Tuesday, February 10, 2009

T-O-R-P-E-D-O Spells Delicious

Thanks to the good people at Gomer's Midtown location, I have in my possession 12 bottles of Sierra Nevada Torpedo (not all full). 

I'll give you the bad news up front: the citra hop character is detectable but not particularly prominent in this beer. Hopefully, given the hype, Sierra Nevada will have enough of this hop in future years to really highlight it in this or another beer.

The good news is that this is the new beer of the year, in my opinion. Despite the name of my blog, I drink a lot of different beer styles and I am not saying this just because Torpedo is an IPA.

On to the details...

As per my last post, Sierra Nevada has adopted the novel approach of recirculating fermenting beer through a container of hops which they call a torpedo. Interestingly, there has been a lot of interest in recirculating fermenting beer for a couple of decades for the purpose of inexpensive temperature control via heat exchangers or to mix the beer to avoid non-homogenous fermentation in tall tanks. As far as I know, this particular application is unique to Sierra Nevada.

The beer pours a light copper color with an off white head. The aroma is citrus, resiny pine, herbal and spicy with a hint of soft fruit (pineapple, mango, peach). This latter aroma is what we were told to expect of the citra hop, but it is definitely in the background.

The flavor is a spicy, resinous bitterness balanced by a distinct dark caramel malt character with a hint of raisin. The flavor evolves into herbal hop and soft fruit on the back of the palette.

The mouth feel is full and smooth. In typical Sierra Nevada fashion, the beer features a skillful combination of solid body and caramel malt character with a finish dry and crisp enough to allow the hops to take center stage.

Despite the relatively high gravity and alcohol content, Torpedo is highly drinkable. This beer has a definite West Coast IPA pedigree without being so hop balanced as to offend your sensitive Plains States palettes (I tease because I like you!). Best of all, if you get this soon it is going to be the rare example of a bottled West Coast IPA in excellent condition in the KC area.

On a side note, while I wish Ken Grossman at Sierra Nevada would do my bidding and sell his beer in cans, long time Sierra Nevada drinkers will notice that the screw caps were replaced with standard pry-off caps around a year ago. This is a definite improvement and I wish Boulevard would follow suit. While I believe cans superior to bottles, I can understand the argument from tradition for bottles. There is no excuse for a "craft" brewery to be using screw-off caps.

The bottom line is that Torpedo is a strong and well-balanced California IPA. The citra hop character is unique and I only wish there were more of it. Hurry to Gomers in Midtown and try this because, while it is going to be available year round, this is the last time you will know that you are getting it in excellent condition.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bring on the hops (again)!

Note: I made this post the other day and accidentally deleted it while trying to edit it, because I am a moron.

Having spent most of my beer drinking life on the West Coast, I am somewhat underwhelmed by the hoppiness of local beers.

Luckily, I will soon have two new beers to satisfy my unreasonable thirst for hops.
Up first is Sierra Nevada Torpedo. This beer was blogged about recently at The KC Beer Blog

Sierra Nevada is a pioneer in the creation of hoppy beers having, more or less single-handedly, created the classic West Coast pale ale flavor.

The Torpedo device, which is essentially a hopback through which fermenting beer is constantly recirculated, was initially developed for use with the existing Sierra Nevada lineup. However, Sierra Nevada chose to use it to create new beers including Torpedo, the first beer added to the year-round Sierra Nevada lineup in over a decade. This beer will be available later this month.

As if this were not enough to keep a hop lover happy, 2009 will feature the arrival of another new West Coast IPA to the Kansas City area.

Boston Brewing Company holds an annual Longshot Homebrewing Competition, the winners of which have their recipes brewed by the brewery and released in a seasonal six-pack. In 2007, the competition was won by legendary California homebrewery Mike "Tasty" McDole. Tasty's winning entry was a double IPA not so loosely based on the infamous Russian River Brewing Company flagship, Pliny The Elder.

The winning entry could not be included in last year's six-pack, however, because Boston Brewing Company simply could not source the obscene amount of hops needed to brew it. McDole was given the option of accepting a version with hop substitutions or waiting a year to have his recipe brewed as intended. He chose the later option and the beer will be released this year. You can read more about it here, but make sure you look for the six-pack in local stores (Lukas Liquors in Kansas City confirmed that they will carry it) in March.

Prepare to be hopnotized.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Do you like it in the can?

I sure do!

While much maligned by misguided beer snobs, cans are a far superior beer packaging method for beer to bottles in every way imaginable.

Cans offer better light protection and oxygen protection than bottles and are even more efficient to pack and ship.

Why then do the macro breweries use cans while your favorite micro-brewery does not? Because the latter cannot afford the much more expensive canning line and opts instead for a bottling line which often can be had used from a Pepsi or Coke bottler for basically nothing.

However, many craft breweries are getting on the can-wagon. Notables include:

If you don't believe me, try it for yourself. Choose your favorite European (to ensure that the beer is not too fresh to render any packaging differences moot) beer which is available both in bottles and cans (suggested: Heineken or Hobgoblin) and try them side by side.

I predict you will not only notice a difference but you will be taking it in the can as often as possible in the future.