brew. Enjoy!”

ABV: 6.7%


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