Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Now Drinking: Sierra Nevada / Dogfish Head Life and Limb

OK, so I'm obviously not actually drinking it right now, but less than 12 hours ago I rolled up to the end at the Dogfish Head beer and food dinner at Leeds' excellent The Cross Keys Pub (part of the North Bar group). I'm always late to these events as I work until 9pm, and anyway, I'd sent my other two co-workers to the dinner. That's just the kind of guy I am.

The nice thing about arriving late was being able to try this absurdly rare beer with a relatively fresh palate. I warmed up with a tiny glass of Palo Santo Marron, a a delicious strong (12%abv) brown ale that is aged in huge wooden vats (made from the eponymous palo santo wood). Palo Santo Marron is a stunningly good beer, with endless chocolate, liquorice and spice depths, and a suggestion of tannins that bodes well for ageing potential. Delicious, drinkable and structured, it's a perfect nightcap beer.

But of course, I wasn't about to go to bed, I was about to drink the much talked-about collaboration between Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, their Life and Limb project. In the short introductory video, it's explained that Life and Limb is a beer that is intended to focus more on the malt character, while the parallel Limb and Life project is more hop-focused.

Life and Limb pours a dark coffee-brown, with a slightly tan head. It's a bit tight on the nose - there's some dark malt character, some slightly green hop hop notes, and a suggestion of some slightly savoury quality that's hard to pin down. Fellow writer Adrian Tierney-Jones (who miraculously appeared just as the Life and Limb was opened) suggested Marmite, which is not too far off, although for me Marmite is something that is more associated with older beers - maybe roasted chicory might be nearer the mark.

On the palate, again (and frustratingly), it's all a bit tight, with perhaps even a suggestion of green-ness. Don't get me wrong, it's all stuffed with flavour, with an earthy, spicy note dominating, which I'd guess to be an interaction between the hops and the birch syrup. In fact, there is quite a bit in common with the Palo Santo Marron, a woody, slightly grippy note, albeit moderated with a much lighter body and more hop spice and bitterness. But the flavours and textures aren't quite melded together properly yet.

I think that, like many great works of art or craft, the true genius of this beer will only be revealed over time. This is definitely one for the cellar, and I'd happily make some space in mine for as many bottles as I can get. And therein lies the problem - this beer is virtually unobtainable, and will almost certainly be consumed before its time by the over-eager and enthusiastic. As a measured professional, I'd urge you to send your bottles to me for safekeeping and, ultimately, evaluation through consumption. But not for a few years yet.


  1. Nice to see a man of your standards occasionally takes crap photos like the rest of us...

  2. Got a bottle of the Palo Santo Marron at home. Not sure whether to drink it soon or keep it for the long haul.


  3. hah, missed this one! Well, when I say missed, I mean couldn't fork out that much for a ticket....must try harder next time.

  4. Andy - it's so crap that I've taken it down. Twitpic had blocked it anyway

    Chunk - it's good now, but I'd expect it to be a lot smoother in a year's time

    Leigh - you need to stop spending all your money on fish & derks

  5. Zak, love your blog. You probably know of Daleside brewery (Starbeck, Harrogate) but I work there but only through the week (live in Northumberland through weekends). Next chance I get to go to Leeds (which I have only visited twice I admit) I will hunt out your shop and pay you a visit. I hope your on duty most days, its not often I get to meet someone I can really talk to about beer, but your work borders on inspirational.

  6. Rob, that's very kind, and I'm pleased you like the blog. If you want to catch me at the shop, earlier in the week is best.

  7. wahoo! , Your book is on the shelves in New Zealand, its looks great! It will come out of next weeks beer budget.

  8. Wow - I had no idea it was going so far afield. Hope you enjoy it....


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