Sierra Nevada, Tumbler

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Grade: B

An Autumn beer? In August?

I guess in retrospect the transition from summer to fall is a quick one after all. In the span of a month or so the weather turns from sweltering to chilly and the beers go from pilsners to porters. Still, it's a little unusual to walk in to your local store in flip flops and pick up a beer with Autumn leaves all over it.

Tumbler is the replacement for the Anniversary Ale, which wasn't a failure of a beer, but was simply too similar to the much beloved Celebration Ale that came out right after it. To mix up the seasonal lineup, Sierra departed from their comfort zone of hoppy pale ales and went down a decidedly more malty path. 

A rocky off-white head floats on top of a perfectly clear auburn ale. The aromas are of sweet toffee and biscuit, with a tiny little bit of coffee-like roast. There's a definate roast quality in the flavor, bitter coffee and toasted dark bread. There isn't much sweetness here, it's kept very much in check by those roast elements. There's a solid bittering from hops as well, some even make it into the flavor as spicy and earthy notes. The mouthfeel is perfectly medium, finishing dry yet with enough body to carry all the malty flavors. Lingering bitterness is left on the tongue, though I'm not sure if it's from the hops or if the malts are a little acrid or harsh. The beer isn't out of balance however, these malt driven flavors are present but not overly assertive. This isn't on the level of a stout or a porter, it absolutely lives up to the brown ale name on the label.

This beer is out of place right now, mostly because it's August. Had I been drinking this in Autumn like the label suggests, I think I would be much more open to the coffee and hearty malt flavors here. It's not a bad beer by any stretch, in fact it's one of the more flavorful examples of an American brown ale I've ever had. However brown ales haven't found the niche market in America that beers like pilsner or IPA have. Even dark beers like stouts and porters have their followings, but brown ale seems to have fallen through the cracks. Hopefully with the coast to coast distribution of this beer, combined with the trusted name of Sierra Nevada, brown ale will find it's place among the other classic American styles.