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Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Sierra Nevada Pale AleSierra Nevada Pale Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

2,863 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 2,863
Hads: 10,444
Avg: 4.05
pDev: 22.47%
Wants: 237
Gots: 2,300 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
American Pale Ale (APA) |  5.60% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: kbub6f on 07-05-2001

Generous quantities of premium Cascade hops give the Pale Ale its fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor.

37 IBU
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 2,863 | Hads: 10,444
Reviews by galluch:
Photo of galluch
5/5  rDev +23.5%

More User Reviews:
Photo of Todd
4.3/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bright, clear golden amber with a healthy looking head that settles into a lasting white lace.

Biscuit, grain and loads of spicy hops in the nose with a dose of floral / citrus. Esters. Touch of earthy leaf.

Smooth, even mouthfeel. Body is medium. Sharp, tangy, fruity, citrus bitterness starts things off ... with rind, salt and a leafy feel on the palate -- near puckering. Lightly floral and spicy. Some mineral flavours. A malty dextrin flavour hides behind the hops, acting as its backbone and providing a bit of needed balance. Hop oils cling to the palate and merge with a bready/biscuity flavour in the finish.

One of the quintessential American Pale Ales. Simply a classic among American beers.

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Photo of ob_carr
4/5  rDev -1.2%

The greatest thing about Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale is that you can find it in so many places. It's distributed wide and far and, unless you've wandered very far off the beaten path, it's usually one of the few worthy brews you'll find almost everywhere. It's a pretty amber and it's hoppy, that's apparent right away. The Cascade hops throw a strong shadow over the malted barley. A nice, mellow head adds a smoothness to the mouthfeel but the sharpness of the aroma, to me, throws the floral notes and malty finish out of balance. One is usually enough before my palate asks to move on. Unless of course there is nothing else at which point you'll see me order another and complain not! It will always be a solid, go-to APA for if/when you can't find an alternative to try at your local brewpub.

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Photo of m_hall
4.23/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pour from a 12 oz bottle into a nonic pint. Clear golden in hue, topped by a two-finger off-white head that falls slowly, leaving good lacing.

Aromas are biscuit and citrus fruits, with some pine and earthy hops.

On tasting the malts come up front, with the same biscuit promised by the nose, along with a mild sweetness and light fruity esters. Hop notes soon follow, grapefruit and spice. Finish is dry and slightly chalky (but not unpleasantly so) with just a hint of resinous aftertaste. A good choice if you want a hoppy ale if IPA's are a bit too much for you.

Body is medium, slightly chewy, with good carbonation for a bit of zest. Alcohol is just right for this to be a good anytime drinker.

One of the "grand old men," of US craft brewing (along with Anchor Steam, Stone Pale Ale, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, and a handful of others) the original American Pale Ale continues to live up to its reputation. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is solid in every respect... newer drinkers might wonder what all the genuflection is about with this one, but one has to realize that way back in the early 80's, this beer helped start a revolution in American brewcraft, along with providing a great showcase for US-grown hops from the Pacific Northwest. Every APA that's come after has followed the trail blazed here.

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Photo of Kendo
4.22/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

OK, so I've reviewed - full, written reviews - over 1250 beers and somehow never got around to reviewing the classic SNPA. Can't figure out how that ever happened, but recently I picked up a 12-pack for my father-in-law, so I know this beer is (pretty) fresh, so I'm finally sitting down to review it.

A: Poured into a pint glass - hey, a ubiquitous craft beer deserves a ubiquitous glass, amirite? The body is coppery amber in color with a 1-finger slightly-off-white foamy head on top, which is reinforced by plenty of fine bubbles. It's a nice look, and it leaves behind plenty of lacing.

S: Classic APA, with nice malt foundation of toasted bread, which is then followed up with a mild hoppiness of faint citrus.

T: I've been drinking this beer for at least 20 years now, and of course my initial impression way back when was over how hoppy it was. Now, with hundreds of IPAs under my belt, I'm surprised at how malty this beer is when compared to my recollection and my more-recent exposure to hopped-up American IPAs. It more or less follows the nose, with some sweet malt setting the table along with toasted bread. The hops follow, providing a modest lemony, citrusy flavor that balances the malt to leave a lingering lemony taste on the palate into the aftertaste.

