Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Pale AlePale Ale
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Pale Ale - American
Ranked #160
Ranked #5,076
4.05 | pDev: 11.6%
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
Pale AlePale Ale
Notes: Our most popular beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a delightful interpretation of a classic style. It has a deep amber color and an exceptionally full-bodied, complex character. Generous quantities of premium Cascade hops give the Pale Ale its fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor.

38 IBU
Reviews: 3,197 | Ratings: 12,037 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by BobbyOlson:
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BobbyOlson from Michigan

4.5/5  rDev +11.1%

Feb 02, 2014
More User Reviews:
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Kendo from New York

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.

May 15, 2015
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NickTrop from Pennsylvania

4.26/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This, along with Sam Adams Boston Lager arey staple brews. I live in PA close to the DE border where I get a 12-pack of each in cans for less than $30. I appreciate IPAs, strong ales from Belgium, seasonals, stouts, etc., but these are my day-to-days.

Why? Four reasons: 1. balance, 2. quality, 3. availability, 4. price. Price has become a dirty word on beer review sites but these beers represent a great value. They're fantadtic representations of their respective styles produced in high enough volume to make them widely available at a fair price without resorting to gimmicks.

Plenty of others give descriptions of look, flavor, taste. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a high-quality brew that rivals the great beers of Germany but is uniquely American. It's just fantastic. The day I tire of SNPA is the day I tire of beer.

Dec 24, 2016
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Todd from California

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.

Sep 06, 2002
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Bsimpson91 from Georgia

5/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow! Wonderful tasty delightful ale! Exceptional in every thing.
Looks nice, I love the presentation. Looks like a classic and iconic beer. The aroma is a blast of brightness, grapefruit citrus with light hints of malt. Smells like a summer day when all the kids on the block have a fruity ice pop or snow cone. The taste is where it gets good. Wonderful top end sweetness that leads straight into those American citrusy hop notes. Grapefruit lingering around with a backbone of malt. The finish is semi dry with hop bite bitterness in the end. That semi dryness leads you to want another sip. Over the time drinking, the hops begin to build, making the beer rich and feeling very satisfied. The feel is light to medium with a bit of body. The carbonation is medium. Very smooth and easy to drink. Its a winner and a new American Classic. Credited as the Godfather of Craft beer movement. I can see why. Its damn good!

Oct 11, 2018
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Clemson_OB from South Carolina

4.66/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Nothing crazy, nothing strange or different, and no over-branding and over-promising only to under-deliver. All this beer is, is a near perfect display of simplicity and quality. With the exception of a few rotating local brews I cycle in, this is my go-to when eating dinner or just relaxing after work.

With the already abundant collection of reviews, I'd rather skip the formality and just talk about my favorite part: The hoppy, "spicy" bite at the end. To me, this truly does set this pale ale apart from others. Some are too smooth and don't have enough attitude, but this has a perfect punch. Nice smooth beginning, citrus and light hoppy notes, and then, the moment that makes you want more. A slightly dry finish into a tantalizing sightly bitter, fairly hoppy, and perfectly spicy ending. This beer likely won't hit your novelty-seeking dopaminergic threshold, but it deserves a spot in any rotation when you just want a really good beer.

Oct 13, 2018
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DarkStar75 from Texas

4.25/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Old Reliable - my standard for Pale Ales. Its just a great blend of the malt and piney hops. This was my gateway into drinking good beer after years of Miller and Coors. The flavor blew my mind...reminded me that beer should taste good! Highly recommend to anyone who's never had one. Excellent beer.

Oct 17, 2016
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california_republic from California

5/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

It's a classic that really showcases the importance that Sierra Nevada places on balance. While it has inspired countless breweries to start a hops and IBU arms race, Pale Ale is here to stay for what you go back to when you want a taste of perfection. Not only is it the benchmark for taste, but also price and availability. If service is the rent we pay for living, Pale Ale is the rent Sierra Nevada pays to the world of beer.

Nov 28, 2016
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holtonwes from Georgia

5/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Look: Poured from bottle into tulip glass. Orange gold, slightly cloudy
Smell: Citrus, piney hops
Taste. Very hop forward. The citrus and piney bitterness that I love about IPAs and pale ales, with a malty biscuity finish. Amazing
Feel: medium body, very drinkable.

Overall: this may be the perfect pale ale. I love the hop forwardness followed by the malty sweetness at the finish.

Nov 14, 2015
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Strat58cat from California

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.

Sep 18, 2015
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m_hall from Virginia

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.

May 08, 2015
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Jeffreysan from Maryland

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!

Jan 26, 2015
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ob_carr from Dominican Republic

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.

Sep 14, 2014
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rodbeermunch from Nevada

5/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Well here we go, review #1801. . . and we have our second perfect 5 score.

Comes across an amazing beauty full of dark gold, caramel and amber appearance with just under 1" of white head. Aroma smacks of old school dry hopping with Cascades. Caramel notes from the malt.

Taste, just heaven, hoppy, yet a sturdy malt bill providing caramel backbone. Hop flavor is plenty of forest, grapefruit. A delicious bitter edge remains through the entire mouthfeel. A darker citrus edge throughout. Barely sweet malt presence that is smooth while the hops provide bitterness, and an almost Magnum hop like spice edge to it.

The absolute classic American pale ale.

