Sierra Nevada Torpedo: The Budget-Friendly Extra IPA

It’s been a while since I’ve done a straight up beer review but yesterday I had a beer that affected me in many ways.  Sierra Nevada in this part of the world (Idaho) is like the west’s version of Samuel Adams.  Good, solid beers, reasonably priced and a good reserve series.  I had seen the Torpedo in the case for about two years now, and finally thought I would pick one up.

First off this is one heck of a value for a big IPA.  It comes in a 24 ounce bomber, yes that is two additional ounces, and it cost me less than $3.00 in one of our local grocery stores.  So when I saw it for that price I went ahead and get one for the bunker.  It didn’t stay long in the bunker either, but perhaps it would have been better if I had waited for a day that wasn’t Mother’s Day…

This is an “Extra” IPA and it looks the part.  A deep terra cotta orange color with a frothy off white head that left a whole lot of lacing on the glass.  The questions began when I smelled the beer.  It didn’t have any nose at all really.    I got malt, but I didn’t get any of the wonderful hoppy goodness I had expected.  I wondered if it was old, and it was not.  It was bottled this year and stored cold.  So it should have been fresh enough to give good hoppy presence if it was there to begin with.  But as far as the nose was considered it didn’t deliver.

This immediately made me wonder what I was going to get when I began to drink.  Let me just put it this way, I got something, but what I got wasn’t what I expected.  The flavor was malt forward with a medium to light mouthfeel, almost watery with a much smaller hop presence than I hoped.  Let’s face it, if you buy an IPA you aren’t thinking “Mmmm…This is going to be a great malt bomb!”  And it wasn’t entirely, but it was very light on hoppiness.  When I buy an IPA I’m expecting a very hop forward fruity or floral beer with great hop flavor.  What this delivered was a good brew, but I’m not sure why it is an “Extra” IPA, it wasn’t apparent in the flavor.

What I DID get was knocked on my butt for most of the evening.  I didn’t realize this when I opened it, but this is a 7.2% ABV Brew!  Based on its flavor I would have put it in the 5% range, but it was definitely a 7.2% brew, because I was thrashed for the rest of the day.  When I drink a really big brew I get sleepy and drag a little bit.  Well, when you have to prepare dinner and be engaging for the evening that is a tall order after drinking this brew.  This is an after the kids are in bed mancave beer to be sure.

In the final analysis this was a good beer, but not a great one.  It is not one I would go to for an inexpensive fridge filler, because I didn’t love the flavor.   But for a Big beer at a low price this is a good option if you don’t like big hops.


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22 Comments on “Sierra Nevada Torpedo: The Budget-Friendly Extra IPA”

  1. Matt M
    May 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    This is my everyday beer and I can share there was a few months where I noticed a huge difference in the quality of Torpedo. I’m not sure if they had to change ingredients or if there was something with the storage, but it was just off.

    Fresh Torpedo has a huge hop nose and very crisp hop flavor as well. The mouthfeel is medium to medium-heavy. They do use a darker caramel and it comes through, but I would never call this beer malt forward. It’s named Torpedo after the contraption they use to dry hop this beer by forcing the finished beer through the torpedo packed with fresh hops.

    To sum it up your experience sounds nothing like Torpedo. I would encourage you to try it on draft or pick up a six-pack from another retailer to see if you have the same experience.

    • Don
      May 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

      Matt, This definitely was not the flavor profile that this beer had. I was thinking it would be more like a 90 minute or a Titan IPA. But what I got was a very mildly hopped brew that was floral on the back side. Not bad, but not my expectation of a DIPA. Perhaps this was a bad batch. Given your reco, I’ll try it again in a couple months.

  2. May 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Interesting. I just had their Beer Camp DIPA. I was kinda underwhelmed by that one two. The bouquet just wasn’t there. And like the torpedo, it was pretty malt forward. The Beer Camp DIPA did have a fair amount of hopiness on the back end. Unfortunately, it was a bit too medicinal for me. Not necessarily a bad DIPA, but not a great one either—and it was my least favorite beer in the Beer Camp pack.

    I’d try the Torpedo. But after reading your review, I’m not sure. I hate being underwhelmed by craft beer. Especially if I have to drink an extra 2 ounces of underwhelmed.

    • May 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

      What did you think of the California Common in the Beer Camp box? I was surprised at how much I liked it. Extremely clean and ridiculously refreshing. I’ve always been an Anchor Steam fan so the style has sentimental value which might be clouding my perspective.

      ps – thx for the Twitter follow.


      • Don
        May 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

        I haven’t tried any of the beer school beers yet. I’ve heard the California Common was just that, a good pale ale. I figure I’ll give them a try before too long, but right now my backlog is pretty high. I need to beat you guys to the Latitude 48 deconstructed beer school review! 😉

        • johnking82
          May 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

          i heard a few people rave about the California Common this weekend.

