Friday, November 07, 2008

The Session: My Favourite Beer

This month's Session concerns my favourite beer.

My favourite Beer is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It may be uncool to say that, as a Brit – moreover, as a northern brit, surrounded by such good ale, but it’s true. I am a certified Americophile (if that’s a word). In my teens as a wannabe writer, my heroes were Charles Bukwoski, Hunter Thompson and Norman Mailer. Musically, I mostly listen to Americana, with Iron & Wine, Ryan Adams, Calexico and Richmond Fontaine usually on standard rotation on my Ipod. I love dusty pictures of roadside motels and diners (something you just don’t get over here), and in almost all artistic aspects of my life aside from sport, America plays more of a role than the UK. I don’t know why – I’ve even never visited the place.

In much the same way, the USA informs my love of beer. Like I said above, despite being surrounded by such great beer, I always find myself leaning toward the craft scene of America for kicks. Brewers like Dogfish Head, New Belgium and Rogue seem so experimental, so different that when I visit my beer supplier I can’t help myself but load up on what’s new from the Land of Hope and Glory (TM).

Even in homebrewing, something I am becoming increasingly more immersed in, my first beer wasn’t an ESB, or a London Porter; It was a California Common – using Anchor Steam Beer as a template. I think this all stems from my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale obsession.
I remember the first time I tried it. It was chosen simply on the colour of the label and design of the logo – and that I was pig-sick of lagers, or rather, what we call lagers in the UK. Upon pouring it, I smelled the sweet, bitter tang and knew that I was on the verge of something new. But nothing could prepare me for the taste.

On the sip, a decent, malt-biscuit body subsides to reveal flavours of – at first – boiled sweets and candy to me. Sweetness subsides to that famous Hop profile – lots of citrus, lots of pine. Then comes the bitterness, just enough to leave a long, dry finish that results in a massively moreish beer. Serve it colder and it’s sparklingly thirst-quenching; serve it warmer and it’s even more complex. Perfectly balanced, you wouldn’t believe it’s actually 5.6% abv.
I still stock up on it, and it’s my ‘go-to’ beer if it’s on tap somewhere. Just to try it. Just to see how they keep it. I’m like a crack whore with SNPA – I could be faced with a thousand taps and I would choose one beer that I have not tried and one SNPA.

It’s not just me – I can honestly say I have converted more people to beer via SNPA than any other beer. Many of my convertees now lap up real ale from good, honest UK micros all having their tastebuds exploded open by the ray of Californian Sunshine that is SNPA. Sierra Nevada are no longer small, or even ‘cutting edge’ now that the rest of the US has caught them up. It may not be esoteric, ‘extreme’ or even cool in this country - But SNPA is my favourite, desert island beer. Without a doubt. For me, and I suspect many others around the world, that first sip of SNPA was the start of something special.


Anonymous said...

it's so weird to hear someone say those great things about america! maybe b/c i'm american i don't often think about these types of things (prob. the way you don't think being british is anything special). IPA is a fave of mine too. you've gotta come to america and go out west - go to chico, california and visit the sierra nevada brewery. i still wear my hooded sweatshirt that i bought there in 1995!

Leigh said...

Thanks for your support - im awaiting my inbox to be full of barrages of abuse for this one, but there you go, I like to wear my heart on my sleeve. visiting/touring the west coast is high on my list of priorities. It'll happen - one day.

Mark Dredge said...

I'm totally with you on the Americophile thing. Beer wise it's such an exciting place. Have your read the West Coast Beer Guide? It's like beer porn to me!! SNPA is a cracking beer, I still clearly remember my first pint of it!

I read your Matilda post too - I've got a bottle in-waiting and I'm looking forward to that. Also managed to get a Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island, very excited about that one!

Bionic Laura said...

No abuse here, I'm with you on this one. I love pale ales when they're done right, many of them are not. SNPA is the best in my opinion. I love american hops as well, they're slightly more upfront in taste than the english ones.

Leigh said...

SNPA just seems like such a touchstone - i just cant get away from it! Mark - yes, although I don't own it (yet) i did pick up the guide in my local borders and lost 30 minutes. It was like the X-Files. Except I was lost in a world of craft beer.

Unknown said...

Not tried the pale ales (love a good IPA over here) but on the last trip to NYC enjoyed the Brooklyn beer and the Heartland Brewery Harvest Wheat Beer.

Heather said...

Most of the reasons I love Oregon are related to how European it seems, but I am genuinely happy to hear Brits say they like Americana as much as I do.

At first I thought this post was going to be about Session Lager. :D

Leigh said...

not a problem at all heather! In fact, I saw Adams and The Cardinals last night and had to partake in Guiness - a couple of bottles of Stoudt's or SNPA would have gone down a treat!

Unknown said...

I can't find a beer better than sierra nevada pale ale. I am from colorado, and have tried many a beer. I am right there with ya.