Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Showdown - Left Hand v. Sierra Nevada

We got the Gents back together for another beer showdown (you can follow gents talk on Twitter by searching #gentskc). This time Left Hand and Sierra Nevada squared off. We upped the headcount to 9 this time with the usual participants, Chimpotle, Paul A. Ner (who hosted), JJSKCK (or Meat Service, which is what I prefer to call him now), Duff, Yuengling and Yeti with 2 new participants Nate (a newcomer to KC who writes the Thank Heaven for Beer blog) and Josh Eans from Blanc Burgers and Bottles. Yuengling brought some RJ's Bob-Be-Que ribs and jalapeno sausage which was featured on the KC version of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Paul A. Ner provided some cold cut plates, chips and hummus because he hates me. Chimpotle provided a cherry cobbler because he hates me. In proper Gents tradition, the cobbler was eaten as a chip dip.

We started with a simple premise, 5 beers of the same style being tasted blind by our group of Gents with one big beer from each brewery. Each taster gets a vote on each style and the brewery with the most votes for that style gets a point. The big beer challenge is worth 2 points. The styles were Wheat, Pale Ale, Stout and IPA. We would have had porter as well but one of the no shows was supposed to bring Left Hand Blackjack Porter.

The Scores
Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss 8 - Left Hand Haystack Wheat 1 
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 6 - Left Hand Jackman's American Pale Ale 3
Left Hand Milk Stout 9 - Sierra Nevada Stout 0
Sierra Nevada Torpedo 6 - Left Hand 400 lb. Monkey 3

This was quite controversial because our pourers were unsure which wheat beer was which. At first they indicated the winner was the Left Hand Haystack, but Josh and I were pretty sure that the Kellerweiss was the one we preferred and the pourers weren't actually sure which was which. Josh and I even shared a Kellerweiss after the showdown was over and our taste buds agree that Kellerweiss was the one we liked more. In the end, it calls our outcome into question. Because each beer in the styles tested were slightly different styles (milk stout v. stout, English IPA v. American IPA) we all had a pretty good idea which beer was which and without doing the tasting double blind (where we don't even know the competitors which is impossible since we have to buy it) we have to accept the limitation. The Left Hand Milk Stout was the big winner with our group and was clearly superior to the Sierra Nevada Stout, but the Sierra Nevada Stout is pretty good. Our score was more an indication that Milk Stout is wonderful. The most surprising result was 400 lb. Monkey losing to Torpedo. The general consensus was that 400 lb. Monkey tasted off and it was probably the beer that was most unlike everything else we had drank up to that point solidifying my theory that when tasting blind, the beer that is different is viewed as bad.

Left Hand Chainsaw v. Sierra Nevada Southern Harvest Ale
Once again our big beer battle came down to a matter of taste and neither beer was viewed as bad. The Chainsaw won 5 to 4. Chainsaw just had more going on, Josh said it had a grape jelly taste on the back end and that pretty much hit the nail on the head. The Southern Harvest is a great beer as well and is quite a bargain at around $3.50.

Our overall winner was Sierra Nevada 3-3 (Sierra Nevada wins the tie breaker of total votes 28-26). We may have to redo the wheat category and add the porters to get the true outcome of this showdown. As an aside as the Gents read this they will know that I didn't do the math right last night after the challenge because I had it 26-25 Left Hand. The moral of the story is, I can't do math after the equivalent of 5 beers.

So after the business of the evening was done, we drank all the rare or fun beers everyone brought to share. Nate brought us Dark Lord which lives up to the hype. It was quite extraordinary, kind of sweet and thick like I was drinking cream. If the bottle wasn't already empty by the time I drank my glass I would have fought for what was left. Nate also brought one of his homebrews, a sour saison that I believe he said he brewed with dandelion flowers (I could be completely wrong about that). On a night where I drank one of the most well regarded beers on the planet, it would be quite a feat to believe that Nate's sour saison was the best beer of the night. But, I'll say it (of course I like saisons better than anything). Nate became everyone's favorite Gent while we drank the saison and all of universally agreed it was a great beer.

Chimpotle brought Weston Hot Pepper Ale for everyone to try. It didn't taste like beer at all, it tasted like drinking the pickling liquid in a jar of jalapenos. Nate said it tasted like a throw up burp, a blurb I don't think you'll read in any of Weston Brewing's sales literature.

I finished off the evening by drinking the Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad that Yeti brought. Even though I've proclaimed my dislike for bourbon barrel beers, I do like the BBQ in a small dose and that is one of the benefits of Gents. We all get to try a bunch of stuff without having to buy it all. Incidentally, Gents is getting to be a large group that makes it a bit unwieldy to host at a house. If you own a restaurant or similar space and would like to host Gents contact me.


  1. Left Hand is being completely robbed.

  2. Sounds fun. I can't say enough bad things about Weston's Hot Pepper Ale. It kind of makes me feel good to rant about it; I was so disgusted it actually gave me energy. I don't drainpour many beers--as one could reasonably assume from the fact that I regularly review such gems as Camo 900 and King Cobra for yucks--but I took great delight in pouring the shit out of the Hot Pepper Ale, laughing like a maniac as the bottle pissed its contents into the sink. I imagine the beer's flavor was actually enhanced by whatever lives in the trap beneath my sink, though the sewer-dwellers will no doubt curse my name for sending such an uninspired, unholy bottle of liquid down their way (though surely they've seen worse).

    Take my $4, keep your bottle, and stick your peppery fingers down my throat to gag me the easy way next time. Any-who...

  3. I concur with your comments on Nate's sour saison - that was tremendous. Dude's got skills.

    Regarding the totals...I guess since advancement is at stake, we should probably figure this out...

  4. Sierra Nevada should have won the tie breaker based on value. You can get most of their regular beers for $7.99 or less. Even Bigfoot is only $9.99. The new 30th Anniversary beers would be the exception.

    The Left Hand Milk Stout is one of my favorites.

  5. The Weston Cream Ale is one of the most rancid-tasting beers I've ever set my lips too, so I'm hardly surprised that their Hot Pepper Ale brings as much pleasure as taking a cheese grater to one's ball sack.

    I've got to caveat here though - why on Earth would anyone be compelled to buy a Hot Pepper Ale anyway? It sounds absolutely disgusting.