M: Nice and creamy - more so than I remember. Call it medium in heft, carbonation is fine-bubbled and feels nice on the palate.

O: The quintessential American Pale Ale. My wife was drinking one of these the night we met - in 1994 - making it readily apparent that she had (and has) good taste.

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Photo of Jeffreysan
4.8/5  rDev +18.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

12 oz bottle, poured into a pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, clear, deep, dark, amber color with a quarter of a finger of white-colored head that completely dissolved away into an extremely thin lacing of foam that only partly covered the top of the beer.

Aroma: Nice aromas of bready, toasted malt, imparting aromas of sourdough bread, English muffins and French baguettes, followed by some floral, piney hops. I also get notes of caramel, black pepper, honeysuckle and clover.

Taste: Delicious! Strong flavors of toasted malt up front, imparting bready flavors of sourdough bread and English muffins, followed by some caramel-like sweetness, a good amount of black pepper, and a touch of coriander. The beer finishes with some beautifully balanced, piney, slightly bitter hops. Delicious!

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and nicely carbonated. With an ABV of 5.5%, there is no alcohol on the palate.

Overall: What a great, fantastic, awesome, American Pale Ale! So beautifully balanced and so delicious!

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Photo of logicalparadox
3.5/5  rDev -13.6%

I like this better than Torpedo. Less bitter. Grainy. Medium to lighter in body. A bit thin. Bitterness is mild, with a good balance of hoppy aroma.

A classic? Maybe. If you revere a beer for its history to the craft movement then, sure. Flavor-wise, I'm underwhelmed and not likely to crave this any time soon--though, it's worth another try if nothing more interesting is on tap.I can see how in an earlier age if might have made waves; nice, but it's not rocking my boat.

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Photo of 29mikoyan
3.69/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

The classic American Pale Ale! A very solid ale with beautiful malt and hop background.

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Photo of PostRockandCats
4.13/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

L: Cloudy copper with a nice soapy, white head.

S: Bit of malt followed by a nice piney, floral hop at the end. Really nice!

T: Mild and well-rounded; full of biscuity malts and light, floral hops with a tiny bit of piney resit at the end. Not much bitterness. Small amount of tangerine peel up front.

F: Light, bubbly and crisp.

O: I totally understand the hype. It's a solid, refreshing brew. There are some that turn their noses up, but I think it's grand. Very drinkable, which is a good thing sometimes!

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Photo of joyntbrewing
3.76/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

There is yeast in the bottle. Look hard at the bottom and you will find it. Impressive that they can bottle condition and leave eight yeast cells at the bottom of the bottle. This beer transcends time. Get ye some.

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Photo of MaddenDalyBrokaw
4.13/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A solid brew I've been going to for a long time. Light, clear golden amber. Substantial lace. Aromas of malt and biscuit and a wee hint of citrus. Citrusy hops are the first flavor out of the gate, followed by a medium-bodied biscuity, malty foundation mixed with well-placed hoppy bitterness, which gets handed the reins holds them for a remarkably long time after the swallow.

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Photo of do_ob
4.27/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Ah, an old favorite. 12 oz bottle into a snifter. Pours a clear amber with a 1 finger white sticky head of foam. Lots of carbonation. Dank smell with pine, spice, and citrus. Light weight, nice and crisp mouthfeel. Taste is sweet pine and citrus with notes of grapefruit and raisins. Low bitterness. A bit of malt on the back end with a piney finish.

This is one of my favorite session beers, and was one of the beers that got me into the craft scene. There's not much to say about this one that hasn't been said a million times since it's creation in 1980. If, for some reason, you haven't tried this staple beer, do yourself a favor and pick up a 6 pack.

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Photo of Strat58cat
3.31/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

This is a rough draft of a beer from a brewer that has developed into one of my favorites. Originating in 1980 as the original Sierra Nevada ale, Pale Ale notably did not conquer the world. Samuel Adams Boston Lager, in contrast, sort of did conquer the world. There's a good reason. Samuel Adams Boston Lager is a landmark beer - truly supreme to anything on the market in 1985, and to this day among the best beers available. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - despite the great marketing, awesome art on the bottle, environmentalism, and quality ingredients - is only so-so. Of course, even though it's better, it couldn't conquer Budweiser. It's not even in the same ballpark as Boston Lager. I can see what they were trying to do with it - very clearly. They've realized their vision in other offerings since Pale Ale - for example, Torpedo and Nooner. Sierra Nevada makes fantastic beers - but this world-famous, historic ale isn't one of them.

