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A Couple New Sierra Nevadas: Narwahl and Flipside

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Happened across a couple new SNs I've never tried so bought a bottle of each: Flipside IPA and Narwahl Imperial Stout.

The Flipside is a "red IPA" (whatever that entails)... I found it quite on the bitter side, and just didn't love it... nor did anyone else at the table for whom I poured a small taste.

Narwahl Imperial Stout was just the opposite... this is just good stuff... the texture is rich and creamy, the flavor is somewhere between a "rough" tarry stout like Old Rasputin and a cherry-chocolate flavored brew like... Goose Island Bourbon maybe?

I've been building up quite a selection of special stout bottles to spring on my friends for a Fall stout tasting, and will definitely include Narwahl.

Further note, I also had a bottle of "Lion Stout" from Sri Lanka of all places at this tasting. It has a 99% rating from ratebeer and is respectable, in fact one friend of mine liked it better than Narwahl... which makes his palate suspect because it was just plain thinner :) But it wasn't the worst stout I've had by a long shot.

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  1. I have had Lion Stout years ago, and I really didn't like it so much. Pretty much anything porter or stout made by Sierra Nevada would be so much better.

    Thanks for the review. The name "IPA" is so overused. Think about it, the Flipside should really be IRA, shouldn't it?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Tripeler

      Lion Stout became known when Michael Jackson raved about it. Of course, MJ had actually visited the brewery in Sri Lanka, and the beer he had there may or may not have been the same as is sold in the US these days. Regardless, it doesn't cost much, which is always nice.

      I can't recall if they mention his name on the package, but Michael's photo still graces the Lion Stout label.

      The term "IPA", of course, is overused because it's so popular these days. As you mention, Flipside is an IRA (some interesting connotations there), and then there are the white IPAs, black IPAs, session IPAs (aka hoppy pale ales) ...

      1. re: Jim Dorsch

        I used to do a fair amount of research in Japan for Michael Jackson, and have been credited in several of his books. Concerning the Lion Stout endorsement, this was apparently done without his permission, but since he liked the beer and, above all, was dedicated to promoting smaller breweries with talent, he never took action against them. Of course, Jackson was not at all a contentious person, and pretty much had a heart of gold toward the brewing industry. His passing in 2006 was entirely too soon as no other beer writer has approached him in popularity.

        1. re: Tripeler

          I had heard the same story. I used to assist Michael as well, and was impressed that he took care to mention us in the acknowledgments in his books.

    2. I think this is a new release of Narwahl (their second), but I'm not sure. Anybody?

      2 Replies
      1. re: RB Hound

        Another aspect of Narwahl... I've only had one bottle of it, but it strikes me as a great stout to introduce to someone who either doesn't usually like stout or has never tried it... it's rich-bodied with medium-complex flavors but without any particularly strong flavor notes that a stout newbie might find off-putting.

        While one bottle didn't knock off my favorite go-to stouts, it definitely earned Narwahl a place on the list...

        1. re: RB Hound

          Yeah, Narwahl was first released last year http://www.sierranevada.com/blog/our-... The blog entry is dated Dec. 2012, and also note the neck label in the photo.

          I only saw one four pack on the shelves in NJ - and that was in a local store's "overstock" area in the wine aisle that needed a ladder to access. I saw it as I was walking towards the cashier and made a mental note to pick it up "next time", and, needless to say, it was long gone next time.

          So, it may have been a much smaller release last year, since the same store got multiple cases of both Bigfoot and Hoptimum - all three beers use the same bar code and are part of SN's "High Altitude" line.

        2. I've had a couple of bottles of Flip Side. It's a decent beer but if I didn't see the color I would have thought it was a Torpedo. The hops definitely overwhelmed any of the aspects of a red beer.

          10 Replies
          1. re: MVNYC

            Funny - I thought the malt character overwhelmed any of the hop aspects of an IPA.

            1. re: MVNYC

              I have seen Flipside in stores but haven't tried it yet. I don't understand what a "red IPA" is, even. What is it supposed to taste like?

              1. re: ratgirlagogo

                Not sure what it's supposed to taste like, but my impressions of it were: 1) Dry; 2) on the bitter side of the bitter-to-sweet spectrum.

                And I don't mind dry/bitter beers at all if they are well made and make a dramatic impression. There just was nothing about this beer that would make me want to have another.

                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                  Understood. When I actually decide to taste one I guess I can decide that part of it - but I guess I'm just curious if "red IPA" is some kind of established beer style. I've never heard of it, but then there's a lot I've never heard of in the beer world, and this board has all the beer mavens.

                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                    Just further segmentation/expansion of the IPA style into red, white, black, amber, brown, belgian, belgian black etc. - mostly for marketing purposes - because the name IPA sells craft beer - and that many just consider the term IPA to mean hop forward beer.

