In the world of craft beer, few names command the drinking audience of Sierra Nevada and Stone – two of America’s largest and most respected brewers. Though one of these elder statesmen of the brewing industry is a bit more elder than the other – Sierra launched way back in 1980; Stone is comparatively an adolescent, opening in 1996 – the two companies have a number of similarities. Sierra Nevada helped bring hoppy beers to the mainstream with their Pale Ale back when hops were not well-liked by American drinking palates. Over a decade later, those change in tastes that Sierra Nevada helped facilitate allowed Stone to blow the lid off the hop craze, bring massive beers to the masses and earn a reputation as one of the world’s best breweries.
Now, for the first time, these two breweries have collaborated on the NxS IPA– call it a beer nearly 20 years in the making.
So why finally collaborate after all these years? “Before [our collaboration program] Beer Camp Across America, we’d hardly dipped a toe into making collaboration beers, really,” Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman told us via email. “But sometimes things just click—over beers at a festival or event of some kind. You can imagine some really neat stuff when two or more brewers throw out creative ideas. California has more than 600 breweries now, and Stone has always been a leader. We’ve both been at it a while, we both love hops, and it was time to make something West Coast and wacky together.”
Stone had a similarly gushing take. “Since Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has been an inspiration for Stone and myself for many years, we were thrilled to be asked to brew a beer with one of the most admired craft brewers,” said Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele in a statement. “When brainstorming this collaborative recipe, there was no doubt that we should brew a memorable IPA and we wanted to combine unique elements from each brewer.”
The result was two identical IPAs, brewed and finished separately, that were then blended together to create the final product. The first batch was aged in a mix of gin-infused bourbon barrels and rye whiskey barrels at the Stone barrel warehouse. The second batch, brewed a month later, was “generously” dry-hopped, assumedly representing more of the Sierra Nevada side of things.
The result is a solid 8.2 percent ABV IPA that despite all the talk of barrel aging, smells and tastes very hop forward, coming on with a bit of fruity hoppiness but finishing long and dry with plenty of piney and herbaceous bitterness. A touch of creaminess and spirit flavor may linger on the tongue afterwards, but not a ton. Hops definitely plays the predominate role here, which is probably fitting given the breweries involved.
Is it a collaboration worthy of the big names involved? Though the beer is certainly good, the whole thing is a bit like the Mayweather vs. Pacaquiao fight: With so many years behind them, the result could never possibly be as amazing as the hype. That said, it was good to see those two acclaimed fighters finally step into the ring. Same here: It’s cool to see Stone and Sierra Nevada acknowledge each other in beer form and make something as drinkable as any beer in their combined catalog.