This one kinda took me by surprise when I saw it on the shelf at my local store. A Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada collaboration? I know these two breweries did a “Life and Limb” before – a strong ale brewed with maple and birch, but I wasn’t anticipating any more such collaborations. This was probably foolish of me, because the collaborative trend in craft beer is showing no signs of abating.
OK, so this is an IPA. Big deal, right? If I picked up every single IPA I ever saw on the shelves, I’d be swimming in beer bottles. Well, even more so than I already am, I guess. Anyway, Rhizing Bines promises to be a little more interesting than the standard Cascade hop love-fest normally associated with Sierra Nevada’s beers. The bittering hop here is Bravo, a very high alpha acid American variety. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a beer that prominently features this hop, so I’m already in unknown territory. Plunging me deeper into the hop bine thicket is the variety used here for dry-hopping, experimental Hop 644. This is what’s going to give me most of the hop aroma, and I have no idea what this particular hop is all about. My typical American hop aroma expectations are of grapefruit, pine, cannabis and maybe a little cat pee…but a hop that doesn’t have a name yet? No clue.
The malt bill featured here is also interesting. Southeastern US foodies will likely recognize the name Anson Mills. If not, if you’ve ever been to a nice local gastropub and ordered anything with grits or farro……South Carolina’s Anson Mills was probably the purveyor. Anyway, a further deviation from the standard American IPA style is the use of red heirloom wheat grown by these guys. This should add a dimension beyond the standard cakey barley malts found in the majority of IPAs.
Now that I’ve set the stage, I’ll give it a try. The pour is gold with a tinge of amber, very typical of IPAs. Good clarity and foam retention. Aroma is not the usual IPA aroma at all – it really doesn’t have much beyond a soft bready component and the smell of a field of wildflowers and weeds.
Thankfully, there’s more to the taste. Typical IPA, this is not. I was looking for some fruit in the aroma, but I’m getting it on the palate in the form of strawberries. The use of heirloom wheat here is also really softening the mouthfeel and adding an intense but not unwelcome bready underpinning with a hint of lavender. Aftertaste seems to be an impression of strawberry jam, with a firm residual bitterness.
It’s a tough IPA to put my finger on – it has the bitterness, but beyond that the aroma and flavor components are out of the mainstream. I’m a sucker for the soft texture wheat gives, and I like the rustic, floral smells and flavors going on, so this is my kind of beer. However, if you want a traditional American IPA out of this one, you might want to steer clear. If you don’t mind stretching the boundaries of what an IPA can be, though, pick one up.