We finally made it, everyone. Cold weather is here and that means firing up the heaters, holiday food, and, most importantly, dark beers. I love this time of year for many reasons; one being that I love to bundle up. You can only take so many layers of clothing off before the police are called, but you can bundle up until you look like the Michelin Tire Man if you choose to do so. Either way, you’ll be able to find me sitting on my porch in the evenings enjoying a rich, roasty stout or porter. While at the grocery store recently, I picked up a mixed 12 pack of the Sierra Nevada Snow Pack Seasonal Sampler. It had two old favorites, the Pale Ale and the Torpedo Extra Pale Ale, but there were two others in the mix that I had never had before. One was the Snow Wit White IPA that was mediocre at best, but then there was what I was really after, the Coffee Stout. I got them home, chilled them, and cracked open the first of three to see how this seasonal offering stood up to my high standards for stout beers.
First of all, let it be known that I’m not a huge fan of Sierra Nevada’s beers. I am however a fan of what they’ve done for the craft beer environment and the economic landscape of beer. If it were not for Sierra Nevada, we wouldn’t have our Good People or our Druid City beers that we all know and love. So in that aspect, I salute them. Although, I’ve only had one Sierra Nevada beer that I’ve just been crazy about and it’s only made once a year. Anyways, the beer they make is good, just not my favorite and probably never will be.
I drank this beer from a pint glass and as I poured, a thick, pitch-black body filled the glass. Topped with a smooth, frothy khaki colored head that was about two finger widths thick. The head sticks around for a long time and recedes more in the middle and makes a crown-like head of foam on top of the beer. As it dissipates though, there is a nice amount of lacing that lines the glass and sticks around very nicely. The aroma is a beautiful bouquet of coffee and roasted malts that blend together in an amazing way. There are faint notes of chocolate on the back end and a biscuit like malt rounds out the finish on the nose. The coffee was the strongest aroma I picked up with the chocolate coming in a close second. I really love the smell this beer has, because it’s everything that I enjoy in stouts. That rich, roasted malt aroma mixed with the right amount of chocolate and fresh roasted coffee is a match made in heaven.
The taste resembles the aroma slightly, but man, the coffee really shines here. When you take the first sip, you’re punched in the mouth with an extreme coffee flavor that sticks around in your mouth throughout the duration of the entire beer. Along with the coffee is an overwhelming presence of roasted malt and dark chocolate. Towards the end of each sip, you pick up on a bit of pine and citrus from the hops, and it finishes up with more of that coffee flavor and another mouthful of the roasted malts. There’s a light sweetness that gives you another depth of flavor and takes the beer to another level that you normally don’t get with Sierra Nevada beers. This is an extremely balanced beer that I honestly didn’t see coming at all.
The body is where everything kind of fell flat for me, literally. The body just isn’t there as with a lot of their other beers. You get this amazing rush of flavors and then the mouthfeel just goes limp and it almost feels like you’re drinking cold coffee. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the worst beer I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely lacking in some areas that I happen to feel are quite vital for having a great beer. Carbonation was pretty weak for the most part, so there’s that as well. There was a very dry finish to the beer that wasn’t exactly pleasing either. I don’t know, it just wasn’t hitting where I wanted it.
Overall, Sierra Nevada played it safe with a classic Sierra Nevada beer. It’s good for what it is, but it’s nothing to write home about either. I’m afraid I’m predisposed to criticizing their beers too harshly, but on the other hand, I think I just know what I’m talking about when it comes to each beer style. The aroma was awesome, the taste was awesome, but everything after that was a huge setback that I just couldn’t get over. Easily a six out of ten for me, but for me to buy it again, it would have had to register at least an eight. Oh well, there are plenty others that are worth my time and money from here on out. Better luck next time, SN.

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