Friday, September 19, 2008

Top Picks Part 1 - Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

I thought I would write about some of my favorite beers and places, since I have to write about something anyway because it will look like I've been writing this for awhile (and, let's face it, even I can't go out drinking every night.)

So, today I'll be talking a little about Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, bar none one of the best brewers out there. Go on, tell me I'm lying. Founded in 1979 by Ken Grossman in Chico, CA, Sierra Nevada has fast become one of the top brewing companies in the world. It began rather humbly in 1976 when Ken first opened his own store after studying chemistry and physics at Butte Community College and California State University at Chico. (Note to self: if you want to brew really good beer, study learn some Chem.) This is the awesome part, from their website:

Two years later, it was time to make the dream a reality. Ken and co-founder
Paul Camusi cobbled a brewery together from dairy tanks, a soft-drink bottler,
and equipment salvaged from defunct breweries. Though the equipment was secondhand, they created a first-rate microbrewery. The ingredients were premium, including the copious quantities of hops that would become the brewery’s trademark. An avid backpacker, Ken named the new company for his favorite hiking grounds—the Sierra Nevada mountains

What a story. And what a beer. So, of course, the Hopiholic is going to tackle them. Let's take it by the numbers, shall we?

My personal favorite of their offerings is the Celebration, a dry-hopped ale brewed especially for the holidays (Which means it's coming soon. Whee!). You can look up all the info here, but the important thing is that you're looking at a 6.8% alcohol by volume with the Celebration, which is right in my wheelhouse. It's got an intense aroma, so it tastes good with prime rib or wild fowl again, perfect for the holidays). Crazy pastas work well, too, like goat-cheese ravioli or fettuccine. So, start looking for this around Thanksgiving or so, and definitely drink as much as you can.

Second only to the Celebration is the Anniversary Ale, which is a Fall beer, so I have some in my fridge right now. It's an American-style IPA, well-hopped, with a slightly malty finish, and the Magic Number on this one is 5.9% (once again, a very hittable pitch. Maybe down in the strike-zone, but definitely something you can drive.) It goes very well with any kind of spicy Asian dish, or even fine chocolate desserts. Personally, I like to skip the chocolates and just take the beer straight, but you do whatever you want.

As I mentioned in the previous column, Sierra makes a delicious ESB, which they call Early Spring Beer since that's when they release it, but it is an Extra Special Bitter. It's an unfiltered beer, combining English and West-Coast-styles, for a reddish hue (or as George Costanza might say, "a pinkish hue") and a smooth taste. I have no idea what you would eat with it, but if you're like me, probably some kind of chicken will go with almost anything. Or Pizza.

And now, the grand-daddy of them all, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the signature beer of the brewery. this one is available these days in most bars, all year, so I'm sure most of us have encountered it, and probably have had it. If it is an option, it is always my very first choice. Straight-up Sierra has a 5.6% alcohol by volume, and premium Cascade hops for a nice flavor. This one also goes well with spicy cuisine, or anything in my book. It is a great bar beer, a perennial favorite.

Sadly, I can't tell you much about the Porter or the Stout, although I've been meaning to try them. I'm not much of a Barleywine guy, either, so I don't have many good things to say about the Bigfoot. But just about everything Sierra Nevada makes is awesome in my book, so definitely make it your business.

Highest recommendation from the Hopiholic.

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