Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp

London Grill had an event tonight where they showcased two of Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp beers plus an anniversary ale (Jack and Ken's), the pale ale, and the Tumbler autumn brown ale.

I talked to the Sierra Nevada rep about Beer Camp and it was pretty damn cool.  They invite bar owners and some other popular beer figures from around the US to their brewery and let them decide on a style of beer to brew.  I can't find how many have been done but since it started early 2009 and seems to occur every 2 months, my bet is there have been around 8.  Who knows though.  The point being that tonight at London Grill they were doing a Beer Camp vs. Beer Camp event.  For Philly beer week, Sierra Nevada invited Philadelphia area bar owners to Beer Camp and they came out of the event with ExPorter.  Apparently, the owner of London Grill really wanted to put almonds into the beer, but got out voted by everyone else in the camp.  Of course, the next camp group decided to put almonds into their beer and ended up with Almond Marzen Project.  The result of all of this is that Sierra Nevada felt bad and sent London Grill a keg of the Almond Marzen Project and as a result we have tonight's event.  It's actually pretty impressive of Sierra Nevada because they had to go through the whole pain of registering the beer for one single night and paying whatever costs that involves.  Stupid PA beer laws.

Knowing I'd have a chance to try the two Beer Camp beers, I started off the night with the Jack and Ken's Black Barleywine.
It had a really nice level of head  fresh from draft and poured a medium black.  Some barleywines are a bit lighter in color, almost purple, but the roasted malts (I assume that's what makes it a black barleywine) in this darken the color quite a bit.  It smells of caramel, booze, and some hop flavor.  Pretty enticing.  The first taste follows the caramel but then hops quickly take over.  It's not nearly as hoppy as an IPA, but they are definitely present in this compared to some barleywines.  I'd say it's similar to Stone's Old Guardian that I had in Easton.  After drinking a bit more, it feels like drinking alcoholic hops.  Really interesting flavor and absolutely drinkable.  I really enjoyed this.  I'm not sure bottles are still available, but it's from the 30th Anniversary Series if you want to find it.

The next beer I had was the Almond Marzen Project.
Nice looking bit of head on this one as well.  Basically filled the top of the glass when it was first put down.  It's a nice clear brown color with very few bubbles in the actual beer.  The marzen style is better known as Oktoberfest, but is seemingly more general than that.  Oktoberfest beers are generally advertised in the fall around Oktoberfest (duh) but marzens are available all year round.  I had a marzen when my wife and I were in Salzburg, Austria earlier in the year as it's a big German style.  The taste of the Almond Marzen was very, very clean.  It was basically a really good lager with very little hop profile.  I felt like the almonds only came through in the after taste which to me was a bit disappointing.  I was hoping it would have a nice almond flavor underlying everything.  Still a good beer and drinking multiples would be really easy so it has some things going for it.

The last beer I had was the ExPorter.
The head for this one was a really nice brown color and nearly crested the glass.  Porters often have such a nice head character and this was no exception.  It smelled faintly of nuts but I couldn't distinguish much of anything else at this point.  First sip gives the expected roasty, nutty flavor of a porter.  Both flavors continue through the whole way through the glass.  Good porter, but not terribly distinguishing.  Again something that is totally drinkable but not incredibly exciting.  Maybe I'm just picky at this point.  The interesting thing about this beer is that they gave some of it to Vinnie of Russia River in order to add some Brettanomyces to it.  I'm hoping the soured version of this will show up during the next Philly beer week since I imagine a soured porter will just be crazy tasting.  (The funny thing is that the beer camp people wanted to add the Brett to it at Sierra Nevada and the brewers there told them no way in hell.)

Good night of beer at London Grill.  Sierra Nevada continues to impress me with their special offerings and shows that they totally have a place in the scheme of popular craft brewers.  I wasn't terribly impressed with London Grill honestly considering it was super loud, but the bartender was cool and apparently they fill growlers which if they have an awesome beer is a really great thing.  No idea on the cost though.  Good night out with Jo and I'm going to be on the lookout for Jack and Ken's because it was really good.  Also going to try to get a case of Bigfoot next February if it's available in 12oz bottles.

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