4.6AROMA 9/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 9/10 PALATE 5/5 OVERALL 18/20
Is it possible for a brewery to underestimate their popularity or reputation or their own craftsmanship? I’m sure the folks at Sierra Nevada know how well respected they are among the beer geeks of the world, and even the Joe and Jane Six Packs for that matter. However, I can’t help but think they might have sold themselves short when they launched their Torpedo Extra IPA earlier in 2009.
This is a beer that has been so well-received it’s extremely difficult to find in most beer stores. Even my beer store, which boasts over 1,100 beers from around the globe, is not able to acquire more than two cases per week. After finally getting my hands on some I can see why. This is a beer that could seriously contend for the title of the best American India Pale Ale.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
This beer pours to a clear shade of copper, like a newly-minted penny. There is some carbonation noticeable but the bubbles rise very slowly. I didn’t notice any sediment, although other beer drinkers have reportedly encountered some. The head is a perfectly-proportioned, off-white, thick foamy layer which lasts throughout the course of the drink and leaves generous lacing on the glass from top to bottom.
The aroma is a very enticing scent of pine and citrus. I notice some orange, specifically, but otherwise I detect a general sweetness to the nose.
When I think of a perfect IPA, a palate such as Torpedo Extra IPA is exactly what I have in mind. It’s a great hybrid of East and West Coast styles. I find Western IPAs tend to have a resin-like, very piney component to their flavor and are more sweet and dry, whereas beers of the Eastern variety are more citrus-flavored, tart and crisp. Somehow this beer manages to contain elements of both (although I’d say it leans a little towards the west).
There is a strong hop presence to be tasted here with a very bitter back end. In fact, the finish might be just a bit too dry for some, but I enjoyed it. The initial taste is sweet with notes of resin – giving the beer a sticky palate (literally). It doesn’t quite crackle like a more tart beer would, but the sweetness itself is extremely satisfying and very inviting. It’s actually rather tangy, maybe even a little watery, but it’s ultimately pleasing to the palate and that’s what matters most, right?
The problem with promoting a beer as being very bitter is it can turn off the novice beer drinker. That’s a shame because very bitter beers are actually some of the easiest to drink and I’d say that’s certainly true of Torpedo. The mouthfeel is only a little thicker than your average brew, but it’s soft and gentle on the palate and finishes mostly clean. The aftertaste, although mild, is indeed bitter, but it’s also hoppy like the palate itself and I have no problem with that.
I inititally thought this beer was an imperial style, but at 7.2% ABV, Sierra Nevada’s “Extra IPA” lives up to its name perfectly. It’s a little bit heavier than average, but not quite as obese as the really big boys. The alcohol is masked extremely well in both the flavor and the weight as the beer does not overwhelm or fill you up easily. It’s rare a beer of this high ABV could work so well as a session drink.
They say good things come to those who wait, and on that note I’d say Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA definitely did not disappoint. It’s everything I look for in a great IPA and it has a lot of unique qualities to it as well. If this could become as popular as Sierra Nevada’s flagship Pale Ale there could be a new wave of hop appreciation sweeping the country!