Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rhizing Bines (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery/Sierra Nevada Brewing Company)

Even within the craft brewing industry, known for its spirit of camaraderie, the bond between Milton's Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. of Chico, Calif., is closer to familial.

The companies collaborated in 2009 and 2011 to brew two iterations of a strong ale they called Life & Limb. Now they have gotten together again to bring out a third beer in the lineage, a double IPA called Rhizing Bines.

Collaborations have been an outgrowth of the craft beer industry's collegial climate for the years. We've seen team-ups between New Belgium and Alpine, Russian River and Avery, and Green Flash and Founders, among many others. Dogfish Head itself has participated in a dozen collabs, notably Saison du BUFF with Stone Brewing Company of Escondido, Calif., and Victory Brewing Company of Downingtown, Pa.

But the Dogfish/Sierra relationship seems to have grown into something special. In a promotional video for the original Life & Limb release, Dogfish founder Sam Calagione (who was just nominated for the third time for a James Beard Award as one of the country's most outstanding brewers) chatted with Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada and one of the true giants of the American beer renaissance.

Calagione joked about the cellarable brew: "Fifteen years from now my ultimate goal would be if Ken's kids were enjoying it with my kids at a beer festival and complaining about how horribly the first-generation people ran those companies."

Three years later, a video released to promote Rhizing Bines features Calagione chatting with 25-year-old Brian Grossman, now a general manager for his father's company. In it, Calagione says the catalyst for the new collaboration was Sierra Nevada breaking ground in 2012 on a production facility in Asheville, N.C.

"With you guys coming to North Carolina to open a brewery on the East Coast," Calagione said, "we thought it would be a fun time to get back together and welcome you to our coast and do something that again speaks of the terroir of our breweries, but is perhaps more in the wheelhouse of what we're known for as brewers."

Life & Limb contained maple syrup from the family farm where Calagione grew up in Massachusetts and Grossman family estate barley from the Sierra Nevada premises in California.

Rhizing Bines has some of the same estate barley, but other contributions are different.

Sierra Nevada loaned to the project a "torpedo" – a canister-like accessory invented by the elder Grossman for optimizing hop utilization during the fermentation stage.

For Rhizing Bines, the torpedo was packed with two kinds of hops: Bravo, a bold superalpha variety, and #644, an experimental hop Grossman describes as having "big floral notes" and "big fruit notes – almost tropical in essence."

Dogfish Head contributed a specially selected Red Fife winter wheat from Anson Mills, a grower of organic heirloom grains in North Carolina. The beer is being brewed with house yeast from both breweries.

Whether it's because of the familial bonds or just the combined prowess of more than 50 years of brewing experience, Rhizing Bines is an outstanding beer. It pours a warm, clear amber color with an impressively dense white head with lots of staying power. The aroma is earthier than expected, with musty hops, yeast and a hint of its 8 percent alcohol.

There is loads of complexity in the taste, all pulled together with deft craftsmanship. It is sweet, but not ponderous like many double IPAs I've had, and there is a malt grain flavor in the middle that brings it down to earth. I pick up notes of butterscotch and cantaloupe. The smooth, glassy mouthfeel lends the impression of a rich, substantial brew.

Rhizing Bines is one of the most appealing beers I've tasted lately. It will pair with food – the brewers suggest barbecued meats or chevre – or would make a good after-dinner sipper. It's in 22-ounce bottles in stores, for about $13 to $14.50, and on tap regionally.

This article appeared in the March 27, 2013 edition of The News Journal (Wilmington, DE)

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