Tag Archives: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Kickback’s Says Farewell to Beer Dinners for a While with Sierra Nevada

In Jacksonville, Kickback’s is synonymous with great beer. With 84 taps an owner and staff passionate about beer and crowds of fans, how could it be anything else? So, when you are looking for a great beer dinner Kickback’s is the place to go. The most recent dinner hosted at this northeast Florida beer mecca was last Monday and featured the beers of the granddaddy of all craft breweries, Sierra Nevada.

As the crowd filtered in, it was apparent that this would be a dinner to remember. The place mats listed the eight food courses to be served as well as the 27 – yes, you read the right – beers to be featured throughout the evening. Among the beers to be tasted were several that have never before been available in Jacksonville along with brews created by budding brewers at Sierra Nevada’s beer education program called Beer Camp.

In between courses Sierra Nevada brewery representatives Dave Kemper and Tom Blanch spoke regarding the beers and the brewery. Kickback’s owner Steve Flores also entertained the crowd with information on his expansion plans. The project, set to break-ground in May of 2012, is to include a new restaurant next door to the existing one, a Belgian beer cellar, storage catacombs, another 100 plus taps and a new menu.

As always, the beer dinner started out with an interesting Reception offering. This time it was Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale. But, while the brew is always special, the offering at the dinner was even more exciting since it was a cask ale. In the tasting glass the brew is an orange-gold in color with a nose that is full of pine and a touch of citrus. Being a cask, the carbonation was low but the flavor still stood tall with a solid malt backbone to greet the bright and herbaceous fresh hop notes. This is a delicious and wonderful winter seasonal that would be perfect for sipping on a cold winter evening curled up in front of a fireplace full of crackling logs.

The first course, parsnip puree presented in a hollowed out Granny Smith apple bowl with prosciutto and spiced pumpkin seeds, was served with Celebration 2011 and 2009. The contrasts between the beers and the dish really brought out the difference in the brews as the older version of Celebration was considerably more mellow, but still with a well-rounded, classic flavor.

Between courses, the first Intermezzo offering was one of my favorites; Kellerweis Hefeweizen. Back in April, I wrote about this beer after tasting it at a different beer dinner. I said:

“Kellerweis is unique in that it is brewed in the traditional Bavarian style of open fermentation – meaning that instead of being sealed the fermentation tanks are open at the top. This technique imparts depth and flavor in the beer not found in many American wheats. The brew pours a hazy yellow with a good frothy head and smells of clove and banana. The taste is citrusy, as are most wheats, but this one also had a touch of apple to me.”

My assessment still holds true. This is a refreshing brew that I would merrily drink all day long or until I could no longer see straight. A truly wonderful brew.

The second course consisted of beer braised pork belly with chestnut parmentier, roasted brussels sprout salad and blood orange sections. This amazing dish was served with the equally amazing Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale and Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale. Both beers were wonderful and tasty as a wet hop beer normally is, but these two brews are special in several ways. Northern Hemisphere is the beer that started the annual wet hop craze in North America. It is brewed with Cascade and Centennial hops from the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. These hops are harvested and shipped as “wet,” un-dried hops—the same day they are picked—to the brewery in Chico where brewers eagerly wait to get them into the brew kettle while their oils and resins are still at their peak. The Estate Homegrown Ale is created with hops grown in Sierra Nevada’s own lands.

The next Intermezzo offering consisted of two brews created in conjunction with Cistercian Abbey of New Clairvaux, to benefit the monks’ efforts to rebuild a 12th century, early-gothic Cistercian chapter house a few miles north of Sierra Nevada’s home in Chico. Ovila Abbey Saison and Ovila Abbey Dubbel are excellent Belgian-style brews that never fail to delight me. I can hardly wait to taste the Quad which should be arriving on shelves anytime now.

The next course was roasted lamb croustades with Cyprus Grove Humbolt Fog and finished with cranberry-red onion marmalade over fresh greens tossed with Imperial Porter reduction. This amazing dish – one of my favorites of the evening – was served with a beer from Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp program that was created in part by Steve Flores called Brewer’s Blackbird IPA and 2009 Imperial Smoked Porter.

As is the case at all beer dinners at Kickback’s, the beer and dishes kept coming. In the interest of space, I am going to list the remaining beers and dishes with a minimum of comment.

Intermezzo Three

Draught Style Pale Ale and Torpedo Extra IPA

Course Four

Turduken lasagna, featuring layers of roast turkey breast with a blend of mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan cheeses; roast duck breast with boursin, and roast chicken breast with three chees blend all separated by layers of sweet potatoes.

30th Anniversary Jack & Ken’s Ale

Best of Beer Camp: Double IPA, Beer Camp #29

Intermezzo Four

Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale

Course Five

Flap steak marinated in Sierra Nevada’s 2009 Imperial Smoked Porter married with grilled pears and gorgonzola atop a bed of mixed greens dressed with strawberry balsamic.

