I like Sierra Nevada quite a bit. They’ve never really let me down before. The Aleheads have talked openly about their ubiquitous Pale Ale and how it’s one of the best, easy-to-find flagships on the market. It’s a great gateway to becoming a Hophead and you can find it in fast-casual restaurants, gas station coolers, and eternally in Doc’s fridge (seriously…his fridge produces Sierra Nevada Pale Ale instead of ice cubes). Their Bigfoot, Torpedo, Porter, Celebration, and Stout are also all excellent beers. Doc considers them his favorite California brewery, and he’s a man that knows a thing or two about suds.
So I was understandably excited when I saw a new Sierra offering sitting on the shelf of my local package store. I bought a sixer, chilled it appropriately for a Golden Bock style, poured it into a shaker glass, and then proceeded to drink in the disappointment.
The best way to describe the Glissade is through a classic Simpsons exchange:
Principal Skinner: Good gravy!
Cafeteria Worker (thinking Skinner is referring to his food): Oh, thank you! It’s just brown and water.
That’s what the Glissade tasted like to me. Brown and water. So how do you write a tasting note about that which has no taste? It ain’t easy, brother…
The appearance was the first hint that something was amiss. It poured a pale, straw yellow that was crystal clear. It admittedly had a nice, foamy, pure white head, but I couldn’t get over the fact that this looked, for all the world, like a mass-produced, domestic pale lager. Not an auspicious start.
The nose is faint…very faint. Theoretically, this beer has a higher IBU count (42 to 37) than the Pale Ale, but I didn’t get even a whiff of hops. It’s mostly just a very crisp, very clean malty smell. That’s to be expected with a lager, but I was certainly anticipating a bolder aroma than what greeted me. A touch of grass clippings and maybe, MAYBE a little bit of citrus hiding on the periphery.
The taste, unfortunately, matched the nose. The flavor was so clean that it’s like the brew had been sterilized and scrubbed clean of any interesting characteristics. There was a touch of lemon, a hint of biscuit, and if I let my imagination run wild, maybe the faintest wisp of hop bitterness. But mostly, just bland nothingness. One positive is that the mouthfeel was actually a bit fuller than the appearance would indicate. It’s a light to medium-bodied brew, but since I was expecting it to have the mouthfeel of rubbing alcohol, I was pleasantly surprised.
As for drinkability…unbelievably high, but in this case, that’s a bad thing. You could drink 30 of these and still not satisfy your craving for beer (although at a somewhat high 6.4% ABV, that would not be wise). I can’t in good conscience recommend this beer…I simply don’t want to encourage Sierra Nevada to continue producing it when I know they have so many better beers they could be making.
And yes, I accept that this isn’t my favorite style. I’m not a lagerhead (in case the giant, foamy title on top of this website didn’t tip you off) and in general I steer clear of most Helles and Bocks. But there ARE some very good examples of those styles out there…beers that I would drink heartily in a biergarten out of a big, dimpled mug. This just wasn’t one of them. 1.5 Hops from me…and trust me, it pains me to give Sierra such low marks.
And maybe therein lies the problem…the Glissade was produced by a brewery I respect. I mean, if Coors had produced it, I’d be lauding them for creating a beverage that at least resembled beer. But I know the feats of greatness that Sierra Nevada is capable of and that makes the Glissade doubly troubling. If the Coen Brothers had made Clash of the Titans, they’d be eviscerated by critics because it’s so far beneath them. But if Michael Bay had directed it…eh, whatever…nice work, Michael…have a Fresca.
So yeah…to me, it’s like Sierra Nevada went slumming with this brew. Like they wanted to market a beer to the Jersey Shore crowd and high school kids. It’s frustrating to say the least, but what do I know about running a successful brewery? Maybe every once in awhile, just to remind the jaded, hyper-critical Aleheads out there what they’d be missing if you decided to turn into a domestic swill-producer, you need to throw together some brown and water. I just hope Sierra doesn’t make it a habit.