Don't let the last dying grip of winter fool you. Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with warmer temperatures and sunshine comes the urge to break away from big and heavy beer styles such as stouts, porters and strong or spiced ales that help warm our spirits in the colder months.
It's time to bust out the brews that go down easy on a warm day after yard work, enjoying the outdoors or cooking out with company.
California's Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has earned its place as America's second largest craft brewery -- behind the Boston Beer Company -- for a reason. Founded in 1980, Sierra Nevada has decades of experience under its belt creating complex and refreshing craft beer, and is known as a pioneer to the early craft brewing movement. The company's Pale Ale is outsold by only one craft beer: Samuel Adams Boston Lager.
For this brew review, I'm digging in to Sierra Nevada's Torpedo, an Extra IPA that gets its name from the company's "Hop Torpedo" method of dry hopping, which uses a stainless steel device packed with whole-cone hops and pressure sealed. The torpedo is placed into fermenters and circulates beer through itself to control what flavors and aromas are added at this stage, without any additional bitterness.
Beer: Sierra Nevada Torpedo
Style: Extra IPA
Malt Varieties: Two-row pale, Caramel
Hop Varieties: Magnum (bittering), Magnum, Crystal and Citra (aroma/finishing)
Appearance: This beer looks pretty darn inviting at first glimpse. The clarity is amazing and its color is a nice, light amber that looks like a burst of orange sunshine. The head is small, but foamy and white, which says to me it's carbonated, but perhaps not as much as other ales.
Smell: I have to preface this section by noting that our changing weather patterns have led me to become a bit congested for the past few days. That said, I still caught plenty of citrus, herbal and very piney scents with a whiff of Torpedo. It wasn't an incredibly bold smell, but it's still very noticeable, and perhaps would come across bolder if all my senses were in order.
Taste: It's amazing how well balanced Torpedo's flavor is. It's very smooth and hoppy, but the bitterness of hops don't control the palate. The sweetness of the caramel malt really pops up front, which fades to a slightly bitter hop flavor on the back end. Torpedo is very well built. The hops flavors are a bit on the piney side more than citrusy, and a slight bitter grapefruit taste comes through as well.
Mouthfeel: Torpedo is incredibly refreshing -- very smooth for an IPA, which are increasingly becoming more and more bitter. It has a "melt-in-your-mouth" feel to it and doesn't contain a super bitter after-taste, either, making it a very drinkable take on a typically abrasive beer style. Carbonation is present, but the beer isn't super bubbly, and that's not a bad thing in this case.
Overall: This is the kind of IPA I love to drink. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the IPAs on the bitter side too, but I'm more in favor of the ones that don't wreck my sense of taste for the remainder of the night. There's plenty of hop flavor in Torpedo, but it doesn't take over the senses and is very well balanced with sweet caramel malt flavor. It's perfect for warmer weather, but be cautious -- it goes down very easy for a 7.2% ABV brew. I could easily put a few down without a struggle.
IPAs can be a pretty divisive style. Brewers are increasingly packing in as much hop bitterness as they can, which can be a turn-off for those whose palates haven't developed a full appreciation for hoppy flavors. This isn't the case for Torpedo. There's a great amount of hop flavor, but it doesn't overwhelm the tongue. If you're looking to try a hoppy beer, but are feeling uneasy or unsure where to begin, this is a great introduction to the world of IPAs.