Best of Beer Camp: California Common, Beer Camp #8

FOAM Pilsner

Intermezzo Five

Best of Beer Camp: Juniper Black Ale, Beer Camp #16

Hellraiser Chocolate Chili Imperial Stout

A quick note here, this beer was one of my favorites. The chocolate was upfront and creamy while the chili heat waited for a few seconds to tingle your tongue.

Course Six

Dark meat chicken drumette stuffed with roasted pumpkin, served with Andouille sausage, served with fresh herbed green beans and topped with apple-cranberry relish.

30th Anniversary Charlie, Fren and Ken’s Bock

Best of Beer Camp: Weizenbock, Beer Camp #37

Intermezzo Six

Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale

30th Anniversary Our Brewer’s Reserve Grand Cru

Course Seven

Chocolate Stout cupcakes with chocolate ganache and topped with Irish cream frosting.

30th Anniversary Fritz and Ken’s Ale

Snowed-In Imperial Oatmeal Stout , Beer Camp #45

The final beer of the evening is the second iteration of collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head. Life and Limb 2 is a wonderful mix of yeast strains from both breweries, maple syrup, and birch syrup. The result is a beer that defies style categorization, but plays well on your palate.

During one of his speeches, Steve mentioned that the Sierra Nevada dinner would be the last beer dinner at Kickback’s until the expansion project is completed. This was met with some disappointment. But, in my estimation, if this had to be the last, the beer dinner program at Kickback’s goes into hiatus in grand style.

Sierra Nevada has been producing quality beers for over 30 years. They have been and remain at the forefront of the craft brew revolution and constantly surprise with brews that challenge and please beer lovers everywhere. It was fitting that they played the starring role in Kickbacks’ final dinner. I look forward to the next time I run into the great folks at Sierra Nevada – perhaps at Beer Camp.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom


Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Beer, Beer Dinner, Restaurant


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Heading for the Mountains – The Sierra Nevada Mountains

A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I had the opportunity to attend a truly wonderful beer event. The event, a beer pairing dinner with Sierra Nevada beers and Publix’s Aprons Cooking School in Mandarin showcased the great brews of Sierra Nevada and the cooking talents of the chefs at Aprons. In all, five courses were offered, each paired with a different brew from the Chico, CA brewery.

Before each course Terrence Sullivan, assistant brewmaster and field educator for Sierra Nevada spoke about the brewery and the specific beer paired with the course. Terry studied at the University of California at Davis were he obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1994. While going to school, he worked for Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley for two years, and later worked for Golden Pacific Brewing Company in Emeryville.  In May of 1994 he joined Sierra Nevada as a shift brewer. In 1997 he was promoted to Cellar Manager when the brewery expanded. Recently, Terry was promoted to Field Educator, working closely with the brewery’s marketing department. In this new role, his technical brewing knowledge is an asset while working with consumers and wholesalers to educate them about the Sierra Nevada brewing process. His insights were witty, succinct, and very informative.

As is the case with many great breweries, Sierra Nevada had humble beginnings and rose from the founder’s love of exceptionally good beer. Back in 1976 Ken Grossman, a recent chemistry and physics graduate of Butte Community College and California State University at Chico opened a brewing supply store called The Home Brew Shop in Chico. He supplied the local home-brewing community with equipment, materials, and advice, but dreamed of opening his own brewery.

Soon his dream became a reality when he and co-founder Paul Camusi assembled – just two years after Ken opened his brewing store — a brewery from second-hand dairy tanks, a soft-drink bottler, and equipment salvaged from defunct breweries. They used only premium ingredients and, as would become their brew’s signature flavor, large amounts of hops. The result was a stunningly good pale ale first produced in 1980 from a brewery named after the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. The rest is brewing history right out of a fairy tale (one that involves beer instead of princesses, of course).

Demand for Sierra Nevada products grew rapidly and by 1989, Ken was looking for a new site for his operation. He traveled to Germany to look for a brew house and found a traditional copper, 100-barrel house which he immediately bought and brought back to California, piece by piece. This met demand for a while, but the brewery soon needed to expand again. In 1997, Ken commissioned the original coppersmiths to match new kettles to the originals, bringing the brewery’s total capacity to almost eight hundred thousand barrels per year.

Today Sierra Nevada is revered world-over as a pioneer in highly-hopped, premium quality beers. They were at the fore-front of the craft beer revolution and are poised for even greater things in the near future. The company also maintains an environmentally conscious attitude through its recycling, composting, solar energy (they have one of the largest solar cell arrays in the country), heat recovery, and CO2 recovery programs.

