Weekly Beer Review: Sidecar Orange Pale Ale

author-pic at The Weekly Beer Geek  

Sidecar Orange Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
$1.99/Can (16 oz)
Grade: B+

The Beginning:
Even the hardest heart of stone can be turned, and, while I’m a well-known anti-IPA agitator, I can still be caught now and again drinking one where none of my friends will see. Two factors can improve an IPA for me: if it has a heavy enough body to support the hop load, or if it’s got citrus or other sweetness to balance it out. Sidecar has a big ol’ orange juicing everywhere all over the label so I sincerely hope it’s the latter.

The Brewer’s Pitch:
Sierra Nevada is known for their hoppy beers, and they specialize in hops that are bright, crisp, and hoppy (as opposed to the dank, resinous hops that others prefer). Sidecar is the logical extension of that preference, elevating the citrus from an accent to a main taste, while still maintaining the crisp bite of hops from the base IPA. They hit the brew with orange peel both in the brew kettle and in the fermenter to bring a layered pop of orange juice goodness. Plus, at only 5.3% ABV and 35 IBU, this is an IPA that won’t blow out your brain or your taste buds.

The Beer:
Sidecar is a summery golden orange, fairly clear with a bit of delicate haze and a fluffy head of white and the barest tint of champagne gold. The nose is mostly orange juice sweetness, although the telltale bitter burst of hops does come through underneath. The beer is bright and cold and crisp. It’s light on the palate, just heavy enough to not be watery, and delivers its taste up front as a burst of bright hops all across the upper palate. Those hops are the dominant flavor–it’s a pale ale after all–but they are hops of the crispest, most citrusy variety. The actual orange juice is much more subdued, and it takes a moment for the true citrus to separate from the similar flavor of the hops. It’s primarily at the back end and is a faint fruitiness and gentle sweetness that does just enough to keep the bitterness from piling on.

The Breakdown:
There’s two things that make me enjoy pale ales: if they’re full-bodied enough to handle the hop load, or if they’ve got a bit of sweetness to counter it. This falls squarely into the second camp. At first, the hoppiness was a bit strong and I was afraid it would be another beer alleging to have a twist that never shows up. The citrus is there, in the end, and I wish it were a little stronger and a little earlier, but it shows up in time to keep the edge off and keep the bitter hops from building up and wrecking the palate. This is a solid summer day beer to drink ice cold (it got markedly worse when it got a bit warm), especially for the IPA fan who wants something a bit lighter weight than normal.

The Bottom Line:
Shake 1.5 oz VSOP Cognac, ¾ oz Cointreau Orange Liqueur, and ¾ oz fresh lemon juice over ice and strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with sugar to make a sidecar cocktail, then follow it up with a sidecar beer. Congratulations, you’re a whimsical alcoholic.

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