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Belt’s Beer Garden: Going (Beer) Camping

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Two Sierra Nevada collaborations; with Surly & Duvel

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Sierra Nevada is one of the founding fathers of American craft beer. Their Pale Ale, which was released way back in 1980, was one of the first beers that brought up this hop revival in America that continues today. Today they are third largest craft brewery (behind Yuengling’s and Sam Adams) and can be found in just about every corner of the US.

Every (few) year(s) they do a Beer Camp Across America which composes of beer fests in multiple cities nationwide and the release of a specialty 12-pack of collaborations. Well, this year for their collaborations they upped the ante and did a Beer Camp Across the World.

The 2017 Beer Camp features 12 new beers from both international and domestic breweries (six from home and six from abroad). The case doesn’t come cheap though, running you about $26…but, that’s like $2.50 per beer…still cheaper than drinking at a bar.

If I paid that much for them, I figured I’d share some of these beers with you. Today I have Ginger Lager and Hoppy Belgian-style Golden Ale.

Up first: Ginger Lager.

This 6.2% ABV lager is a collaboration with Surly Brewing from Minneapolis, MN (which has been featured on BBG a few times) who is really garnering more and more respect as the years go on and they continue to make some really good beer.

Ginger Lager was one of the three non-bottles inside the twelve-pack and, instead, came in 16-ounce can. It was brewed using Sterling hops, ginger, cayenne peppers, and oak honeycombs. Wow…sounds intense.

When poured, it was a bright golden color with some darker amber hues when not in direct sunlight. Topping the beer was a very modest amount of white head. No more than a finger every built up and what did was quickly fizzled down into a dusting across the top.

On the nose it sure had that ginger and cayenne spice to it! In fact, it was pretty much all ginger heat with a hint of a lager behind it. As a fan of ginger…I was ready to dive in but was a little worried about how much ginger would come through in the taste.

My first sip started with nominal amount of carbonation, just enough to fizz across my tongue for a few moments. Then something else began to sting my taste buds.

The flavors were huge up front and smacked me in my face (literally!). The ginger danced across my tongue with a crisp bite but it didn’t really burn too much and was the perfect amount. However, that cayenne kicked in as the liquid made its way down my throat and burned my insides with a surprising amount of heat. The pepper didn’t affect the tongue as much as it did my chest and the back of my throat.

There was a faint hint of the oak on the backend but, for the most part, this beer was all about the ginger and peppers…and, despite that painful burning in my chest, I wanted more.

After the sip had ended, the ginger continued to make it self known with a long lasting semi-sweet flavor. And, throughout the entire beer, the cayenne burn never so much as faded. Maybe it was because I continued to drink the beer at a nice pace but it wasn’t until well after the whole beer was gone that the lingering burn in my chest faded away.

Despite the strong flavors, this was a really enjoyable beer. It works well as a lager since the lighter nature of the style allows for more of the ginger and pepper flavors to emerge and really give you that kick.

If you’re a fan of spice and ginger…this is a must have. The heat can get to you towards the end of the pint but it’s still a really enjoyable brew.

Secondly, I wanted to share Hoppy Belgian-style Golden Ale, the collaboration Sierra Nevada did with the Belgian brewery Duvel.

Duvel is from Puurs, Belgium and has been around for quite some time…since 1871 to be exact. They are known for their namesake golden ale, making them the perfect choice for Sierra Nevada.

This beer packs a punch, with an 8% ABV (and only 35 IBU) in the 12-ounce bottle. Six different hops went into this beer and it was finished off with the addition of lemon peel.

Golden Ale poured a crisp, straw color with a minimal amount of bright white head garnishing the top of it. There was never more than a finger and it was quickly just a razor-thin layer across the top.

The aroma was like that of most Belgian style beers – a yeasty spice with some fruity notes – but, since this is half West Coast IPA, there are also some light citrusy hop notes and, of course, big whiffs of lemon zest.

When I dove in, it followed the scent perfectly. It begins with some light carbonation before the Belgian yeast adds some spices and some darker fruits, like plum and cherries. For the first second or so it was like drinking just a regular Duvel…

But then, around the halfway point of the sip, something clicks over and suddenly it’s a hoppy West Coast brew. There’s a minimal hop bite (30 IBU only) that produces big flavors of grapefruit that, with the addition of the lemon peel, has a really nice balance to it.

The 8% alcohol was hidden entirely throughout the beer, which is a hard thing to do. And really the only thing I didn’t really enjoy was the lingering after taste of the dark fruit…cherries and plums are not my go-to fruits.

Golden Ale was intriguing…but in a good way. I’m 50/50 with Belgian ales…I love some (like Brouwerij Het Anker’s Lucifer) and others I hate. But this one, even before the hops hit, was very palatable and then it was made even better by Sierra Nevada’s contributions.

If you like Belgian-style beers and/or West Coast ones…this is right up your ally as it’s both! Good stuff here.