Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale 2008 Review

Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. | Beer: Anniversary Ale 2008
Style: American India Pale Ale | ABV: 5.9%
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale 2008Sierra Nevada, of Chico, California, was one of the first players in the American craft brewing renaissance. With their flagship, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, they almost single-handedly brought the humble hop back into the American beer spotlight after decades of abuse. Since then Sierra Nevada has enjoyed continued success with a lineup consisting of only four year-rounds (the straightforwardly named Pale Ale, Porter, Stout & Wheat), four seasonals and four special releases.

Anniversary, an India Pale Ale, is the company's Fall seasonal and this year commemorates their 28th year in the craft-brew business. I missed this beer when it first came out this year, and I was beginning to think that I was going to have to wait another entire year to see it in stores again. But, to my great surprise, I ran into a stack of twelve-packs at a local liquor store and promptly brought one home.

The beer changes a little bit each year, with no two years being the same. Sierra Nevada describes Anniversary 2008 as "a big, full-flavored ale bursting at the seams with fresh, spicy and aromatic hops." The malt backbone is composed of four varieties, Chinook hops are used for bittering and the brew is finished and dry-hopped with Cascade hops.

Somewhat hazy pumpkin-colored body with a massive two and a half finger off-white head that leaves brilliant lacing. The head is so massive, in fact, that after my first serving I decided to switch to a pint glass I use for sixteen-ounce beers. Trust me, you're going to want to leave yourself some headroom.

Aroma: Spicy, piney, and citrusy Cascade hops over a solid brown sugar malt. Definite notes of booze arise, despite the middling alcohol content. Very appetizing.

Taste: Juicy, citrusy, and spicy Cascade hops over a solid biscuit and cereal malt backbone. Every now and then, I get interesting notes of tea-leaves. Everything is just a little bit thin and muddled together here. But, despite the lack of intensity, all of the elements are balanced well. The alcohol promised in the aroma never quite comes through.

Mouthfeel: A little frothy and wet, as the explosive head would suggest, with a medium-light body and light carbonation. The finish is somewhat dry.

Drinkability: With a balanced flavor profile and only a 5.9% ABV, this makes a great session beer.

Verdict: The flavors here are solid, but I keep coming back to the frothiness, somewhat thin taste, and crazy head. Maybe this is all by design, or maybe something was awry with my twelve bottles. Either way, this is a decent enough balanced IPA, but nothing that special. I'm cellaring two bottles to see how they change over the coming months.

Grade: B

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