Fearful Symmetries

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20 January, 2016

A Prickly Situation: Otra Vez by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.



I reviewed several Sierra Nevada brews last year and was quite impressed with the their takes on lagers/German bier styles. Some adhered to tradition while others tweaked the tried and true. Then news came that the venerable brewery would be adding a gose to their year-round line-up. But not just any gose, a cactus grapefruit one. The gose is a light, refreshing bier – perfect for summer – so it seems odd that Sierra Nevada would choose to release it in the bowels of winter. I grant you, it's nowhere near as cold in California as it is here in Wisconsin, but it's still not exactly balmy out there.

This new brew, Otra Vez, started appearing around Madison earlier this month. And now that we are looking at sub-zero temperatures, I decided to pull out a bottle and pretend I was drinking the self-styled "perfect warm weather beer" in warm weather. It was packaged on 29 December.

The gose is a German light-bodied sour wheat bier that is traditionally flavored with salt and coriander in addition to a modicum of hops. Sierra Nevada has seemingly eschewed these flavors and instead opted for the tastes of California with grapefruit and prickly pear cactus.

Otra Vez (which apparently means "again" in Spanish) pours a straw hue. It had just the lightest haze to it. My glass was capped with a big, frothy, white head that stuck around for quite a while. (I presume the head was courtesy of the wheat proteins. Regardless, it looked really nice.) The bier was quite effervescent as I spied with my little eye many a bubble inside working its way up.

As I was ogling my glass I could smell the bier and it smelled lively and refreshing. Once I really put my nose to it I caught the grapefruit and a vegetable scent – the cactus. Now, I have had prickly cactus before in the form of nopalitos, sliced cactus pads. But it was some time ago in a dish along with many other ingredients and seasonings. Ergo I cannot recall what it tasted like. Here it tasted a lot like a cucumber with floral overtones. The grapefruit was unexpectedly subdued and not particularly tart while the carbonation was generous. Otra Vez is a bubbly brew, to be sure. While neither the Sierra Nevada website nor the bottle gives salt as an ingredient, I thought I tasted it. Not a lot and not really a taste in its own right – it was more like the cactus flavor was accented by it.

Unlike the goses I've had lately, Otra Vez did not make my lips pucker. Indeed, it had just a touch of lactic acid tartness which melded into the grapefruit's own, albeit restrained, acidic bite.

And it was these tart flavors which lingered throughout the finish. Sierra Nevada says that Otra Vez was brewed with two kinds of experimental hops but only has 5 I.B.U.s and I don't know that I could taste them. There was not much Schaumhaftvermoegen to be had with only a few spots of foam left on my glass.

Otra Vez was a definite change of pace for me as far as goses go. It has a nice light body and is 4.5% A.B.V. so this is no imperial/double/gose-on-steroids. It's not sweet and does not taste like a Jolly Rancher nor eucalyptus. I really enjoyed the grapefruit/cactus combination, although I wouldn't have minded if there was more grapefruit. But the cactus added a nice, juicy savory melon flavor which I'd bet is spectacular on hot summer days. I'd also enjoy a bit more tartness as well.

Still, I enjoyed the bier's restraint. There's nothing imperial or double about it yet Otra Vez is not a simple brew. It has a multitude of flavors that come in moderation and are placed in balance with one another. I can see myself drinking this again (and again).

Junk food pairing: Otra Vez is a light bier so pair it with similarly easy going food such as lightly-salted & thin cut potato chips. It will also go well with Oriental puffed rick cracker snack mixes that have a touch of seaweed in them.

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|| Palmer, 5:23 AM

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