Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada Rhizing Bines.


I love collaboration beers. It's some weird way for brewers to work together, bringing out the best of what each is known for, while suppressing all the faults. Collaboration is nothing new. Brewers have been doing it for some time now, but it's not often someone gets to see two greats working together. Pete Rose and Johnny Bench, John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson...Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada?
Joking comparisons to elder statesmen and legendary sports heroes aside, Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada are breweries with reputations preceding them.

The former is a half-cocked East Coast brewery with a penchant for artisan-level ales bordering on masterpieces. The Ancient Ales series of Dogfish Head are based on long-lost, resurrected recipes from dead civilizations, like Theobroma, an ale made with chocolate and chiles, or Midas Touch, a baffling beer with flavors of wine, based on a 2,700-year-old recipe. Dogfish Head's beers are not without their flaws, but they are known and revered for the research, thoughtfulness and hard work they put into each one. It shows when spectacular brews like Palo Santo Marron sell well at a shelf price of $15.99 for a 4-pack of 12-ounce bottles.

The latter might as well be "blamed" for the proliferation of the modern craft beer movement. Sierra Nevada isn't known for their innovation or downright insanity like DFH, but they are respected for making consistently solid, delicious high-quality craft brews with water from the temperate California mountain range (Or, depending on where you are, soon to be North Carolina. Not sure how that merits the name "Sierra Nevada," but I digress). Just about anywhere in the United States, I can safely walk into a respected liquor store, or most grocery stores even, and pick up a sixer of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and expect it to be as great as the first bottle I had back at the tender age of 21.

Milton, Delaware and Chico, California come together in the collaboration of Rhizing Bines, a beer in their Life and Limb series. While the last two beers, Life and Limb and its draft-only inverse, Limb and Life, were similar in character, Rhizing Bines is a double/imperial IPA brewed with an "East meets West Coast" kind of sensibility. DFH's continual hopping system used in their 60 Minute IPA, among others, is used along with SN's "Torpedo" dry-hop system to marry the two brewers as a celebration of Sierra Nevada planting roots on the East Coast.

My complaints of Sierra's transplant notwithstanding, I was excited to try this beer. I count SN among the breweries who first really exposed me to craft as I know it today, and Dogfish, well, Dogfish changed me. Palo Santo Marron is hands down one of the most mind-blowing beers I've ever had, and don't get me started on beers like Hellhound On My Ale and Noble Rot. DFH's willingness to experiment and make strange stuff actually has a bit of a root in Cincinnati, too; one need only look to the mushroom-filled Shroominous of Blank Slate Brewing to catch a bit of that fever. But that's enough history. We're here...for beer.

Rhizing Bines pours an impressively bright amber-orange into a stemmed tulip. The meringue-colored foam head is about a finger thick after a fairly forceful pour, and it doesn't really go down much after pouring. The foam likes to hang around, licking the glass as the beer is consumed and lacing pretty well. The beer is orange-amber, but it's almost transparent, with lots of apparent fizz. Great looking brew, but of course with the pedigrees these two brewers bring to the table, it's certainly not surprising.

The beer smells fantastic, with citrus notes of grapefruit and lemon working out on the nose, along with spiciness and a somewhat elusive bit of caramel aroma. There is a pervasive, not unwelcome but also kind of strange, lemon-lime tang to the smell, almost akin to a certain popular soda I'm sure many people have had mixed with vodka before. Floral notes follow as the smell finishes. All in all, a pretty typical-smelling IPA. Fantastic, but typical.

More lemon-lime flavor comes down the pipeline in the sip. There is a slightly creamy taste in the mouth to this beer, a bit of sweetness in it that is almost reminiscent of the finish of a milk stout. That's weird enough, but at least the beer is balanced between bitterness and raw hop aroma and flavor. That having been said, I can't really get excited by this beer. It's extremely uninteresting. It's as if every flavor was expressed well and in a really bombastic way, and the brewer did everything they could to dampen it. Nothing reaches out in a meaningful way to make itself known. The flavors just fall flat in every aspect. In the end, the best way I can summarize the beer is to take a pint of 60 Minute IPA and pour 5 or 6 ounces of Torpedo Extra IPA into it. That's what Rhizing Bines is. Somehow two great flavors come together and cancel each other out.

I've never been the hugest fan of DFH's IPAs, but I recognize how solid they can be. I was expecting more of a punch from really any aspect of this beer, but it's just not there. Even the 8 ABV isn't noticeable. The body of the beer is fairly thick, with a soft mouthfeel, but it sometimes feels a bit slick or oily. The carbonation helps to offset this, which just makes it feel like just about every other IPA out there.

I'm really dumbfounded by this beer. I've not really jumped for joy over any of the two brewer's beers for a while, but the last Life and Limb beer was delicious with powerful blasts of maple in a dark strong ale, one that really took itself seriously. This beer seems like it's handling the drinker with kid gloves, somehow too afraid to show what it can do. Aside from all that, it's insanely expensive for its quality, so I really can't recommend picking it up.

Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada Rhizing Bines was purchased in a 750ml bottle for $14.49 from Cork N Bottle in Covington, Kentucky. It was chilled to 44 degrees Fahrenheit before serving in a stemmed tulip, and was sampled regularly until coming to room temperature.

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