Sierra Nevada is one of the most notable and long-lived craft distilleries in the country, having grown from humble beginnings in Chico, California to the third-largest independent distillery in the country. Our coverage of the brewery has been spotty over the years. With this review we delve into most of the core lineup, going all the way back to the OG.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – I can’t remember the last time I had Sierra Nevada’s standard, green-can Pale Ale, though it’s perhaps the most iconic west coast IPA in existence. Less overtly hoppy than I remembered, it’s a surprisingly malty beer, perky with citrus notes and a pinch of spice. The big, foamy head helps mask much of the bitterness, which becomes more evident as the finish builds — though it’s countered by some sweetened cereal notes here as well. It’s an IPA that works best ice cold, as this delicate balance starts to fade as it warms. 5.6% abv. B+ / $11 per 6 pack
Sierra Nevada Dankful IPA – The more impressive head and creamier body kicks off a more impressive and fuller beer than Sierra’s standard Pale Ale, one which is, as advertised, “impressively hoppy,” full of classic piney IPA notes, some earthy forest floor elements, and a layer of gentle sweetness, almost like brown sugar, which balances out an otherwise impressively bitter palate. Hints of cocoa powder and a touch of white pepper liven up the finish. Good stuff. 7.4% abv. A- / $11 per 6 pack
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA – More citrusy than the standard Pale Ale or Dankful, Torpedo drinks easier than you’d expect, its alcohol tempered by a layer of spice and a hint of chocolate, leading to a balanced, bittersweet finish. A gentle cinnamon note is right at home next to hops and orange peel, all of which linger on the palate for a while. Extremely approachable and quite lovely. 7.2% abv. A- / $11 per 6 pack
Sierra Nevada Big Little Thing IPA – Designed to be a high-abv bruiser, Big Little Thing surprises with its gentle character, surprisingly fruit forward with notes of applesauce, lemony custard, and mulling spices heavy on the finish. Creamy on the tongue and surprisingly light on bitterness, the beer has the body of an Imperial IPA, but not the hoppy punch, particularly on the easy finish. That said, it’s lively and easy to drink — dangerously so, at times. 9% abv. B+ / $12 per 6 pack
Sierra Nevada Summer Break Session Hazy IPA – Not very hazy and not very IPA-ish, but plenty sessionable, this is an agreeable but decidedly uncomplex beer, featuring mild notes of lemon, grains of paradise, and an undercurrent of almost lager-like cereal. More bready than toasty, and much less bitter than you might expect, it’s nonetheless a solid option if an under-5%-abv is on your wish list, finishing clean and, as one would hope, with a refreshing, innocuous conclusion. 4.6% abv. B / $11 per 6 pack
Sierra Nevada Wild Little Thing – This pink, “slightly sour ale” is heaviest on strawberry, with the beer’s guava and hibiscus elements taking a secondary role. That said, none of the fruit elements come through with any particular level of strength, the ultimate impact of the beer is quite plain, bordering on watery at times, and the “slightly” sour name is a decided understatement. 5.5% abv. C / $11 per 6 pack [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]