Sierra Nevada Pale Ale | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

3,007 Reviews
Sierra Nevada Pale AleSierra Nevada Pale Ale

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: American Pale Ale (APA)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.60%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Generous quantities of premium Cascade hops give the Pale Ale its fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor.

37 IBU

Added by kbub6f on 07-05-2001

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Reviews: 3,007 | Ratings: 11,186
Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
3.23/5  rDev -20.2%

My first offering from Sierra Nevada.

Serving style : 12 oz stubbie poured into coke glass

Appearance (4) : The foam is like 4 fingers, dood. The body is slowly pushing up and eating the off-white foam. Said body is mostly transparent and honey-blonde colored. Lacing remains all the way down.

Smell (3.5) : Grass, rolling fields, plenty of hops. Reminds me of growing up near the Black Hills with the tall grass in the ditches and the smell of summer growth. Very grassy, very green. In fact that's about it. Grass and hops. Simple, but elegant.

Taste (3.25) : Lemony, bitter. A bit like chewing cud, some slight sorghum. Easy drinking. I'm just not a huge fan of bitter beers. This beer is a tad too bitter for the Pale Ale category. It's pushing the envelope for me but still passively enjoyable. Better than other pales I've tried. I can tell the hops are pretty fresh and man those female notes sing. Bittery and buttery.

Mouthfeel (3.5) : Very creamy and caramel-like. The carbonation is balanced so well. A smooth bitter pale ale.

Overall (3.23) : This is a refreshing beer, if a little too hoppy for its style. As I said I am not a fan of bitters and this pushes the envelope just a little too far for me, but it has a decent fresh, grassy flavor. I would not buy this again, it is too bitter for me. That's not to say it's a bad beer. I can review a beer on its good merits even if I don't agree with them. This is a good beer if you don't mind a little buttery bitterness in your brew.

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Photo of thedoubler55
3.23/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: A nice golden hue, with a nice head at the top, barely any lacing.

S: Citrus and lemon notes, with caramel and nice presence of hops.

T: A crisp lemon and citrus taste, with hints of caramel and nice hop notes.

M: Medium bodied, mid carbonation, smooth and refreshing.

O: A simple brew that taste good.

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Photo of Exner83
3.23/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A crystal-clear, golden color with a subtle flowery smell. Above-average activity with a solid head and light lacing.

The taste is an estery, acidic fruitiness--lightly oily with a remarkable bite. This is a pungent, hop-favored brew. A stinging, slick finish caps off the quaff.

I'd prefer more malt balance. This brew's one note short of a chord: A little more hop-to-malt harmony, and I'd be dancing.

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Photo of RenoZymurgist
3.24/5  rDev -20%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Thick white head subsides at a medium pace. Nice amber color with adequate carbonation. The hops are very prevalent and this is refreshing for a pale ale. Aroma of citrussy hops with a hint of sweet malt. Mouthfeel is a bit light but good for a pale ale. the carbonation bits enough to let the hops ring through the maltiness. Overall a brew i would be happy to drink again.

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Photo of indy169
3.25/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

There was a time when this beer was one of my favorites. I thought it had great body, plenty of hops, and wonderful drinkability.
Not the case any more. What happened to this once great brew?
Appearance is still fine, deep golden color, respectable head with fair lacing. Smell of hops is much fainter than I remember, with no discernable direction. Taste is nothing special. Malty, but not too much & not too fresh tasting. Hops have no cajones. This is SN's #1 brand & it is simply average. Now, I don't know if the offerings from DogfishHead & Bell's have raised the bar beyond the reach of SN Pale Ale, or if SN changed it on us, but it does not seem nearly as special as it once did. I still love the Celebration Ale from SN.

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Photo of packetknife
3.25/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I grabbed this with huge expectations. I heard all this wonderful stuff but I was sorely dissapointed. It doesn't have a lot of character. It's rather run-of-the-mill. The exception being it didn't leave any aftertaste so it was readily drinkable with a meal. I feel like I should be at a farm when I have any pale.

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Photo of aleigator
3.25/5  rDev -19.8%

Nice white head, with an amber orange color.

Pleasant orange, grapefruit, pineapple and water melon aromas, perfect matching to the color of the beer.

A hoppy freshness in it, grassy and lime undertones. Floral hop aromas of orange, lime and grapefruits, followed by a decent, slightly underwhelming bitterness. Malt character is present but gently hiding behind the hops, adding a necessary body to the beer. Watery ending with only small hints of hops, which lingers long on the tongue. Carbonation adding a freshness to the beer, without being too present, well balanced. This ale does deliver as being an every-day IPA, without trying to offend in any way, by being to extreme on any of its ingredients.

