Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Ale
Sierra Nevada has been, and continues to be, a benchmark for the rest of the industry. They get out in front of trends — hell, they start most of them — by being inventive without resorting to gimmicks. And experiments such as the Estate Homegrown Ale are proof that this California brewer continues to keep its heart in the right place.
But you know what they say about good intentions. When this beer went on sale at one of my local retailers, I worried that I was going to miss out, that the cases the store had stacked front and center would all but disappear within the first week. Two months after its release, there were plenty left. I was still able to pluck a bottle sitting atop a tower of 5 boxes of its brethren.
Now I know why.
I’m going to get this petty grievance out of the way, now — the waxed top is annoying. I cut and sawed and hacked at this thing, getting green shavings all over the table top while trying to fit a bottle opener over the cap. I was ready to bite this thing open by the time I got to the metal center, like a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop. And when I got to the good stuff, it wasn’t nearly as satisfying.
Lesson learned — experiments can, and will, disappoint. I won’t call this a bad beer. Not at all. I liked it about as much as I liked another overhyped experiment — the Infinium. (I’ll admit, I was kind of alone on my assessment of that one.) And while I found both a bit heavy on the toffee notes, there are some key factors that distinguish the two, not the least of which was expectations.
Sam Adams was truly out on a limb with that one, making it difficult to evaluate. Here, the experiment wasn’t with the style or procedure. We know what to expect from an American IPA, and this fell short in some ways.
Fortunately, the experiment isn’t done. I’ll wager it will pay off one day. Just not today.
Aroma (10/12): Moderately high hop aroma. Grapefruit and pine dominate, with grassy notes underneath. Resinous. This bottle was tasted several months after the beer’s release, but still seems fresh. Grudging compliments to the job that annoying wax did on the preservation.
Appearance (3/3): Rocky three-finger white head. Sticky white lacing. Clear light amber, with moderate carbonation. Preeeeetttty.
Flavor (15/20): Soft grapefruit and pine hops dominate. A surprising sweet malt comes forward and lingers. Soft carbonation, even though the head would suggest otherwise. Quite creamy and not at all what I expected. Some diacetyl toffee and butter notes. Finish is sweet malt and citrus hops, with little noticeable astringency.
Mouthfeel (2/5): Creamy, slick mouthfeel. Unpleasant diacetyl. No astringency, but this seems unfortunately chewy for an IPA.
Overall Impression (6/10): This beer shows a nice hop-malt balance for an IPA. Perfumy and resinous, but not a knock-you-over-the-head West Coast version of the style. The alcohol is present but not dominant. The thick mouthfeel and weird diacetyl buttery notes are off-putting, however. This starts well, but falls short in some important ways.
Total Score: 36/50