Welcome back! This is Part II, the final installment of Keith Ely’s trip to Sierra Nevada for their annual Beer Camp!
My favorite part of the behind the scenes tour was getting to see Quality Assurance and Sensory Analysis up close and personal, and getting the chance to step inside their shoes for an afternoon. We were given triangle tests, pictured on the left.
I have yet to take the certified Cicerone test, or a BJCP test, but I imagine it’s just like this. You are given 3 glasses, all containing the same beer. One is not like the others. We had to identify which beer was “off,” and then identify what was wrong with the beer. It was interesting to hear from the Quality Assurance department that they literally taste the water supply used for brewing everyday, to ensure its consistency. I also found it extremely interesting that their to market taste test team seemed to include people from all different areas of the brewery. According to the department, some of their best market tasters were in departments you would never expect. Just goes to show that anyone can develop an extremely discerning palate. After taking the tests, we were also given a subjective test.
For the subjective test, we were given Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from bottles, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Draught. I did not know before beer camp that these beers are slightly different beers. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on draught is slightly lower alcohol(5.0% vs. 5.8%), has slightly less hop bitterness, and the color is slightly different (if my memory serves correctly, it was a bit lighter), although both use the same malt profile and hop varieties.
According to Steve Grossman, the reason for the difference is that back when Sierra Nevada started brewing and selling their pale ale, you couldn’t have anything on tap over 5.0%, so it forced them to make a slightly different version of the legendary beer.
In the picture on the right, the beer in both growlers was the same style, but we had to pick which one we liked more. Both were Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but something was slightly different.
From there, the QA team brought out some treats for us to try:
A barrel aged Bigfoot Barleywine. We got to try this a full month before it was released publicly. Massive highlight of the trip!
Next they brought us out a bottle of this to taste:
Other random awesome things
Here we are during the tour, getting some Torpedo straight off the line. Folks, it doesn’t get any fresher than this!
We also got to see some Torpedos in action. For obvious proprietary reasons, we were not allowed to take pictures of the inside of these bad boys. However it is they do their job, they do it awesomely.
Here we are brainstorming our style and recipe with Scott Jennings, head brewer of the R & D Department at Sierra Nevada, and now head brewer of the North Carolina Brewery they are opening later this year. Steve Grossman (Ken’s brother), Sierra’s brand ambassador is right of Scott. I’d say this brainstorm turned out a success.
So, how was the beer?
Each of us from Beer camp #94 had a release party so all of our friends and fellow beer lovers could taste the beer. Mine was in February at Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood. Honestly, I think the beer turned out great. I’m biased, I know, but to be able to taste something you had a hand in creating, it really doesn’t get much better than that. I know the beer may still be on tap at select locations, but once the kegs blow through, that will be all until August. In August, Sleight of Hand, as well as Beer Camp #95’s beer, Bloodshot, an Imperial Red Ale, will be bottled and distributed at finer bottle shops throughout the country. Keep an eye out for it!