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Photo of Dadoftwogirls
3.27/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Had in bottle, and maybe it's just me, but it was much more bitter than I expected. The bite didn't seem to be as balanced as others here have mentioned. I tried three to be sure but on my palate it was less than satisfactory. Pours great, looks great, but reminds me too much of Heineken. Maybe I got a bad batch? Would try again or maybe I can find it on draft to be sure.

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Photo of daliandragon
3.28/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Enjoyed this today at Traxx bar in Penn Station after a day of hanging out in the city and watching my girlfriend run the NYC marathon. We had a few minutes before catching the train back to suburbia and her brother was buying so I figured I'd give this original microbrewer a shot.
This pale ale features an attractive golden/copper color and only a trace of head. The nose is very mild, with hints of hops and a fresh characteristic but mostly a mystery.
The flavor is full bodied and rolls nicely across the tongue. It's not bad at all but not very special either. It's hoppy and crisp and tasty but still tastes somewhat generic. The taste is also marred by far too much carbonation in the mouthfeel.
This is not a bad beer, but for the price and the brewer's reputation I'd like to see a more individual taste. I hate to to mention it but I wonder if Sierra Nevada is still at the top of their game..

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Photo of oldirtycaffrey
3.28/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Was pleasantly surprised to see this on-tap at Union Hall in Brooklyn. The appearance is a dark amber with a foamy, off-white head. Fair amount of lacing on the glass. Not really much to the smell besides the hint of hops; the taste was slighly malty and a bit bitter. Pale ales are not my favorite, but this one was enjoyable. Not sure if I'd want to drink more than one or two of these at one time, but it is an enjoyable brew if you are a fan of the bitter ones.

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Photo of AlexJ
3.28/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is another one of those beers we've all had a million times, but never think of reviewing. I rarely even order it anymore, I guess I had my fill of it in college.

It pours out a clear, pale amber color with a medium sized head of off white that had medium retention and laces nicely.

The aroma is kind of sweet and doughy, not really as I remember it. There's a slight undertone of floral and piney hops. I think perhaps this is an old keg, or from unclean tap lines.

The flavor is very similar to the nose. Bready malts and rather bland, unpronounced hop flavors. I know that this beer is better than this, it must be an old keg.

The body is light to medium with moderate carbonation and a muted floral hop finish.

I remember there was a time when the sight of the green SNPA tap handle at a pub was enough to excite me, I guess those days are long past. I'll choose to remember this beer from past experiences, which were always good. This is one of the beers that has lead us ALL down the path of beer rightiousness. Although our palates have grown, we should all give this beer it's due and proper.

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Photo of Sosh
3.28/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Finishing this beer as I type this. It poured into my glass a golden orangish color, with considerable head and a decent lace. I've seen this beer hyped up on this website and finally bought a six pack. This first beer I really enjoyed, but maybe it was all mental due to the hype. After finishing the 6 pack, I'm really not all that impressed. This plenty other beers I would buy over this. Although, I am interested in the other offerings Sierra Nevada has to offer.

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Photo of craytonic
3.28/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On-tap and bottled

Appearance: Pale straw-yellow with a beautiful chill haze, decent lacing all the way down

Smell: Bitter hops, citrus, and grain

Taste: Bitter hops with a touch of bready malts and minerals. Not a good hoppy bitterness but a different, harsh bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Could use more malt.

Drinkability: A tad on the bitter side for me, not sure why as it doesn't seem to be the hops.

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Photo of Pinto21
3.28/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured an amber color with little off white head.
The carbonation was a little less than expected
Smelled of caramel and slight citrus.
Slight citrus taste along with a bit of malt, malty as it goes down.
This ale has a good feel to it and is a nice way to start a dreary evening. It's not the greatest, but its not bad in anyway. More of just lacking the "wow" quality.

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Photo of Doomcifer
3.29/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Pours a crystal-clear golden, liquid gold, with a beaty of a creamy white head that retains very well.

Aroma is of pale malts, hop spiciness, hay, grains, very earthy.

Taste is of light malts and hops. Very smooth and crisp.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated.

Extremely drinkable. As said, very smooth and extra crisp. Great summer day beer.

