Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Juniper Black Ale (Camp #16)

Here is the final installment of my Sierra Nevada Beer Camp series. It's a fitting time to finish this series off as summer officially ended just a few days ago. As I prepare to write this last entry for the Beer Camp beers, it dawns on me that the varieties included in this package seem to represent the four seasons. The Double IPA representing spring, the California Common the summertime beer, the Weizenbock obviously a nod to Germany & Oktoberfest, and this Juniper Black Ale a very strong reference for winter's feel and flavors.
The Beer:
I had put off drinking this beer for quite some time. Not because I didn't want it or anything, but I always felt like there were better options in my fridge. Belgian blonde's, imperial porters, coffee stouts. Beers that I hadn't ever had before and ones that I knew I loved all seemed to jump ahead of Black Juniper Ale when it came decision time. But knowing that I had this blog to write and that I was committed to completing this series, I picked a Saturday night when I had little to do and nothing to watch. I opted to take my time with these beers doing my best to deconstruct the aromas, flavors, textures, and palates. I wanted to feel like I really knew what I was doing and understand what went into this beer. I even took notes! Something I swore I'd never do for these experiments as that isn't the type of behavior one would find themselves doing while at a bar or a party. Fortunately, those notes were taken via audio recordings on my phone halfway through the 2nd beer and I was too imbibed to save them properly. So, alas, once again I am to rely only on sensory memory alone to asses this beer.
As far as taste goes, this was an excellent beer. It's a spiced beer, although I found it to be very hoppy for something without the IPA label branded on it. I imagine that came from the junipers in addition to whatever hops were added in this batch. There was also a smokey element to the beer. Not quite in the same ways that smoked porters come across, but more in a smooth malty flavor. Possibly from the dark grains added to give this beer it's black color. All in all, I very much enjoyed the taste of it. Much more so than I had anticipated. It wasn't overly sweet or bitter and despite it's impressive alcoholic content, it was very drinkable. Something I'd definitely have again, especially if I was to ever find it on tap somewhere.
The Buzz:
Where the good time-happy flavors left off, the great time-super buzz kicked in! I was fairly certain that this beer would do its job in getting me tipsy being that it clocked in at a very nice 8.5% abv. Three of these babies in one night while catching up on all sorts of TV was sure to have me ready for silliness as the night went on. Fortunately I was joined by the lovely gang of Paddy's Pub from Philadelphia. And I must say, they are one wacky bunch! By the time I was halfway through my drinking session, I was in the greatest of moods and thoroughly enjoying my couch surfing time. I was also wishing that it was later in the year and cold and rainy out. This beer would make for the perfect cool, winter night by the fire. It was warming without being burning like liquors. I also was wishing that I owned a cabin in the Pacific Northwest overlooking the cliffs of the ocean and listening to waves crash beneath me. And in that cabin I'd have mounds of fresh hardwood that I chopped myself with an axe. My dogs would be curled up on the bearskin rug by the fire as I sat in an old rocking chair stroking my beard of epic proportions. Yes, this would be a glorious life. And my only neighbor would be miles away. And his name would be Ron Swanson. And we would eat bacon together like men do. And I would share with him this beer that I so thoroughly enjoyed!
The Hangover:
Fearing the worst the next morning, I awoke to the dogs begging to be fed as usual. With a headache that seemed to start at the crown of my skull and extend all the way to my liver, it had appeared that my fears were indeed warranted. I did my best to remedy the situation with Advil and a large glass of water. However, with the severity of this headache, I didn't have too high of hopes for later in the day. Miraculously though, I awoke a few hours later feeling much better. Not completely rid of the pain that existed in my cerebral lobes, but considerably better than I was just hours earlier. After a little food and a lot of coffee, the headache had more or less dissipated. As the day went on, I certainly didn't feel 100%, but I was happy to know that the Juniper Black Ale was both excellent to drink and not overly harsh on my body. Again, this great brew came through and has me excited to discover it some time down the road in some random bar.

The Verdict:
Another great beer from Sierra Nevada. This one is as good, if not better, than the California Common that came in the same pack. Where as that one evicted thoughts, emotions, and tastes of summer, the Juniper Black Ale took me to the other side of the calendar. The other two beers in this pack (the Double IPA & Weizenbock) were both middle of the road and fairly forgettable --- not that they were bad per se, just not something I'd really seek out and/or order again. All in all, this summer series of Sierra Nevada's experimental offerings has been excellent. They are a phenominal brewery that simultaneously pushes boundaries while brewing highly recognizable craft beers. In fact, I'm drinking their Estate Homegrown Ale 2011 right now...and its A-MAZING!

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