Drunken Speculation

#37 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

37I think I may have undergone a lupulin shift recently. It was probably the Bridge Road Hop Harvest Ale which has done it. Since getting my first Posse delivery, after a long day, I can’t wait to get home and sink my teeth inlto some floral and refreshing hopped-up beer. That never used to happen. I used to pine for malt.

So when I bought Sierra Nevada Pale Ale after game 2 of State of Origin this year, my palate was in a different zone. I’ve been slowly working my way through the six pack and based on my observations, it’s clear that my days as a beer connoisseur are over.

Some background: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the craft beer. It what’s woke America out of it’s macro lager-induced stupor and began the craft beer movement. We’re still seeing the impacts of this truly revolutionary beer today:

In 1980, we created a beer highlighting the bold flavours of piney-citrus aromas of whole-cone Cascade hops. The quality, craftsmanship and flavours were so unique that they helped change the face of American brewing. Today, our all-natural bottle-conditioned Pale Ale is recognised worldwide as a classic.

Hard to argue with that copy. I have admitted that, in a past life, Sierra Nevada may not have been for me. Today, I can conclusively say that is not the case.

Maybe I should talk about the beer? It’s the quintessential American pale ale: clear, golden, fluffy white head. There’s a tiny bit of yeast sediment in the bottom of the glass. A hop perfume is in the air. A nice level of carbonation that lets you know that this isn’t a CAMRA-endorsed keg beer but rather an American revolutionary.

The mouthfeel and body is perfect. I can almost feel the resinous hop oil on my tongue but I’m just imagining things. The Cascade hops define this beer. It’s resinous and pine-y and if I’d ever been to northern California, I imagine this is what taking a deep breath of fresh forest air would be like. There’s bitterness but it isn’t there to intimidate you: it’s there to let you know you’re having a beer and you should probably have two.

That’s what I thought pre-shift. Now post-shift, when I tried the Pale Ale from a pilsner glass (refer photo) and a second in a lager glass – just to be sure, you see – the notes that were so descriptive before now feel empty. The beer has hops notes and bitterness but it doesn’t taste as strong nor feel as exciting as it did. Either I was very drunk when I first wrote those notes and spewed forth adjectives like a verbal geyser or I have undergone a Bridge Road-induced lupulin shift.

In any case, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is an excellent beer and a must-have for any self-respective beer geek, if for nothing other than it’s history. It is also readily available in Australia – your local big box should stock it.


  • Website
  • Genre: Pale ale
  • Regionality: Chico, California, USA
  • Strength: 5.6%
  • Rating: 2.5 / 3 taste + 2 / 2 ancillaries = 4.5 / 5
  • Plus: Beautifully hopped for the entry-level craft beer drink and the geek alike.
  • Minus: Falls flat in the face of the modern super-hopped beer.

One comment

  1. Nice post Liam. I’m with you, SierraNevada beers have always tasted about insipid to my palate, but I think that is because I had already Lupulin-shifted before I tried one.
    That said, it IS a hugely important beer; a seminal work.

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