The Courses and the Beers

First Course – Huevos Rancheros paired with Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Normally considered a breakfast dish, this version of huevos rancheros fit in nicely as an appetizer course for the tasting. The enticing mixture of egg, chorizo sausage, refried beans, cheese, and spicy salsa roja all piled on a fried corn tortilla was a welcome treat to begin our epicurean journey. Paired with the refreshing Kellerweis wheat beer this tasty treat was a perfect starter.

Kellerweis is unique in that it is brewed in the traditional Bavarian style of open fermentation – meaning that instead of being sealed the fermentation tanks are open at the top. This technique imparts depth and flavor in the beer not found in many American wheats. The brew pours a hazy yellow with a good frothy head and smells of clove and banana. The taste is citrusy, as are most wheats, but this one also had a touch of apple to me. It was a perfect match for the spicy strong flavors of the dish.

Second Course – Handmade Sauerkraut Pierogies paired with Sierra Nevada Glissade Golden Bock

Though I am of Bavarian decent, I have never been a huge fan or sauerkraut. These pierogies, however, were delicious! Pierogies, for the uninitiated, are small dumplings filled with an assortment of sweet or savory fillings. In this case, they were filled with well drained sauerkraut. They were then sautéed in butter with sweet onion slivers and served with a dollop of sour cream. Not too heavy, and not too tart, this second offering went down very well with Sierra Nevada’s Glissade Golden Bock.

Glissade is a mountaineering term that means to slide. Mountain climbers often slide, or glissade, down mountains once they have climbed to the peak. The word fits this refreshing seasonal offering as it smoothly slides down your palate. The beer pours a golden yellow with copious head that hangs around to the last sip. Your nose is tickled by the scents of sweet malts, floral hops, and just a hint of citrus. The brew drinks remarkable well with a slight sweetness, breadiness, and nuttiness. The richness of the sour cream and sourness of the sauerkraut played nicely with this refreshing mid-season treat.

Third Course – Spicy Thai Steamed Mussels paired with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

When I was in Belgium I discovered a renewed love for the humble mollusk known as the mussel. The Belgians are quite found of this tasty shellfish and bring you bucket upon bucket of them. This iteration of the dish was a bit different with the addition of spicy Thai seasonings which made the broth accompanying them, and the mollusks themselves, practically explode with flavor. This intriguing and flavorful dish was paired with Sierra Nevada’s flagship brew, the Pale Ale.

What can be said about this brew that has not already been said many times? This is the beer that Sierra Nevada built its reputation on and continues to be nearly synonymous with world-class pale ale. My advice, drink it and drink it often!

Fourth Course – Country Fried Steak with Sweet Onion Porter Gravy paired with Sierra Nevada Porter

Good down-home cooking kicked up to city folk eating is hard to come by. Yet, the chefs at Aprons managed to find a way to put a decidedly different spin on an already decadent dish. As the chef prepared this dish his banter began. “Ya know, when I was thinking about a dish to pair with the porter I asked myself, ‘Self, you like beer and you like fried stuff, what would go together with this?’” A eureka! Look followed and he continued, “Fried stuff with gravy made from beer!”  And that is just what he did. He created a crispy country-fried steak then used the pan scrapings and a dark roux combined with the stout beer to make a gravy any beer lover would eat with a spoon right out of the pan – the heck with the steak!

With the gravy already deliciously rich over the steak, paring the dish with Sierra Nevada Porter was a given. This thick, dark beer pours robustly into your glass and smells of chocolate and caramel. The taste is of darkly roasted malts and chocolate. A perfect accompaniment to the rich food it was paired with.

Fifth Course – Pear and Blue Cheese Ice Cream paired with Sierra Nevada Torpedo

The final course was somewhat experimental and interesting in concept if not execution. But, alas this was not a very good finish to the food portion of the evening. The ice cream had very little pear in it and way too much blue cheese. The result was a salty, cheesy, yucky mess. Had they amped up the pear and just made the blue cheese a hint, it may have been better.

On the other hand, Sierra Nevada Torpedo was, as were all the other beers, excellent. Torpedo is called an extra IPA because it is dry-hopped using a revolutionary device – the torpedo – developed by Sierra Nevada. These guys are serious about hops and wanted this beer to be a big IPA. Through innovation, they succeeded. This beer pours into your glass a beautiful amber color and assaults your nose with wonderful grapefruit, lemon, and pine notes. The flavor is a wake-up call of big, hoppy, pine with grapefruit and herbal notes. If you like hops, this brew is for you!

The evening I spent with the guys from Sierra Nevada and Team Hophead at Publix was a treat on many levels. Not only was the company great – Steve Flores of Kickback’s, old friends Bill and Heather , David and his wonderful wife of Team Hopheads, and the gang from Sierra Nevada – but, the venue was fun and classy. Given an opportunity to attend another beer pairing at Aprons, I will leap at the chance – and you should, too!

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom


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