I've never liked Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that much. I didn't like it that much when it was the new thing in the 1980s. I didn't like it that much when it was an established craft beer in the 1990s. I didn't like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that much in the 2000s when it achieved ubiquity. I tried it again last night. I still don't like it that much. Look, I know it's famous. It's just so-so.

Ironically, the shortcomings of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale seem to have driven the brewery to greater and greater heights of achievement. Today, Sierra Nevada can go toe-to-toe with any brewer in the world for overall quality. They make delicious beers. In contrast, Samuel Adams has struggled even to approach, much less surpass, Boston Lager.

Sierra Nevada has a defining aesthetic. Torpedo is a terrific IPA. Nooner is a sublime pilsner. Traded-off one with the other, these two beers compliment each other and reach insane heights, since they share a common aesthetic. The initial emergence of that Sierra Nevada aesthetic in Pale Ale, however, is just a rough draft.

The look of Pale Ale is its strong suit. It's a deep amber, suggesting toasty notes from roasted malts. Like many craft beers today - but nothing like what was available in 1980 - Sierra Nevada Pale Ale froths up a tight head of white foam, and retains it. The head laces to the bottom of the glass. The color is a simple, deep amber, suggesting a simple but high-quality brew.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale has an old-school aroma. This is no IPA. The smell of hops is strong in this one, but they are blandish, dank hops. At most, there's a bare hint of pine. The aroma is very similar to Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale's taste is overwhelmingly toast. Although the hops lend the dank aroma just noted, the taste is not notably impacted. Instead, I get a bland toasty flavor. It's a simple flavor, similar to perhaps the toasty malt backbone of Lagunitas. However, unlike in Lagunitas, there's nothing else going on and it's ho-hum. To my taste buds, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale tastes like bland toast. Then, suddenly, the hops make their presence known with a dramatic hop bitterness. Bland yet suddenly and unpleasantly bitter is not what I personally look for in a beer. Objectively, SNPA is not actually that bitter. The IBU is 37, while a fellow craft landmark from 1985, Boston Lager, is 30. I immensely enjoy IPAs with IBUs more than double SNPA. A Firestone Walker pale ale - Pale 31 - is more bitter than SNPA, but it works brilliantly there. The problem in SNPA is the combination of flavors, which falls far short of delicious. The dank but unremarkable hops and bland toast don't set the stage for bitterness. As a result, SNPA's bitter flavor is unwelcome and unpleasant. A novice chef might create a dish that featured a dank aroma, a bland flavor, and then bitterness. That's pretty much what happened here . . . but wait. What's this? There's a hops note that comes in, after the bitterness. It hints of something remarkable. It hints of something terrific. Yes, that hops note has been expanded and turned into the delicious flavors of Sierra Nevada's more developed offerings, such as Torpedo and Nooner. Here, it saves the day. There's something special there after all, in the background. It's lurking behind a little too much boring dank hops aroma, and too much boring toast flavor, and too much unsupported bitterness. Yes, that special note has been turned into a symphony of spectacular flavors in later brews from Sierra Nevada. SNPA is a special beer, because it's the starting point for greatness. Put together, the flavors make for a so-so ale, but it is refreshing.

The feel of SNPA is solid. It's neither watery nor thick. Carbonation is medium as well. There's nothing amiss with the feel.

Sierra Nevada has accomplished tremendous brews. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is their first brew, but not nearly the best. It's a so-so beer that charted a course to later great beers.

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Photo of hopphead31415
3.77/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This is a standard "go-to" beer for Sierra Nevada. I really like this brewery, but this variety isn't their best. I'll discuss each aspect of the beer below.

A: It pours a pretty clear deep golden yellow whose shade depends on the ambient lighting. I was in a relatively dim room so it might be a lighter shade than I perceived. Nice foamy head that results from a good pour, but make it a vigorous pour so that you can get the little head that it has to offer.

S: The smell is nice with a toasty cracker base and hints of piney hops and mango citrus.

