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SAVOR 2014 Brewery Profile: Sierra Nevada Beer (@sierranevada)

By DCBeer contributor Sean Dalton

Name: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Location: Chico, CA (and Mills River, NC)

Website: http://www.sierranevada.com/

Type: Production brewery

Available in DC Market: Yes (DC, MD, and VA)

What You Need to Know: Ask any self-described beer geek what his or her gateway craft brewery was – the one that opened their eyes to a world beyond light american macro lagers – and the odds are good that they’ll answer, “Sierra Nevada.” For decades, the California brewery launched in 1980 by industry legend Ken Grossman was the alternative choice to the big boys in bars and restaurants across the country. (Don’t want a Miller Lite or a Bud Heavy? Grab a hop-forward Sierra Nevada Pale!) Sierra Nevada’s use of whole cone hops set the standard for a generation of breweries to follow, and Grossman’s homebrewer roots prompted unabashed recipe experimentation, leading to near-annual changes in the grain and hop bills of such beers as Celebration Ale and Bigfoot Barleywine. A loyal fanbase grew behind Sierra Nevada’s banner: when the brewery recently announced the retirement of its much-beloved autumnal brown, Tumbler, fans nationwide broke out the sackcloth and ashes for its eulogy. Their misery was moderated, though, by the announcement of a new East Coast brewery for Sierra Nevada — located in Mills River, NC, and expected to open this fall — which will push the company’s annual production to more than a million barrels a year. Cause for Celebration, indeed.

Beer #1: Barrel-Aged Porter w/vanilla and cocoa (American porter / 7. 8%)

In Their Own Words: Nearly impossible to find notes on this beer from Sierra Nevada itself, but the ever-reliable experts at RateBeer use adjectives like “woody, sweet, sticky, and boozy” to describe it.

Food Pairing: Classic rice pudding crowned with raisins and a crisp ginger tuile.

Our Thoughts: Makes sense – pair a bourbon-forward porter with a classic and equally robust, equally sticky dessert. Your mouth should be quite happy.

Beer #2: Snow Wit and the 7 Dwarf Hops (White India pale ale / 5.7%)

In Their Own Words: "A seven-hop lineup with a Belgian twist. You don’t need a magic mirror to see the lure of this beer. It’s brewed with seven varieties of experimental dwarf hops. These hops are so called because of their uncommon growing method—shorter hedgerows rather than tall trellis systems—that yields a denser heap of cones with unique flavors that diverge from their full-grown botanical counterparts. Each year new and different varieties are grown in this method, creating untried and exciting shifts in hop character.”

Food Pairing: Fresh chevre on a honey tuile with orange, fennel and pork cracklings.

Our Thoughts: Call ‘em cracklings, call ‘em pork rinds, just get ‘em in our mouths. The chevre and their cracklings conveyance should both harmonize very well with the Belgian yeast and the experimental hops in the beer. Sounds like the perfect pairing for a DC spring evening – maybe we can convince the Building Museum to throw open its doors and let in a bit of breeze?

This profile is a part of the DCBeer.com SAVOR Brewery Profile series. For more information, follow the link to see profiles of all 2014 SAVOR participants.

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