Craft Beer: There's much more to Sierra Nevada than pale ale

Tropical Torpedo IPA is one of the beers named in honour of Sierra Nevada's one-of-a-kind hop torpedo, developed to harness hops' essential oils and resins
Paul McConville

IN AMERICA, craft beer, like rap music and voting Democrat, is mostly a coastal thing. The hip hop scene was once dominated by an east-west rivalry and in many ways beer styles in the US are very much characterised by which ocean laps against your shores.

So, recently we've seen the rise of the New England IPAs (OK, I know they're not all made in the shade of the fall foliage) but the west coast is still knocking out some exciting brews.

Sierra Nevada is perhaps California's best known independent brewer, but their availability on these shores tends to be restricted to their famous pale ale.

However, a search around some independent off-licences or a quick click on an online beer store can uncover a few more interesting ales from America's Pacific coast. Although they are one of the standard bearers of the craft movement, they are also one of the most experimental brewers around.

They take great pride in their one-of-a-kind hop torpedo which is a cylindrical stainless steel vessel that was developed to harness the essential oils and resins in hops by recirculating hops and applying pressure during the dry hopping process, that is when hops are added during fementation.

They want you to know about this method so much that they've named a few beers after it, including their Tropical Torpedo IPA.

It is a pretty juicy number, as the name suggests, with flavours of mango, peach and papaya. There's a soft bitterness to it, not too biting but quite refreshing. It would go down well with a spicy curry or Mexican food.

Another method of getting the best out their fresh hops is showcased in Sierra Nevada's Hop Hunter IPA, which is brewed with distilled hop oils (yeah, that's a thing).

In the words of that shampoo advert, here comes the science bit: the freshly picked hops are steam distilled even before they've left the field and the resulting oil is boiled up in the kettle with whole-cone hops.

The result is supposed to be a more intense hop flavour and that certainly comes across. It's piney and citrusy. It's the sort of beer you'd need to drink about two seconds after it's been bottled, but I'd say not many of us could get to California that quickly. But, freshness is important with beers like this, so don't buy a bottle and squirrel it away. Crack it open and try it with a bit of strong blue cheese.

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