May 20, 2016
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unlikelyspiderperson from California

4.29/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a beautiful clear amber, thin white head and active carbonation.
Smell is malty sweet with notes of apple, pine and caramel. Very pleasantly cohesive and complex.
Taste is wonderfully crisp, piney and grassy notes lead, into a lightly caramel/rich malt body, it all tails of into a piney/citrusy hop finish. Classic for a reason, this is a taste that is hard to get sick of.
Mouthfeel is super clean, definitely a drinker. Leaves nothing but refreshment behind.
Overall this is an undisputable classic in the american beer market. For those of us deep in the modern craft scene it can seem out dated or passe but as someone deep in a stint of modern IPAs and big stouts I can testify to the refreshing, crisp delight this beer still brings. Don't be scared, it's just a classic

Dec 22, 2018
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Ant777uk from England

4.65/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Really love the bitterness of this, yet still quite light...perfect straight out the fridge.

Perfect balance of citrus, apricottness, malt and notch, love it

Oct 07, 2018
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NeroFiddled from Pennsylvania

4.36/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bright, clear golden amber in color with a 3/4" head that holds well, eventually dropping, but leaves a complete surface covering. Very nice.The aroma offers bright, fresh, floral & citrusy hops over a light maltiness. The body is medium-light with a fine, crisp carbonation. The flavor is a combination of tangy, fruity, citrusy hop flavors and a very lightly caramel & biscuit maltiness well backed by bitterness. It finishes dry with a short lingering hoppy bitterness and a bready/biscuity maltiness. Extremely well balanced. Very refined. Crisp & refreshing. Highly drinkable.

Sep 28, 2002
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logicalparadox from New York

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.

Oct 02, 2014
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29mikoyan from Illinois

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.

Apr 21, 2015
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Profundobaso from New York

3.92/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

L: Orange/amber color, generous head
S: A light but detectable smell of the cascade hops: citrus, floral, and pine
T: Initial slight bitterness followed a nice malty aftertaste. Refreshing and simple.
F: Very easy to drink. Medium-bodied and crisp.
O: There may be better APAs out there that are more complex, but this is a fine beer that can be enjoyed by both hop lovers and non-hop lovers alike.

Jan 06, 2017
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PMakowski from New Hampshire

4.17/5  rDev +3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12 oz Bottle
Looks light amber with light/moderate carbonation. Generous head is slow to dissipate, leaving a nice lacing on the glass.
Smells great - fresh malt, sweet tropical fruit, slight hop aroma. Sierra Nevada always seems to have that fresh crafted beer smell
Taste is crisp and refined. Not a massive bitterness but pine is a featured flavor. Also getting various citrus and slight pineapple. Can really tasted the malted barley on the back end. Goes very well with Italian and Mexican food. Not as complex or rich as the Torpedo IPA but that is to be expected, this is very solid for what it is designed to be, a very drinkable but tasty brew.
Grade is an A-

Jul 17, 2018
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MThomps from Florida

4.04/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

IPAs everywhere owe this beer a thank-you card. It is the gateway to the bitter, soapy world of IPA. Slightly bitter yet still a little sweet taste. Floral but not intimidating scent. Toasty color and moderate head. Pours nice into your everyday pint glass. A great overall beer and a great way to try something new if you’ve been stuck to macros.

Nov 22, 2018
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LeRose from Massachusetts

4.18/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

The bottle poured a deep golden color with a generous three finger head that fell to about a finger and hung around for a good while. Lots of stick-to-the-glass lacing.

Smell was a nice balance of resinous, floral, and citrus hops supported by a biscuity malt smell. Wonderful, the citrus was just a hint.

The taste followed along, with a bit of bitterness up front, then the hops come in with the floral, milder than expected resin, then a bit if brightness from the citrus that seems more orange or tangerine than the usual grapefruit. Well-balanced, nice malt presence that put me in mind of a pilsener. A little biscuit, a little sweet.

Medium to light on the body, drying enough to invite another sip. Carbonation in the just right zone.

Overall, this is a great beer and I believe you have to add in the value. Available just about everywhere year round and at a very reasonable price. Good take on the style, SN delivers a well-balanced, flavorful beer.

Jan 02, 2017
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PlinyMeNow from California

3/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Well. The classic pale ale, the one that started it all, I get it. Craft, yet mass produced and widely available at a good price point, I get it.
The goal posts keep moving. We have APAs hopped like IPAs, IPAs that taste like DIPAs, DIPAs made to knock you unconscious. You go back to this one and what do you get? An underwhelming amber colored ale with a faint aroma of citrusy hops and bready/grainy malt, a bitter, dry taste with some balancing sweetness, medium body, and a short slightly bitter finish.
Maybe I'm just hooked on the current trends, but for now I'm enjoying the ride. Returning to this classic is jarring. I'm glad it's around, but I won't get another one anytime soon.

Jul 13, 2017
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hopphead31415 from Virginia

3.93/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | 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 copper orange color like honey whose shade depends on the ambient lighting. Nice foamy head that results from a good pour, but make it a vigorous pour so that you can get the thick, sticky, foam resting on top.

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

T: The taste starts with the malty toasty flavor and then a mild hop character that then becomes a rush of baked golden delicious apple and a toasty grain malt base. 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: This has a crisp clean mouthfeel and a nice flavor that is quite unique with the apple notes that I didn’t notice before.

Apr 09, 2015
Pale Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 90 out of 100 with 12037 ratings