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Photo of cokes
3.29/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Obviously, an archetype for most APA's.
Pours a yeast-filled golden amber. Thinnish white head with some stick.
Nose is inviting with floral and citric notes. Malt is noticed with some faintly carmel/bready aromas.
Hops jump forward in the taste dept. But not in a huge way. Maltiness provides some support by adding bready and biscuity hues along with some faint nondescript sweetness. Yeast pops ups here and there with some unwelcome mustiness.
Decent in the mouth. Creamy, and smooth. Medium bodied.
A good standby, as it is available almost everywhere. But there are much better APAs out there.

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Photo of cooter
3.29/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a macro-like yellow. Head appears creamy and very light. Carbonation light to none. Above average but not spectacular lacing.

Mouthfeel is sticky, hoppy, somewhat sugary, but very metallic and granular near the end. I've never gotten that from this beer before, and I've had a few in my day. Somewhat rice-y in front, but smooth.

Taste includes bitterness, a hint of hops, grapefruit, and some of both green apple and melon. Pungent kick near the end of each swallow of alcohol. Rather nice but needs either mellowing or less light when stored.

This beer is all over the place today. Creamy but grainy, flavorful but plain, smooth but cloying. Maybe this is a bad one, but there's some saving grace due to it being a style that can handle adversity--it does.

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Photo of Tropicalslip
3.29/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A) Nice golden color, small consistent stream of bubbles.

S) Very mild orange citrus aroma

T) Mild taste, consitent, without a bite, mild lingering bitter.

M) The body is right for a pale ale clean, mild, refreshing, bubbles not overly busy or persitent, allow big sips.

To me a stronger presence than Traditional English Pale Ales, so as a representation of the style I like it. The body fits, but the flavor leaves me wanting more depth, drinkable, but not overly enthused about the next mouthful.

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Photo of jhchan
3.3/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Ontap at United Airlines lounge at SFO Terminal 3
appearance - beautiful golden brown
Smell - pleasant citrus smell
taste - grapefruit, not much hops
mouthfeel - sits on your tongue
overall - if you like grapefruit, you'll love this. Overall I'm not a fan because there isn't much hops. (personal preference)

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Photo of champ103
3.3/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a deep amber orange color. A small white head forms and leaves little lace.
S: Floral hops and grapefruit. Some citrus and piney aroma as well.
T: Bitter grapefruit up front. Some floral hops and citrus fruit again. Not a lot of malt for balance.
M/D: A medium body that has a crisp snap on the tongue. A nice creaminess follows. For me, the bitterness takes away from the drinkability. Not something I want to session.

I do enjoy this beer, I just think it is over rated a bit. Lots of bitter grapefruit and not much malt balance. If that is your thing, then its all good. Its not mine. Though I would not hesitate to drink this as a fall back when nothing else good was around.

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Photo of jujubeast6000
3.3/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed 8/20/2008 (Draft @ Sherlock's, Bay Area, Houston, TX):

Pours a reddish, golden body. Whitish head, good lacing but not very lasting, and small. Hoppy malty aromaj some gaapefruit. Somewhat bitter on the front, malty on the aftertaste. Not very nutty Flattish. Okay, not as tasty or hoppy as the bottle.

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Photo of 7thInningSuds
3.3/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Looks good

S - Smells good

T - Okay. Hop presence is definitely there, but not overly so.

M - Okay.

D - Not something I'll have every day, but the not bad for a pale ale. Wanted to try this since it got such a high average review on here, but not a beer I'll keep stocked in the beer fridge.

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Photo of TSJ4000
3.31/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Overall this beer had a lot of pop to it. It was kinda fizzy to me but it had a good hoppiness to it and it was a little less pale than other "pale" ales. I'm not sure if I could drink a lot of these but I think it's damn good beer. Maybe if the taste wasn't as strong on the hops I'd like it better.

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Photo of fscottkey
3.31/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: [4.00] Looks like a Pale Ale should. Nice muted golden color. Forms 1 finger of white head. The head is tiny and tight on the sides but more fluffy and bubbly on top. The bottle lists the ABV (5.6%) and the packaged date 11/12/14.

S: [3.00] Mild malt smells. Nothing very prominent in the nose.

T: [3.25] The flavor is very neutral. A very mild bitter up front then a slight malt finish.

M: [3.50] Carbonation and mouth feel are right for the style.

O: [3.50] This is a beer you could transition someone from BMC to craft with. It has a mild taste but is slightly more complex with a little more bitter bite than a standard AAL. Most of the Sierra Nevada stuff I try I really love. This I only like. I just feel the beer is too neutral - no risks. No malty backbone. Barely above BMC.

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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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Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.05 out of 5 based on 11,186 ratings.
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