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Brew notes: Sierra Nevada beer camp 12-pack.

Notes from the tasting panel for Modern Brewery Age, by Peter V.K. Reid, editor of Modern Brewery Age; with Gregg Glaser, editor of Yankee Brew News, and Tom Conti and Robert Lachman of the YBN tasting panel. Joining us each week is a rotating cast of tasters, to include Dr. Steve Victor, formerly of Yale University; Connecticut state government economist Ernie Adamo; home brewer Phil Simpson; Northeast Beverage field sales director Greg Zannella; Maltose Express Homebrew Shop co-founder Tess Szamatulski; Former U.S. government rocket scientist and future craft brewer Mark Szamatulski; Marty Juliano, Northeast rep for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Renzo Kian-Kubota, artisanal beer buyer for Harry's of Fairfield, CT, and a variety of guest tasters, lately including newly-minted commercial brewer John Watson. Every month we sample 40-50 beers. We write up the the best examples of a given flight of beers; Our rating of "Five mugs" denotes "Excellent" and "Superb" with all panelists in agreement; Four mugs denotes "Very Good."

For Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp 12-pack, Sierra Nevada collaborated with a dream team of the best brewers in the country. While all the beers are in the 12-pack are good, there are gradations of good, and our top rankings go to six of the twelve: the terrific Ballast Point Electric Ray IPL and Oskar Blues Canfusion, the stylistically perfect New Glarus There and Back and Victory Alt Route, and the imaginative Firestone Walker Torpedo Pilsner and Bell's Maillard's Odyssey.

*****

SN/Ballast Point Electric Ray

Hands down our favorite beer in the Beer Camp 12-pack. A big luscious 8.5% India Pale Lager, torpedoed to a level of 70 IBUs. A malty nose with hints of alcohol and resiny hops, leading into a perfectly balanced flavor, lush with malt and bright with hops.

"Piney sweet nose," said taster Robert Lachman.

"Vibrant hop nose, with hop resin and high alcohol," said Ernie Adamo.

"Big rich body, high alcohol comes through in the flavor, along with all those piney resiny hops," said Gregg Glaser of Yankee Brew News.

"This is just fine," said Tom Conti. "Good hop nose, and the hops really come out in the flavor, balanced in the right way--that is, leaning toward the hoppy side."

"This brewery did not let us down, this is the best beer in the series," said Robert Lachman of New England Brewing Co.

"Great nose, citrusy sweet hop flavor, high alcohol," said Ernie Adamo. "This is a big beer, thick and viscous, that fin ishes malty and hoppy."

"A lot going on here, that's a hefty pint," Gregg commented.

"I'd drink at least two," Robert said.

"I like the way the malt and hops play off each other," said restaurateur Frank Whitman. "That caramel malt character, and those resiny hops, it is so well balanced."

"Beautiful hop flavor," said guest taster Steve DeFrank, Esq.

"A knockout," said Pete Reid. "Rich resiny hop flavor with a solid malt backdrop. Once your palate adapts to all those juicy hops, the balance asserts itself. Certainly one of the best IPLs we've tasted on this panel."

*****

SN/Oskar Blues Canfusion

A chewy rye bock of 7.2% abv, hopped to 45 IBUs, and dry hopped to aromatic perfection. The rye is well handled, creating an assertive spicy bready character that is perfectly balanced by the generous hop bill.

"Hoppy bock nose," said Ernie Adamo, "lots of spicy, bready rye." "Piney, resiny hop nose, with a bit of alcohol," said Gregg Glaser, editor of Yankee Brew News. "Very inviting!" "Really hoppy and fruity, a little sweet, but also plenty hoppy, with some great spicy rye character," said Ernie Adamo. "You taste the alcohol, this is a strong beer."

"Bready rye, lots of hop flavor, and a good amount of bitterness," said Gregg. "Wow! The rye is over the top, but I love it."

"One of the best of the series," said Robert Lachman. "Rye and hops in the nose, great flavor, a little sweet in the middle, but balanced by all those citrusy hops."

"The generous quantity of rye gives this beer an extra dimension," said restaurateur Frank Whitman. "From the beautiful color to the delicious flavor, and that lovely dry finish."

"A full bodied beer with beautiful mouthfeel and richness of flavor," said Pete Reid. "A lot of rye and a lot of hops, perfectly balanced."

"A great beer," Gregg said. "That ryeness is a good flavor note, lots of alcoholic warmth for 7.2%, but I love it."