        • May 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

          Uh-oh… looks like The Alemonger has issued a challenge! Eek! Hopefully, The Wookie won’t tap into the Lat 48 stash before we can get this organized.

        • Don
          May 9, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

          Good luck G-Lo it is a daunting task. I have been looking scornfully at the box for the last two weekends!

      • dwarven_stout
        May 10, 2011 at 10:59 am #

        I was a big fan of the Cal Common. I thought it was everything that the style should be: crisp, creamy, a bit of malt/graininess, and spicy, herbal hops. I thought I got just a touch of mint- I wonder if they late-hopped with Northern Brewer? I get a similar flavor tasting the foam just after adding NB to a boil.

        • Don
          May 10, 2011 at 11:02 am #

          Dunno. I’ll bet you could pose the question on the SN site and get an answer though.

      • May 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

        I was surprised, too. I loved the California Common. Favorite in the box actually. With the Juniper Black Ale a close second. They should distribute the California Common in six packs right quick if you ask me.

        Don had a post a couple weeks back about having or not having a go-to beer. I currently don’t. Just trying everything I can. But I could see myself with a bunch of California Commons constantly in the fridge this summer for sure.

    • Don
      May 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

      According to Matt, I might have gotten a bad batch. I’ll try it again in a bit and give an update.

  3. May 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Maybe it was too cold. I find IPA’s and DIPA’s get better as they warm. Of course, I think Sierra Nevada’s hoppy beers are never as fresh as they’re supposed to be. A few years ago, I had given up on their pale ale. Then, a bartender suggested I try one when my usual wasn’t available. That bottle was fresh and it showed. I don’t deny that you’re right in this review. I’m just kinda surprised.

    • Don
      May 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

      Definitely wasn’t too cold, especially as I got to the end of it Zac. It just was flat flavor wise.

      • May 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

        I think SN has a history of sending out beer that’s not as fresh as it should be. My bet is that regardless of what the dates say on the bottle, this beer is past its optimal freshness. Either that’s a problem with SN’s brewing or how long they’re storing beer before sending it to distributors.

        • Don
          May 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

          This could be Zac, and it could be the difference between what I am tasting and what Matt M gets, living in California. Plausible.

  4. May 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    First of all, the bottle that some poor soul opened on that ship was definitely spoiled. With that much carbonation built up I’m sure the sourness must still be a bit off-putting to the local marine life as well. But I digress….

    I agree with your characterization of SN as the West Coast’s Sam Adams. I’ve lived on both coasts (rarely in between) and I think the label is pretty accurate. In fact, both are doing limited release 12 packs now (Sierra’s Best of Beer Camp – which I’m a huge fan of, and Sam Adams’ Lat 48 Deconstructed – which I know you know all about and which may be the subject of a race to the review post between you and the BoozeDancing/Alemonger partnership). Anyway, there are many similarities between the two breweries brewing philosophies and business models.

    I like Torpedo. No, it isn’t a West Coast hop bomb (nor is it as aggressively hoppy as many straightforward West Coast IPAs. I’ve always though of it more as a hoppy pale with a solid malt backbone than a double IPA. Where it shines is, as you point out, is as a very good value brew. In the Republic of South Jersey a six pack runs anywhere from 3 to 5 dollars less than Stone IPA and 4 dollars less than Green Flash West Coast IPA (in 4 packs). Of course, going by the label’s definition of the style, a six of Torpedo is about HALF the price of Stone Ruination. However, as Double IPAs go, comparing Torpedo to Ruination is like comparing apples to oran………grapefruits.

    Oh, and back to the Best of Beer Camp… I think the Double IPA in that pack is a better, cleaner, hoppier IIPA than Torpedo.



    • Don
      May 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

      I’m getting a bit confused here, because Matt M said that this is a good hoppy beer, but what I had sounds much more like what you described and was pretty muted on the hoppiness. So, I’m not sure if it was a bad batch or it was just what it is and it tasted like it was supposed to taste. The only way I can resolve is to try it again in a couple months to make sure I get a newer batch and retry it.

  5. Mark S.
    May 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    Been a while since I commented here, but this article touched a nerve. I recently was underwhelmed by a few other Sierra Nevada offerings (Stout and Hefeweizen – I’m looking at you). Right now I would even rather reach for the Saranac than another SN! With so many other good beers available, SN has gone on my “Do Not Buy” list.

    And this is coming from a guy who recently enjoyed a 6-pack of Leinenkugel’s “Big Eddy” Russian Imperial Stout…

    • Don
      May 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

      See I like the SN Pale Ale, as it is in most crap bars, and it is always good. I was expecting the Torpedo to be like that only turned up to 11. But it wasn’t even close, and I’d take a Pale Ale any time over the Torpedo I had this weekend.

  6. August 13, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    I too suspect a bad batch. This is a seriously hopped beer; I’m supping one as we speak and it is biter, bitter, bitter.

    • Don
      August 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

      I’ll have to give it another try.

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