The Green Bay, Wis., Harley Owners Group hosted its annual Fest of Ale March 26 to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the festival gave me a chance to catch up on the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
To say that Sierra Nevada is one of the most influential craft brewers in the United States is an understatement. Not many beermakers in the 20th century can claim to have invented a new beer style – American pale ale – that has become so popular that hardly any brewery in the U.S. does not make one. Started in 1980, its production has taken Sierra Nevada out of the microbrewery classification. It is now second in U.S. craft beer sales behind Samuel Adams.
However, for those who only think of Sierra Nevada as the producer of aggressively hopped ales, the company has a lot more going on. Its version of the German weissbier style, Kellerweis, is a good example.
The brewery does not simply recreate the style. It incorporates its own signature characteristics into it. While the traditional yeast gives the beer its clove and banana aroma and taste, it utilizes the crisp carbonation of a Sierra Nevada pale ale to give it even more of a thirst-quenching and refreshing body than a typical weissbier.
While weissbiers are highly carbonated, they tend to be more malty and the crispness of Kellerweis tones that down a bit while still retaining malt flavor. While it has a stronger hop flavor than a typical weiss, it does not have hop bitterness, and all of this results in a beer I can't wait to try out during the hottest summer days.
Also on hand at the festival was Sierra Nevada's Glissade Golden Bock. Think of the hoppy pale ale style applied to a bock beer, but using German hops. Its body was light yet creamy, and the slightly sweet malt brought out notes of vanilla, honey and biscuits. Again, a nice beer for warm weather.
Sierra Nevada is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and its continuance of quality and versatility indicate the brewery is in good hands. Its products are generally available in every state.