Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ranking the beers from Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp Across America

The Beer Camp series first debuted in May of 2011. Since, Sierra Nevada has released a different variety pack every year, with this year's edition featuring 12 collaboration brews with some of the most notable breweries across America (hence this year's title).

Before you commit to buying this year's Beer Camp, take a look at my quick review of each of the 12 brews that are featured in the pack. I have conveniently ranked them, based on my preferences, and have assigned each a letter grade. Feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section below. Don't be shy.

Here is the list of each beer in order of my preference, from worst to first.

Myron's Walk Belgian Style Pale Ale, Allagash Brewing Co.

Yeasty aroma mixed with some banana notes. Flavor starts and finishes with yeasty characteristics. Bread and biscuit flavors followed by a strong spice presence. Clove and coriander. I find the beginning of this beer to be better than the finish. The back end of this beer is underwhelming. Dry and flat finish.
Final Grade: C-

Canfusion Rye Bock, Oskar Blues Brewery

Canfusion is one of two cans that come in the variety pack. The first sip is an initial slap-in-the-face! Rye and pepper explosion. Malt and citrus notes follow the spicy ambush, but at this point, my palate is traumatized. There's definitely a lack of balance here. Overall, this beer is all over the place. Strong rye presence, minimal malt, and mild citrus notes from the hops, this beer leaves my palate pretty canfused. See what I did there?
Final Grade: C

Tater Ridge Scottish Ale, Asheville Brewers Alliance

Deep amber hues. The nose is biscuity with hints of smoke and roasted malts. Flavor is malt-forward with those roasted flavors following. Medium body with an almost syrupy texture. Finish is dry, spicy, and medicinal. I don't really taste any sweet potatoes, which is rather disappointing. Might be similar to 7venth Sun Root Down Stout, a beer in which I didn't detect the sweet potatoes until I tried it again 6 months later.
Final Grade: C+

Electric Ray India Pale Lager, Ballast Point Brewing

I am a lager fan, and this is one of the cross-over styles that has been hit or miss for me. And more often than not, it's been a miss. Electric Ray, on the other hand, does a nice job of nailing this style. The initial flavors are pungent, earthy, and fairly intense. But the payoff comes towards the back of the palate where this India Pale Lager showcases a nice malt body that comes with being a lager. It's a bit piney with a semi-sweet caramel malt finish. Surprisingly drinkable for 8.5%.
Final Grade: B- 

Alt Route Altbier, Victory Brewing Co.

Looks and smells like a dark lager. Nose contains nutty, bready, lager aromas. The taste is grainy with burnt malt flavors (there's really not a lot of sweet notes in this one), with a hoppy bitter taste. The hops bring an earthiness to this beer which go well with the grainy flavors that precede. Looks, smells, and tastes like a lager. This is a beer I could drink plenty of. Would be great with some wings and football!
Final Grade: B

Chico King Pale Ale, 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

Nice malt aroma mixed with some herbal fragrances. The flavor is a complex balance of malt sugars (burnt sugars) and spicy yeast notes. The back end of this beer opens up into a floral bouquet of hop resin, citrus zest, and toasted malt. Dry finish.
Final Grade: B

There and Back English-Style Bitter, New Glarus Brewing Co.

Nice malt aroma to start things off. The taste follows the nose at first with caramel and toasted malt flavors, followed by an earthy hop notes that leave the a mild bitterness on the palate. The more I sipped on this, the more I could pick up some fruit flavors on the front of the palate. Not overly complex. Easy to drink. Pretty enjoyable.
Final Grade: B
Hoppy Pilsner, Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

The beer gives an immediate hop-forward intensity that is citrus and floral. A nice earthy complexity follows the floral notes, and then this torpedo disengages, leaving a light, crisp, and dry finish. Fairly clean on the palate minus a dry bitterness that lingers just a touch too long in my opinion.
Final Grade: B+
Belgian-Style Blonde Ale, Russian River Brewing Co.

Strong Belgian aromas and flavors here. Nothing shy about this beer. The taste is dominated by strong pepper and coriander on the front of the palate. I pick up banana and bubble gum...lots of bubble gum as the beer travels towards the back of the palate. Overall, this is quite nice. Light and very drinkable. And bubble gum.
Final Grade: B+
Yonder Bock Tropical Maibock, Cigar City Brewing

Great scent coming from this one! Sweet malt and fruit aromas (peaches and mango, maybe). Flavor follows the nose. Taste starts off with sweet tropical flavors that are almost candy-like on the front of the palate. This is followed by mild spiciness and citrus hops. Light, easy to drink. Dry hop finish.
Final Grade: B+

Maillard's Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale, Bell's Brewery

Nice rich chocolate malt aroma with hints of coffee. One of the more prominent aromas of any of the beers in the variety pack. The flavor is full of roasted/toasted goodness. Coffee, toffee , and bitter chocolate are easily detectable. Smooth finish with a touch of smoke. I could use a bit more substance on the body, but other than that I really enjoyed this.
Final Grade: A-

Coffee Milk Stout, Ninkasi Brewing 

Wonderful coffee aroma. I probably couldn't detect that this was beer if I smelled this blindfolded. Flavor follows with a robust dose of coffee, bitter roastiness, and sweet cream notes. Finish lingers with a heavy coffee bitterness. By far the heaviest body in the variety pack. Great milkiness, thanks to the lactose. Hints of chocolate as the beer warms. Very solid tasting beer.
Final Grade: A

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