Monday, July 4, 2011

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Double IPA (Camp #29)

Happy America! I've delayed my usual monthly posting by a few days to deliver back-to-back Patriotic Holiday submissions. I'm sitting in the same seat in my backyard, once again drinking a Rogue Brewery Ale (Somer Orange Honey Ale this month) with a rack of ribs on the smoker. It's about 10 degree hotter than it was last month, but equally as relaxing as I celebrate Independence by writing non-nonsensical ramblings about beer.
The Beer:
This month I bring to you the first in a series of four submissions all from Sierra Nevada. They recently released a 12-pack containing 4 varieties of beers brewed in their (somewhat) famous "Beer Camp". I had first heard about this camp over a year ago when I attended the Beers for our Fathers event at Rustic Canyon. Anyone can apply to go, but being chosen is often reserved for those with strong ties to the craft beer community. Whether it be an up and coming homebrewer, a book author about beer and/or brewing, an employee of another brewery, or even just a lowly beer blogger ( know, just in case someone from Sierra Nevada reads this), people head to Sierra Nevada's brewery in Northern California to develop experimental and unique brews. Some are successful and help spark new ideas at the brewery while others completely fail and embarrass you in front of everyone as they laugh and point and throw things at your head. Some creations, however, are so successful that they find their way into the production and distribution lines at some point. The beers I'll be trying over the next 4 months are some of those special selections.
My first one was a Double IPA, which originated at Beer Camp #29 and has been sold under the moniker "Ghidorah". It was a thick, heavy IPA (as most doubles are) with a significant malty body to it. The usual Sierra Nevada IPA profile was there - grassy, citrusy, resinous. But it was kicked up a notch or two with incredibly strong notes of pine and hops.  I didn't have too much trouble drinking one after another (after another), but I also wouldn't drink this regularly in a bar or a home. It was good, and something that I'd have again for sure, but personally it's not the flavor profile that floors me and propels me to seek it out. But for something created in as an experiment in a beer camp, it's quite impressive.
The Buzz:
Being limited to three 12oz beers for each of these tests (4 varieties in a 12 pack only gives you 3 to drink... mathematics everybody!), I knew right away that I wouldn't be getting knock-down drunk at all. But of the 4 varieties, 3 boast 8.5% abv. This is one of the more potent brews in the pack and there was certainly a distinct alcoholic presence to the beer. As with many of my experiments, I was watching a UFC pay-per-view while drinking. And while I can typically drink a bottle of beer over the course of a 3 round fight (plus intros and replays, etc...), on this particular night each fight was ending in a 1st round knockout or submission. It was uncanny for such a thing to happen so quickly and regularly. It was also fucking with my drinking pace! Instinctively, I started drinking faster once the KO occurred. My brain was trying to finish up so that I could have a new beer for the next fight. While this bizarre Pavlovian trigger assisted in the 1st beer going down quicker than usual, the intense flavors and content of Sierra Nevada's Double IPA helped steer me back to normalcy for beers #2 & #3. Regardless, for such an intense beer with a relatively high abv, they all went down smoothly and swiftly. And that hint of drunkenness was creeping up in full-force by the time the main event started.
The Hangover:
Before going to sleep (and witnessing one of the greatest UFC events in years) I really had no clue what the next morning would bring me. On the one hand, I was pretty well buzzed after the test. On the other hand, I did only consume the minimum amount required for my testing purposes. Then again, it was a beer with a respectable alcoholic content. But it also went down rather quickly. What, oh what, was going to happen to me the next morning?!?! Well, at 7am, I awoke with the answer. A typical (although not necessarily sever) hangover. One that would not let me go back to sleep no matter how hard I tried (which, when you consider the scenario - a Sunday morning of a holiday weekend - makes this a particular bastard of a hangover!) But once I was up and around, the hangover stuck with my like most do - lingering in the background causing mild discomfort, but not really disrupting my day. It is that criteria that allows me to differentiate a normal hangover with that of an allergic one. If I can function normally, within normal parameters doing normal tasks and just feel slightly shitty, then it is what I consider a typical hangover. If, however, I feel awful and smell and look and act as though death is just around the corner...if I can not function on a level that resembles mental and physical competency, then it is in my opinion an allergic hangover. Sierra Nevada's Double IPA was a typical hangover.

The Verdict:
As I wait for my ribs to finish on the smoker, and as I polish of this Rogue Ale, I come to realize that I'm really not allergic to as many beers as I thought. I think that it isn't a matter of being allergic to certain beers or ingredients, but more so being allergic to certain breweries and brewing methods. I know that I'm horribly allergic to the "big three" breweries (that'd be Bud, Miller, & Coors). And I know that I'm allergic to anything Lagunitas Brewery makes. And I believe that after this summer and my series of "Beer Camp" tests, I'll be able to further verify or denounce that claim regarding Sierra Nevada. And then, I might have to consider changing the name of this blog to "Breweries Hate Me"...which just sounds odd.
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