Happy 30th Sierra Nevada
First things first here. This is gorgeous packaging for Sierra Nevada’s first 30th Anniversary release. The champagne corked 25oz bottle wears it’s label in a very formal manner, like it’s on its way to a black tie event. Each detail conveys a sense of thought. From the borders on the label to the oversized Sierra Nevada logo, to the raised gold lettering of SIERRA it wears like a belt. Everything about this beer feels and looks special. And of course this release is special. Sierra Nevada is celebrating their 30th Anniversary, and for the celebration they are releasing a series of anniversary brews, all of which are collaborations. The first in this series of four is done in conjunction with Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing, who is considered the Godfather of Craft Brewing.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Fritz Maytag’s involvement in the craft revolution, I can give you a brief history. In 1965 Fritz Maytag purchased Anchor Brewing, which was on the verge of going out of business. At the time the purchase was made Anchor was not known for producing good beer. The beer was often sour, and infected with bacteria. He did not only clean up the brewery and make the beer clean, but totally changed how they brewed their beer. One of the things that makes him an icon in the world of craft brewing is that he was not willing to sacrifice quality for profits, and that his ideals for this quality was the most important attribute of the revitalized brewery.
Now we have it gorgeous looks and history out of the way, let’s talk about the beer. This is a stout. Which might be a little misleading to some, since it is Fritz and Ken’s Ale, and not Fritz & Ken’s Stout. But of course a stout is an ale, so I am not going to harp too long on this point. It states on the bottle that this is worthy of my finest snifter, so of course I poured this into my finest snifter. It flows from the bottle like India Ink. I can’t recall seeing a stout as inky as this. A very creamy thick head formed on top that was a light brown. The head almost had the appearance of a chocolate mousse sitting atop the beer. And it’s consistency was almost mousse like as well. It has a wonderful appearance, and still looks like it is going to a black tie event. The head seems to last forever, starting at about a 2 finger head then settling in for a while at a single finger. Very nice rings and lacing on the glass as you drink it.
There is nothing earth shattering about what you smell when you raise this glass. But for some reason it seems to have a stronger nose than many other stouts of this class. Smells of coffee, mocha, and roasted malts dominate. I have read other reviewers speaking about other scents, but the coffee and mocha smells were so overwhelming it seemed hard to smell anything else.
This beer was a lot more flavorful than I was expecting. Wow, it is a big beer. Most stouts I expect the flavors to be more reserved and subtle. This took a bunch of subtle flavors and hit you in the mouth. There is a lot of coffee and mocha flavors, just as in the nose. As the beer warmed it was easier to detect a little caramel and alcohol taste. Did I mention this was a big beer? The finish has a clear hop bitterness. I found the bitterness a little distracting here. I am thinking that this will be perfect for cellaring, as the age will help round out the finish. The other notable item about the finish, is that it lasts forever. It must have been ten or fifteen minutes after I finished the bottle, and I could still feel the taste lingering in my mouth. I also noticed as I drank this that it tasted stronger than its 9.2% ABV suggested. Which was pleasant, yet surprising.
So is this a drinkable beer? To answer that is difficult. I am glad this is a special brewing for them, and not in their regular line-up. That may sound harsh, but it is really something that is special and not something you are going to drink at a backyard BBQ. While I found it to be good, I would have trouble drinking this on a regular basis. What I would recommend for anyone that purchases this in a bottle is find a cool, dark place in your house and let it rest for 6 months or more. If you can’t wait that long, buy 2 bottles. I really believe that age will be the friend of this brew. I also think that this beer may have been too big for me. It is certainly worth a try, but be prepared.
To find out more about Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary Series, you can visit their website dedicated to the occasion here.
Sierra Nevada Fritz & Ken’s Ale
Where to find: Frisco Grille and Cantina in Columbia, MD has this listed in their On Deck Circle, so look for it there on draught soon. Finding this on tap will be an even more rare occasion than the 30 years Sierra Nevada has been around, so you might want to plan a special trip to Frisco for this. I found it at my local beer store, Total Discount Liquors in Carroll County, but finding it may be hit or miss. Most stores should let you special order items, so ask them to see if they can get this if they don’t have it already.
** UPDATE **
As of 4pm on April 12th, this has gone on tap at Frisco Grille! Get it while you can.