T: The taste starts with the malty toasty flavor and then a mild hop character that gives way into the citrus mango. It leaves a coating on the tongue that begs for another sip. It is quite delicious when chilled down real good.

F: The mouthfeel is pretty standard. Smooth crisp with carbonation that is a mild level of effervescence. Fine lacing on the glass and the head lasts until the last sip.

O: Overall, I think this is a nice beer for any day of the year, but if you want a strong hoppy beer, then move on to their Torpedo Extra IPA. The Pale Ales are good, but should be reserved for those days when you want to switch it up.

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Photo of PorterPro125
3.96/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Review taken from my notes.
August 7, 2014
Serving Type: 16 oz Draught

A- Pours a deep Golden hue but with a slight tinge of Amber that makes for a beautiful looking ale. Topped with 1 1/2 fingers of head

S- Fruity, Floral, Slight spiciness. Some citrus notes. Wonderful smelling Ale.

T- Taste is similar to the aroma in its floral and fruity characters. Slight bitterness that imparts great flavour near the finish.

M- Medium Carbonation and Medium body. Top notch drinkability.

O- One of the best Pale Ales that I've had. Extremely tasty and fragrant. I am fortunate to have had this one on tap. Unfortunately, Sierra Nevada doesn't distribute to New Brunswick :'(. I recommend this to anyone who can access it!

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Photo of MemphisSooner
4.03/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is the perfect session Pale Ale. Every other beer in this style should be judged against this beer. It is the standard of what a pale ale in America should be.

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Photo of oberon
3.65/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

It had been awhile since I had drank this beer so I had a pint the other night,pours a hazy deep orange with a pretty nice sticky head.The aroma is definently zesty hoppy and a little piney.Taste to me might be a little over the top hopwise very citruisy and dry,pretty good beer but would like a little more balance to this beer.It is a hop head classic though.

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Photo of Marty
4.67/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Nothing makes me happier to see this beer on tap next to Bud, Guinness and the like at a bar. I consider it the finest mass produced pale ale in the United States. Consistently crisp and refreshingly hopped, with great big lingering head. When I need to stock my refrigerator, in the event that I'm having company or that I just need a reasonably priced drinkin' beer on hand, this is the stuff... that is, unless Celebration Ale is in season.

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Photo of mojohawk21
4.75/5  rDev +17.3%

Photo of Gowcheco
3.52/5  rDev -13.1%

Photo of RoyalT
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance – Nice, light orange body with an OK head.

Smell – Sensuous hops aroma consistant with the style and the very slightest hint of pine tells us that this one is serious.

Taste – It tastes like a lot of different hops in there. I get a little citrus, but not quite like an orange, and a lemon without the sourness (if that makes any sense). Some hops seem to have a strong floral taste, whereas others are a little bit more crisp. This is a hop-lover’s delight.

Mouthfeel – This feels great in the mouth. The carbonation is small, of course. The brew has a consistancy that just glides along the cheeks and gums. Nice job, SN.

Drinkability – This one has it all. It’s complex yet purposeful. There is an abundance of flavors in there, yet we know right away that it’s an American Pale Ale. In fact, this one would be a great reference taste for other pale ales.

Comments – I have been very impressed with the offerings from this brewery thus far (this is my fourth SN review).

Update – I first reviewed this beer the same month that I joined the site, so I thought it would be fun to revisit it with the 2004 vintage now that I have 1,000+ reviews under my belt.

This really is an understated but incredible Pale Ale. The nose is big on the hops and very complex, but the taste is expertly balanced. It’s everything good in a mild sort of way. I think this is the most often named beer when folks ask the perennial BA question in the forum, “What’s the best beer to introduce a macro drinker to craft beers.” I’m upping my Drinkability rating from 4.0 to 5.0 while bowing in the general direction of Chico, CA.

Update – I had a few bottles of 2006 and thought it was grainier since I last remember. It is a terrific beer but just seemed so ordinary this time around. It’s a definite 4.0 across the board at this point.

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Photo of aszatk01
4.25/5  rDev +4.9%

Photo of cam477
4/5  rDev -1.2%

Photo of DanGeo
4/5  rDev -1.2%

Photo of Turbo
4/5  rDev -1.2%

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Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
91 out of 100 based on 2,863 ratings.