One may wonder why the brewery that crafted the quintessential American pale ale would wait so long to release an year-round IPA into the market. Well, nearly 30 years after opening up its doors, Sierra Nevada finally decided they had the right recipe, and also the right technology to deliver that recipe.
Enter the hop torpedo: a device that could be used to punch gaping holes in competing breweries’ fermentation tanks, but instead efficiently infuses hop oils into fermenting beer through a passive process. I imagined some sort of crazy hop-injection missile or something, but the process is actually slow and gentle. The torpedo-shaped vessel, containing a bed a whole cone hops at the top, receives the beer and circulates it slowly to expose it to as much hop surface area as possible, getting all those volatile oils out with very little waste.
I have to admit that I have had this beer many many times, and I love it. It’s a beautiful, easy drinking IPA. I will pretend that I’ve never had it, though, for this review (cue: Like a Virgin):
Appearance: Pouring Torpedo into a 12 ounce tulip glass generates a rocky, sticky, just off-white head that recedes quite slowly. Lacing stays in place for the duration of the drink. It’s color is a murky orange-brown, quite a bit darker than most India pale ales. The unfiltered yeast remains thickly suspended in the beer, creating a translucent cloudiness.
Aroma: The big nose features lots of floral notes, some citrus (lemon rind, grapefruit), grass and pine needles…basically a lot of hops, which are balanced out perfectly in the nose by some sweet toffee. Just a little alcohol pops through.
Mouthfeel: Full body with a very creamy, ultra-smooth mouthfeel. Big, fat, round and even on the palate. Mild carbonation.
Taste: There’s a very full, fruity flavor. Some cider and citrus that gives way soon to sticky, resin-y, piney notes and a pleasant astringent cloud. It builds in hop character with each sip, as if fresh hops are growing on your tongue. Unlike some west coast IPAs, this one holds on to its malt character all the way through, with a nice sweet, grainy, toffee backbone. It’s extremely drinkable and accessible even when the bitter hops are so present. Finishes dry as heck, leaving a savory, oily hop coating on the palate and just a little alcohol warmth.
Overall: A strong American IPA that goes down like a session ale, really. Lots of complex hop character held firmly in place by a strong malt backbone. One of the best beers in the universe, in my opinion–I could drink these all night if that 7.2% ABV wasn’t telling me not to do it. Thanks, Sierra Nevada, for still making awesome, creative beers after 30 years without compromise.
Availability: Pretty much everywhere in the US.