                    I think brewers just called them red ales or just IPA in the past (just like they used to call black IPA - hoppy porter. ha!) Rogue's St. Rogue Red and Santa's Private reserve are some the earlier examples which lead to things like Stone Arrogant Bastard and Surley Furious. Even SN considers Celebration (which is amber/reddish in color) an IPA - but never used the term Red IPA - now calling it a fresh hop ale which is whole other craft marketing ball of wax.

                    1. re: LStaff

                      I'm waiting for someone to introduce an imperial session IPA, which should be just about the same as the IPA that Bert Grant (re)introduced to the US, back in the day.

                      1. re: LStaff

                        To me the segmentation is useful as it gives me information regarding the brewer's intent. I expect a red IPA to be a hoppy beer that is using the malt bill from an amber ale.

                        By contrast a white IPA will be a hoppy wheat beer, a Belgian IPA will have a Belgian yeast influence and a black IPA (aka American Black Ale) will have a very roasty character.

                        In contrast to you perhaps, I think that the term IPA is too limiting as there is a huge difference between the classic East Coast and West Coast IPA styles and you almost never see those distinctions on the bottle. Also, English IPAs (produced by American craft brewers), which taste entirely different are often not labeled as such.

                        1. re: brentk

                          The only one I find confusing for the consumer is white IPA - is it spiced like a witbier, does it use a belgian yeast? Or is it just a hoppy american wheat with neutral yeast character? Every brewery seems to have its own idea what it should be.

                          I don't mind the segmentation of it - I think that makes sense to many consumers. But I find the concept/execution of some of these styles a bit off though, so just come off as marketing hyperbole to me. In the case of Black IPA - I have only had about three I would consider anywhere in the realm of IPA - all others have just been porters to me. . For belgian ipa - for me to recognizeable it as an ipa, you have to use enough hops to overcome the belgian yeast. Let the yeast shine and it doesn't taste like an IPA to me, just a hoppy belgian - which have been around for much longer than the Belgian IPA's from US craft brewers. Belgian black - just take the above and multiply x2.

                          But I imagine a beer world in which IPA and its many offshoots are the dominant craft/crafty style. I can even imagine session IPA's with very low ibu's and just enough hop flavor/aroma to be noticeable being marketed by macro breweries as Light IPA.

                          1. re: LStaff

                            It seems that the diversification of IPA has rendered the meaning of "P" pretty much useless.

                        2. re: LStaff

                          Your mention of Celebration I think has kind of set off the light bulb over my head. (As did the replies below, obviously). I'm still pretty sure I don't "get" it, but I do understand the ballpark I'm in better now - thanks to all of you, as always.

                2. Trying another Narwahl... This confirms my earlier impressions that this is the slightly "toned down" cousin of Old Rasputin. Great texture, definitely imperial, nice lingering hints predominantly of coffee...

                  There's no sweet or chocolate dimension to this stout that I perceive. Flavors are right in the coffee / tar groove, on the medium to subtle end of the spectrum... very tasty, very well made. Would LOVE to try this stuff on tap but that's probably not going to happen in my neck of the woods unfortunately.

                  1. Just had the Flipside, like it much better then the Torpedo. Sightly oily and done up in the classic restrained, balanced Sierra Style. I'm gonna go buy some more. More and more I believe that the house style of SN is one of restraint and balance, unlike their southern cali cousins where it's blow your face out all the time...

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: MOREKASHA

                      restraint, balance, and I would add "on the drier side"... the SNs I love for the most part tend to be austere, drier beers, much as the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale mothership, a beer I've never grown tired of.

                      1. re: TombstoneShadow

                        I think your comments are really spot-on. Sierra Nevada, as a brewery, is one of the best-managed enterprises with a broad array of highly appealing products. Here's to their further success.

                        1. re: Tripeler

                          I completely agree. To me it is amazing how they are able to maintain quality as they expand.

                        2. re: TombstoneShadow

                          Their original Stout is so underrated it's obscene. I had it on draft only 1-2 times, but bottle conditioned as it is, man it's a beautiful thing.

                          1. re: MOREKASHA

                            Recently opened a bottle of their 2010 collaboration with Anchor, the Fritz and Ken Stout. Easily one of the best aged stouts I've ever had.

                            1. re: MOREKASHA

                              can't recall seeing their original stout, is it still in production? maybe I've just been looking past it...

                              1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                Yes, still made but not easy to find. Though still good.

                        3. I just had the Narwahl on tap and while good, I thought that it was a little thin for an Imperial Russian Stout.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: JAB

                            Have you had it in the bottle JAB? which do you prefer?...

                            I can see that thinnish comparison, it isn't a "monster" imperial by any means...

                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                              No, not as of yet.