After staking out a kingly claim in America’s hop-heavy craft market, it might seem odd that Sierra Nevada’s next conquest would be of Belgians. On the opposite side of the hop spectrum from the no-quarter West Coast IPAs that Sierra helped define, Belgium’s abbey ales are steeped in decorous tradition and a sweet interplay between distinctive yeast strains, simple grain bills, candied sugar adjuncts, and location, tradition, location. And yet perhaps it was precisely these opposite worldviews that make the Ovila series such an alluring prospect and their beers so unanimously worth trying. Not all have been major coups, but never are they boring.
GIVEN THAT THE FIRST first three entrants into Sierra Nevada’s Ovila lineup were a Dubbel, Saison, and Quad, it’s interesting that for their fourth brew they chose a Strong Golden Ale in favor of a tripel. Perhaps they felt the complexities of a Strong Golden were a little more suited to their own palates? In any event, it’s clear that their product reflects the archetype at least in its first impression: this is a volatile and highly pressurize golden ale of 9+ % ABV that nearly erupts out of the bottle when the cork is popped. The head is overpowering, requiring a very slow pour, and the nose is strong with citrus, but airy and leavened by alcohol undertones. Initial flavors of sweet pineapple are supported by a creamy body with some caramel notes and smooth yeast. Not very heavily attenuated, despite its robust carbonation, and with more American hops arriving to clean up the aftertaste. These are strong, but balanced enough between citrus and grass such that no single strain sticks out. Altogether a unique take on the style, if not a masterful one.
Served: 750 ml bottle