Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reviews: Sierra Nevada 2011 Beer Camp

Okay, time for some beer than you can find in Baton Rouge!  This is the "Beer Camp" series from Sierra Nevada that features the best of the beers created at their Beer Camp.  The Beer Camp is a special treat for contest winners where beer campers get the VIP treatment at Sierra Nevada complete with creating some beers for commercial production.  Sounds pretty awesome if you ask me!  Some of the best ones are bottled and sent out commercially in mixed 12-packs.  I found some at Calandro's and they can probably still be found at a few places around town.  I also some at Spec's in Houston this past weekend, so they are still out there!

Jay actually picked this pack up and shared with me, so I got two beers each from the 4 Beer Camp releases in the pack.  The one I had featured a Weizenbock, California Common, Juniper Black Ale, and Double IPA.  I was probably least excited about California Common and most excited about the Juniper Black Ale going into this... but hey, sometimes things don't turn out the way you think they will!

The first one I tried was the Weizenbock, a beer style that is intended to be an even stronger version of the dunkel weizen with more bold and complex malt flavors and a noticeably stronger alcohol presence. 
 
The first thing I noticed, of course, is that is was one great looking beer! It's an orange cloudy beer with a large white frothy head. Good retention and good lacing and everything you would want from the visual appeal of a beer.

The aroma was bready with a large helping of citrus and banana.  It definitely had a lot of the hefeweizen characters while still being a stronger beer at 6.8% abv.  The taste is a lot of the same flavor, banana is pretty dominant again. I like this one a good bit overall, and it's a pleasant surprise from one of the beer camp beers that I wasn't as enthused about.

An easy drinker, very refreshing and delicious, highly recommended unless you don't like wheat beers!

My Rating:  A-

Up next... the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp California Common.  This is a traditional Californian style using a lager strain of yeast that ferments at warmer temperatures.
 
Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into an imperial pint glass, the beer is a clear deep gold with a couple inches of bubbly white head.  Nothing too special to look at, but appearance isn't everything.

It has a floral and honey aroma, a lot like a Belgian golden ale which is a pleasant surprise. There are also more hops than I was betting on, and an aroma that jumps more than the beer looks like it would.  

The taste is more of the same on this one, very crisp and delicious with an abundance if spicy hop notes.  Well done, these really are the best of the best and it shows.  This California Common was my least anticipated of the bunch but it surprised me.
 
My Rating: B+
BeerAdvocate: B+ (Hey, two in a row right on the popular opinion...)

Beer Camp #3, the one I was looking forward to the most, was the Juniper Black Ale.  I made sure I had things straight this time and this is indeed a Black IPA or Dark IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale or whatever you want to call this relatively new style of roasted but super hoppy IPA.  Recently I tried the New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale, but it's actually a Belgian Dark Ale!  This confusion will not stand, man. 
 
Anyway, getting the style right this time, I poured into an appropriate imperial pint glass. The beer is a dark brown color, clear around the edges with an inch-plus of creamy off-white head. Definitely a good looking beer!

The aroma is a lot of roasted chocolate with just a hint of juniper and a slight hop spice. If I didn't know to look for the juniper I'd probably miss it. The flavor is a lot of the same but the juniper is there a little more and the hops are a little less. It's definitely more roasted than expected.

It's a little thin too, the 8% abv is very well hidden but there is an awkward roasted bitter aftertaste.  I was expecting more, and I think this is lower on my list from the Beer Camp series.
 
My Rating: B-

And finally, the Double IPA.  This isn't really a new crazy style, so I wasn't as excited, but I do almost always like double IPAs.  Just like the Juniper Black Ale, I poured from a 12 oz. bottle into an imperial pint glass. It's a deep gold color with a large white bubbly head. decent look to it, great retention and lacing.

The aroma is strong with hops, piney, a little citrus and even a hint of caramel in the malt base. The flavor is fantastic, a little sweet malt at the front them big bold piney hops. It has a great blend and really well done.

It's a little bitter in the aftertaste but a good full body.  This is a really nice DIPA and my favorite among the Beer Camp brews.  Definitely a winner.

My Rating: A

In summary, four good beers, a definite winner of a 12-pack and one I'll be on the lookout in the future for their other Beer Camp brews!  Well done, Sierra Nevada, well done.