Variations on a Theme (Part II)

So this is another IPA mix pack, this time from Sierra Nevada, the number two volume craft brewery in the US (behind Sam Adams/Boston Beer Co) and a consistent favorite of mine.  The mix pack comes under the name 4-Way IPA, IMG_0274and like the previous IPA mix pack from Harpoon it consists of four different beer styles that have in common the hop-forward flavor profile that characterizes an IPA.

What was nice about having this one come in quick succession after Harpoon was that it gave me a chance to do nearly one-to-one comparisons of comparable beers from two of the bigger craft breweries.  (I didn’t take the next logical step, which would be to do a blind side-by-side tasting–maybe I’ll save that exercise for some future date.)  Two of the four beers are pretty directly comparable, since each pack contained a black IPA and a wit IPA, while the other two from this set were a bit different from the remainder of the Harpoon.

We can start with the two that don’t have easy comparisons.  One of these is a year-round standard offering that Sierra Nevada calls Torpedo Extra IPA.  IMG_0282The “torpedo” is a device they came up with for dry-hopping the beer by circulating the fermenting beer under pressure through a stainless steel casing packed with hops.  I’ve had this one before and I think of it as a summer beer where the pine note of the hops is the most prominent flavor element.  This is one I enjoy enough that I will pick up a six- or twelve-pack to have on hand, once I get through this year-long exploration.

The other one that I can’t compare directly with Harpoon is another session beer that they call Nooner.IMG_0276  (Note: just because it’s summer vacation, that doesn’t mean I’m drinking beer starting at noon, unless I am either watching sports on TV or getting together with friends for an afternoon party.  All of these were consumed at dinnertime.)  The picture shows that this was a pretty fizzy beer, but other than that I don’t remember anything particularly distinctive about this one, which means I probably wouldn’t seek it out, even if they were offering it outside this mix pack which I don’t know that they are.

Snow Wit is the clever name for the white IPA, which did have a counterpart in the Harpoon mix pack.  IMG_0277Like the Harpoon, this one had some wheat in it and had the hazy color of an unfiltered beer.  The wheat was not much in evidence, though, and I found this one to be a pretty enjoyable beer, at least as good as the Harpoon Long Thaw.  The Sierra Nevada web site also notes that this beer uses several varieties of experimental dwarf hops–Sierra Nevada being at the forefront of the hop emphasis in American craft brewing, it’s not surprising that they continue to seek out different varieties.

The black IPA in this pack is called Blindfold, and while I described the Harpoon black IPA as unmemorable, this one was probably my favorite among the four Sierra Nevada beers.  The dark malt seemed to fall in the coffee part of the flavor spectrum, and it seemed to have a lot more creaminess and body than the Harpoon version.IMG_0287  If I remember correctly, this one emerged from the “Beer Camp” series, which is an interesting story.  Beer Camp lets non-professionals become part of the brewing process, and I have picked up one or two mix packs from previous years that featured creations from the Beer Camp.  Looking at Sierra Nevada’s web site, I see that this year they are doing something they are calling “Beer Camp Across America” where they are collaborating with twelve other craft brewers (including some prominent names like Allagash, Russian River, Victory, and Bell’s, to name a few) which looks like it will be a really special opportunity to try a whole  bunch of different beers–they say release will be in mid-July, so I will be keeping my eyes open.

For now, I’m moving on to a slightly more mixed bag from yet another big-name craft brewery.  In the meantime, these four get the tally up to 78–getting past 100 should be no problem, and it looks like 150 or even 200 might be possible before the end of the calendar year.  Also coming soon may be a book review, since I had some money to spend at a local bookstore in recognition of a significant milestone at work and decided to spend it furthering my beer research.  No travels on the near horizon, but hopefully plenty of warm days that will invite relaxing at home with a cold beer at the end of the day.  Cheers!

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