Sierra Nevada DevESTATEtion 6.7% ABV
“Mother Nature got the best of us this year and we lost our entire estate barley harvest to strong winds and California drought. Luckily, our homegrown hops are as good as ever, so we’re honoring the memory of the barley that wasn’t by bring you this new black IPA.” –Label of the DevESTATEtion Black IPA
On April 10, 1815 the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora, in Indoniesia began. To this day it is the largest volcanic eruption in recorded human history. The huge amount of ash it projected into the atmosphere caused significant cooling over China, Europe and North America during 1816. This cooling and the loss of solar radiation caused food shortages due to crop failures in all of those areas. It was during this time that Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont, Percy and Mary Shelly vacationed in Geneva, Switzerland and endured the “Year without a summer.” It was so cold that summer in Switzerland that an ice damn formed. Due to the extreme weather conditions they were trapped in doors. An idea of a contest to see who could write the best horror story arose, as a means to stave off boredom and cabin fever. Out of this contest Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein was born.
So as with that summer almost 200 years ago, this summer with the loss of their crops Sierra Nevada decided to be creative and make their own Frankenstein of a beer. Using wet hops, they made “the evil twin brother” of their Estate Ale, producing a unique organic beer that had never before been seen. Time will tell if this becomes a one time brew that will never be seen again. With the knowledge of the interesting circumstances of its creation and its possible one time production, I start my tasting.
The beer produces a thick white head upon pouring it into a glass. The name Black IPA is most appropriate as the hue of the beer is pitch black. I’m quite surprised with this brew after my first few sips. I expect a strong hoppy flavor from Sierra Nevada beers, especially their IPA’s, but this one has a more subtle hoppiness to it. I wonder if what I taste is the difference between the Fresh Hops they normal use in their beers, and the Wet Hops they used for this one. You may be wondering, as I did, “What exactly is a Wet Hop?” According to the Sierra Nevada website “Wet Hops are un-dried hops, picked and shipped from the growing fields within 24 hours. Fresh Hops are the freshest dried hops to come from the fields, typically within seven days of harvest.”
The beer is moderate in character, neither strong nor weak. It is a more challenging beer with the citrusy aftertaste providing it’s most interesting quality. I wouldn’t call it refreshing, but could see it going well with tamales as they recommend on the website. The higher than average alcohol content creeps up on you as you drink it, and after finishing the 25.4 oz bottle you may be , as I definitely was, ready for sleep, to dream of undead monsters.
While the bottle is very appealing ascetically, with the “lemons from lemonade” artwork and explanation of its origins, and the top of the bottle dipped in black wax, the black wax is incredibly impractical. It took me a solid 15 minutes of labor with a knife and bottle opener to scrap off the wax so I could get to the bottle cap, open the bottle and finally pour the contents into a glass. After that I had a mess of wax to clean up and place in the trash.
All in all, I’m very glad I got to try this beer, if more for its unique creation and possible one of a kind nature, than the brew itself. The beer was good, but the story and idea of the beer was even better. If you are still able to find a bottle of this brew, buy it. Who knows if and when the same circumstances will arise for this beer to be made again?