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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday Review: Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale

By Doug Dorda

While pumpkin ales, bombastic stouts, and oktoberfest are clear indicators that it is time to break out the sweatshirts and plan that first trip to the orchard, brown ales stand idly by in the aisles seeking to provide the adventurous spirit in us all with a day's respite and chance for reflection. There exists a veritable cornucopia of these delicious beauties ready for the “harvest,” Brownstone from Sixpoint, Best Brown from Bells, and Boffo from Darkhorse being among my favorites. But the Tumbler from Sierra Nevada will always be my first pick when hunkered down by the autumn bonfire.

Tumbler is a shining example of how simplicity can lend itself to unbelievable complexity in the finished flavor of an ale. Stylistically, it finds itself well within the hallmarks of all traits that make a brown ale a classic. Sierra Nevada has even gone the extra mile by utilizing the roasted malts—the backbone of the ale—mere hours after they leave the kiln. The effect on the palate is unmistakeable.

Tumbler pours a deep chocolate brown, and when held to the light it reveals hues of amber that are reminiscent of the changing leaves. The head is a hearty off-white that lingers for a moment, but does not wish to stifle your enjoyment. Immediately the nose is enlivened with the promise of deep toffee and lightly burnt toast that are complemented by a wisp of smoke that does much to set the stage for the first sip.

The beer lies medium bodied on the palate, and positively explodes with roasted peanut/biscuit flavors that are wholly rounded by the slightest addition of candied fruit nuances. The finish is quite dry, and does not cloy or seek to be an overbearing “warmer.” This beer tastes, to me, like anticipation. Each time I enjoy this ale I harken back to youthful days, eagerly planning my Halloween costume and trick-or-treat route as to maximize the amount of candy I could get. I also see cider and doughnuts, and really all those things that encompass the fall season.

Many times I will give a beer merit for it's ability to trigger a particular feeling, or memory within me. For this reason I chose to profile Tumbler instead of some of the aforementioned browns. While each of the examples I listed makes me think and feel, none of them make me feel like my younger self. Tumbler is a bonfire in a bottle, the laughter during pumpkin carving, that first caramel apple, and the line before the haunted house where you try to convince people that you aren’t scared. Though these qualities may not be tangible, and certainly wont be found in a judging, I think you will find them in this bottle, warming you on the dark cold nights of autumn.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown Ale retails for $1.79 at Siciliano's, and can only be found during the fall season.

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