Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

by Brady

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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.

9.5/10

Availability: Pretty much everywhere in the US.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Devon April 25, 2011 at 6:38 pm

ahhh one of my favorites too!

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Susan April 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm

YUMMY!! Especially with the sharp cheddar we had! Love love love.

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Dave April 28, 2011 at 9:13 am

I literally teared up reading this review — so utterly right on. This is the most drinkable IPAs known to man.

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Justin May 5, 2011 at 12:18 am

Good review. One of my favorite IPA’s.

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Paul June 3, 2011 at 2:35 am

Just back from USA Holiday & tried the torpedo; as an aussie beer-lover this would have to rate as one of the great beers of all times. Sierra Nevada should export it to Aust; it wuld be a winner!

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Fireweed June 11, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Mmmmm recently available in Ireland, now in a few decent liquor stores, and one or two select pubs, this stuff has become more than just an occasional visitor and has taken up a welcome residency. One of my favorite beers, and one I greatly missed when I returned home. So very happy to find it not just available but regularly and locally available!

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Red July 1, 2011 at 11:04 am

I finally had the chance to taste this on draught a few weeks ago after having had it many times bottled. Spot-on: terrific West Coast IPA.

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Jazzafish August 5, 2011 at 1:10 am

**Paul:
Sierra Nevada do bring to Australia. AND they ship in refridgerated containers, a great way to keep their beers like they should be… fresh. Dan Murphys and all the good independants had some small supplies (like 2-5 pallets) each from the start of August 2011.

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Chris Lamport October 24, 2011 at 1:20 am

I love the Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA!!!! This beer is just incredible and I could drink one of these everyday. It has such great taste and goes great with my homemade chilli and with a nice sharp cheddar cheese. Keep up the great work, you guys are the experts at making the best micro beers!!!

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brian April 1, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I m so stuck on this beer. I typically drink Heineken or Fat Tire and occasionally would buy Sierra Nevada pale ale but recently I’ve been seeing Torpedo around a lot of places and the Torpedo was usually outselling the pale ale. Although I was hesitant, I can’t put it down due to its unquestionable smoothness and rich, sweet flavors while providing an above average alcohol content. Most beers over 6% are hard to swallow but, of course, get easier as the buzz comes on but I look forward to this flavor from the sober moment I pick up thefirst bottle. Its safe to say that this beer could be picked up by a non beer drinker and change their lives forever…….FOR THE BETTER!

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Dutra July 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA. Seriously? I either got a bad batch or I have a really stupid mouth. It was like drinking a bottle of my wife’s Pine-Sol. The pine needle essence overwhelmed all other attributes. Couldn’t finish it. It did eliminate the toilet bowl ring and freshen the loo.

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Brady July 14, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Haha, you may have had a bad batch, or maybe you just don’t like it — nothing wrong with that. I happen to love this stuff, and it’s high on my list of desert island beers.

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Elijah July 28, 2012 at 12:59 am

Pine-Sol never tasted so great! For some reason the local 7-11 decided to stock the 25 dot 6′ers of this. Cashier didn’t know the price yet and rang it up for 2.69, I shoulda bought 10. Sierra ‘Rada keep on keepin.

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Grant Hillemeyer October 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm

There are better IPAs, but none at this price or availability. Often a 12 pack can be had for $13.00 – $14.00. I recently bar tended an event for a friend and bought some of it and it was the hit of the night. Bud light drinkers won’t care for it but , ummmm, duh. I can walk into any 7-11 or grocery store and get this fantastic beer. God bless Sierra Nevada! Only draw back is the 7.2% alcohol content, but even that comes in handy sometimes.
Brady, you are spot on about this beer!

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