*****

SN/Victory Alt Route

A coppery, malty altbier of 6.6% abv and 50 IBUs, just on the edge of sticke territory. One of the best alt biers we've ever had.

"A lovely color, and there is lots of chocolate and malt in the nose," said restaurateur Frank Whitman.

"Smells like an Octoberfest, with that Munich malt," commented Tom Conti.

"Rich toasted malt aroma," noted Gregg Glaser of Yankee Brew News.

"Right on!" said homebrewer Tom Conti. "A great alt. Malty, but turns bitter and dry at the end. Very nice!"

"You get a little chocolate flavor, then it dries out, and finishes with a clean bitterness," said Robert Lachman.

"A really nice turn at an alt," said Ernie Adamo. "Malty, but it dries, and finishes bitter. There is no sweetness, just beautiful Munich malt character."

"Drinks lighter than it looks," said guest taster and attorney Steve DeFrank. "It has a pleasing smooth dryness in the taste and finish."

"I like the balanced malt aspect," Frank said. "It's hard to get right, but this is malty and very refreshing."

"Delicious," said Gregg G. "Tastes like the real deal. The hops comes through so well, a well-made beer."

*****

SN/Bell's Maillard's Odyssey

One of the tastiest beers in the Beer Camp 12-pack is this collaboration between Sierra and Bell's. Called an imperial dark ale, it's a lovely malt-infused brew--rich and porter-like at 8.5% abv and 40 IBUs

"A seductive nose," said Gregg Glaser of Yankee Brew News. "Espresso and dark roasted malts, with alcohol and chocolate. Wonderfully rich and full. I like this mixture of flavors."

"Dark grains and coffee in the nose, and carried through into the flavor, with some chocolate in there too," said homebrewer Tom Conti.

"A lot of chocolate!" said Robert Lachman. "This is a bit porterish, a perfect winter beer."

"Soft, milky and chocolatey, more chocolate than roasted malt, lovely creamy espresso and chocolate flavors," said Ernie Adamo.

"Beautifully layered malts, with rich chocolate and coffee, and an undercurrent of roast," said Pete Reid of Modern Brewery Age.

"Perfect mouthfeel, so smooth and creamy," said taster Steve DeFrank.

*****

SN/New Glarus There & Back

The most purely quaffable beer in the Beer Camp 12-pack may be this 5.6% abv 40 IBU English-style bitter, with its drying malt palate and herbaceous, earthy hop character.

"Smells like a proper bitter, with English hops," said Robert Lachman.

"Toasty malt nose, with some nice hops coming through," said Gregg Glaser of Yankee Brew News. "In the taste, too, you get that toasty caramel malt quality."

"Nice subtle hoppy aroma," said Ernie Adamo. "I'd like to see more American brewers do this, make a delightful ordinary bitter like this. This has great English character, with that biscuity malt and dry finish. This is just fine."

"Deft handling of the malt, such a balanced and refreshing beer," commented restaurateur Frank Whitman.

"Right on!" said Tom Conti. "Good nose and there is enough mouthfeel, at 5.6% abv, to call this an ESB. I just love the malt body, it is so dry and English and appropriate."

*****

SN/Firestone-Walker Torpedo Pilsner

A fruity tropical cocktail of a pilsner, hoppy and fresh and clean and bright, the Czechs never made them like this.

"Smells lovely!" said Gregg Glaser of Yankee Brew News. "Has a beautiful fruity, melony hop aroma."

"Pilsner nose, a little fruity and floral," said taster Robert Lachman.

"There is more here than in most pilsners," said Frank Whitman. "More malt, more hops, more body. Complex and interesting. So much flavor!"

"Great balance of hops and malt." said Ernie Adamo. "Lots of tropical fruit, you get melon and cantaloupe, balanced with a rich Germanic maltiness. The malt really stands out, which I like."

"Great hop nose," said Tom Conti. "That good hop carries through into the flavor, a very nice pilsner, not too sweet, not too dry, very nice."

"Good solid malt backbone all the way, it's right there below the hops, but lets the hops do their thing," Gregg said. "An excellent pilsner."

"A luscious juicy pilsner," said Pete Reid of Modern Brewery Age. "Even with its non-traditional hop bill, it has all the essential pils qualities, with a crisp body and long drying hop finish. Perfect level of bitterness at the end, you want more."

Brewers that would like to see their beers reviewed in the "Brew Notes" section are welcome to send samples (Two 12oz. or one 22oz. bottles) to: Modern Brewery Age LLC 44 Indian Valley Rd, Weston CT 06883
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Sep 24, 2014
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