Life and Limb vs. Limb and Life

Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, Life and Limb

Life and Limb, and its little brother Limb and Life are two beers cut from the same barley. Termed a partigyle, these beers are made from the same ingredients, but are as different as can be. Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head collaborated to make this unique offering, the details of which can be found at the Limb and Life website (yes, it has its own website). Eli Cannon’s in Middletown offered a side by side tasting of the beers, and I was eager to see what they were like, head to head. Sierra Nevada is one of my absolute favorite breweries, and Dogfish Head is one of my least. Will the joining of the two be greater than the sum of its parts? Or will the best of the best mixed with the worst of the worst merely end up in mediocrity?

Life and Limb
Grade: B-

Pours very dark brown, almost opaque, with ruby red hues when held to the light. The head is thick, hazelnut in color, and laces the glass well. The aroma holds a lot of sugar-sweetness, candy, caramel, molasses, and some alcohol notes. Dark fruits are there as well, along with hints of roast and coffee. There is no hop aroma to speak of. The mouthfeel is full and rich, with very tiny bubbles of carbonation from the bottle conditioning. Without that carbonation the beer would feel very cloying. The flavor echoes much of the aroma with candy sweetness, caramel, maple syrup, some slightly acrid roast, raisins, and plums. In short, despite Sierra Nevada’s best efforts, this is another overly sweet Dogfish Head beer.

Limb and Life
Grade: B

First of all, despite being made from the same basic ingredients, this is a completely different beer. An offwhite, creamy head tops a brown, semi translucent beer with some slightly red tinges. The aroma is immediately of bread, toast, grain, caramel, and most notably, hops. The smell of the hops reminds me, literally, of a grassy field after a sudden summer rain (I know, sounds like a detergent commercial). The body is medium, notably drier than its bigger brother, and finishes clean with a lower level of carbonation. The bread, grain, and toast from the aroma carry into the flavor, yet without much sweetness to speak of. The hops are in the flavor as well, grassy, earthy, and herbal. The hops are a very welcome and surprisingly balanced addition to this malty brown ale. There are some slight citrus notes to the hops, but for the most part the herbs and earth come through, playing very well with the grainy, nutty, cereal-like qualities of the malts.

What can we take away from all this? This is another case of beers that are known more for their rarity than their actual taste. Production was extremely limited on Limb and Life, sometimes only a single case would be delivered to an entire state. In the case of Connecticut, the bottles were given to owners of retail stores as Christmas gifts, not even intended for sale to the public. Life and Limb, the smaller of the two beers, is on draft only, and very few of those kegs made their way out past the west coast. Because of this scarcity, people clamored to get a taste (including this intrepid beer geek). I’m glad that I got the opportunity, but if this beer was on the shelves year round I’d pass it by. I did manage to acquire a single bottle of Life and Limb through an unnamed and very generous source, so we’ll see how it ages. I’ll let you know in three years.