dsc01599So I’ve been waiting for this one to hit the Twin Cities market for quite some time.

I ran across a note on MNBeer.com that Sierra Nevada’s new year-round offering Torpedo Extra IPA was coming to a select handful of local craft beer stores on Tuesday, including my favorite The Four Firkins. I emailed Alvey late that morning to see if they’d already been picked clean, but he received more than a dozen cases worth and didn’t anticipate running out. So after work, I swung in and got myself a six pack…and might I add a very reasonably priced six pack considering this is such a high quality beer.

As I’ve mentioned a handful of times previously on this blog, Sierra Nevada — while of course highly deserving of the respect they’ve earned as one of the pioneers of the U.S. craft beer industry — has generally underwhelmed me with most of their stuff. And underwhelmed might not even be the right descriptor. How about failed to blow me away…predictably and safely impressed. Their Pale Ale is a very good beer…clean, bright and full of Cascade hops. As one of the first beers of its kind back in the early 1980’s, I can only imagine what folks must have thought of it. Original, innovative, groundbreaking. But compared to what’s coming out today from folks like DFH, Surly, Three Floyds and many others, Sierra Nevada has generally stayed the course with their archetypal ales.     

So enter Torpedo Extra IPA, their first new year-round beer in more than a decade. And for me, quite possibly the beer that nudges Sierra Nevada back into the “innovator” category. They call it an extra IPA, which seems pretty accurate considering it’s somewhere in the middle of the IPA spectrum…slightly more aggressive than your standard IPA from an IBU and ABV perspective, but yet not quite bold enough to call a DIPA. According to the company’s press release, the name derives from a device the brewers invented called a “hop torpedo” that acts like an industrial espresso machine…forcing beer in the fermentation vessel through a filter containing whole hop cones. The result is the clean extraction of hop oils and resins without the grassy bitterness that often can occur when using traditional dry hopping techniques.

Torpedo Extra IPA poured with a nice two finger head, off-white tightly knit bubbles. Really nice aroma, they use a handful of hop varieties in this one and you get a complex and layered nose of citrus and spice. Coloring is also excellent, beautiful golden amber, and holding it up to light it even came off with the faintest shade of burnt sienna. Interesting. 

From the first sip, you get a bitter blast of 80 IBUs that roll off the sides of the tongue. I hate to use the word, but it was really reminiscent of grapefruit. Nicely intense and well-balanced with a solid malt backbone that masks the 7.2% ABV. I wouldn’t go so far as session, but I can easily see hanging out with a few of these in the back yard on a hot Saturday afternoon. Or, as is my current situation, a bitter cold Minnesota evening huddled for warmth in my basement family room.

Rating: A-