The Motherlode: Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Fritz & Ken’s Ale

The fact that Sierra Nevada has been around for 30 years is pretty incredible in and of itself. The fact that Sierra is collaborating with one of its supposed rivals is nothing short of tremendous. Of course, such things are commonplace in the world of craft beer. You see, craft beer drinkers are not brand-loyal: we are omniverous. We do not go for what’s safe, or what’s comfortable. And that is what separates us from those who buy thirty-packs of Keystone.

Anyway, enough proselytizing, let’s get down to drinking business.

Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada, in celebration of their third full decade of brewing, teamed up with patron saint of homebrewing Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing. They came up with Sierra 30 (xXx): Fritz & Ken’s Ale. (They are creating several other beers as well, combining with the likes of Charlie Papazian, Fred Eckhardt and Jack McAuliffe. Essentially, these five guys make up the Mount Rushmore of craft brewing.)

Sierra Nevada sometimes gets a bit of a bum rap because it’s pretty much become one of the Big Boys; you can find that trademark green Sierra Pale Ale label on four out of five bars in the country. But the fact that it’s become ubiquitous doesn’t make it any less delicious, or any less iconic for that matter. The Sierra Pale basically invented the American Pale style. The fact that the American palate can handle this kind of hop in this many locations is nothing short of a miracle.

But somehow, I don’t think you’ll be seeing Fritz & Ken’s Ale in Outback Steakhouse anytime soon.

Which isn’t to say, of course, that it’s not good. In fact, it’s very good. Though we are out of “stout season” for the most part, there is never a bad time to hang out on the couch, watching Buffalo Sabres hawkey and nursing a snifter full of this stuff.

It pours as you would expect it: the color and opacity of a bowling ball, with a light cardboard brown head. I poured it into my Dogfish Head snifter, but it would also be welcome in a wine glass or a tulip glass.

The thing that gets to you first is how smoky the aroma is; it’s like a hint of smoked meat and wood chips. After that, however, comes a wave of sweet breakfast blend coffee and cocoa powder.

The taste continues that magnificent smokiness, but evolves further to add a severe burnt cookie aftertaste, like when you eat the Oreo without the cream filling. There is also a very nice liqueur alcohol burn on the way down. That smokiness relents only slightly, and is still going strong by the final swallow.

The smoke practically floats on top of this beer like a Deep Purple tune. It finishes with a slick, sticky, oily palate. It sticks around on the tongue, practically offering a salve for the alcohol burn it just subjected you to.

I will pretty much try anything new by Sierra, and this one should not be avoided just because the sun is coming out. You can pour half tonight and cork the rest to finish it tomorrow. Myself, I’m feeling just a tad light-headed.

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~ by William H on April 27, 2010.

3 Responses to “The Motherlode: Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Fritz & Ken’s Ale”

  1. I wonder where I can find this stuff…I like me a good stout.

  2. Also your comment about glassware got me thinking about what glasses go good with what beer. I’d like to hear your thoughts, but a quickie google search returned one good resource:

    http://beeradvocate.com/beer/101/glassware

  3. The Sierra is in a lot of good beer stores, I would suggest Beers of the World, whenever in doubt, but if you know of a store in Roch that has a decent selection closer to you, it’ll probably be there for a few weeks at least. It’s pretty hefty.

    As for glassware, I like the idea! Post forthcoming….

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