The Real Sierra Nevada

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When we moved west as young men, our idea of a ‘day trip’ was popping LSD in the afternoon and wandering around campus.
That changed once we realized the psychedelic grandeur that is the Angeles National Forest, the high woods north of Ojai, the zen cabins on Mt. Wilson, and a dozen other pine and ponderosa-kissed summits from Southern California to the Eastern Sierras. Contrary to that silly notion that L.A. lacks seasons, we found otherwise. We made a special commune with nature here in the foothills north of Los Angeles, walking the trails with our eyes closed, breathing deep the desert sage, fox scat, juniper berries, and those Goliath pinecones.
The blotter acid still helped of course.
But we weren’t high at all when we poured our first pint of Mammoth Brewing Company’s IPA 395, and yet we felt transported to a late August, sunset hike in King’s Canyon. Other writers more schooled in the ways of the Sierra Nevada backcountry have described the terrain along historic Route 395 this way: “It is a land of 10,000-foot tall peaks and 6,000-foot deep valleys where the wild rivers run. And it is a land few people ever see.”
If you haven’t seen it, you can still taste it. Breathe in this IPA and you’ll see what we mean. The nose is a heady mix of spring flowers, dusty trail scents, townies-selling-dried-sage-at-the-farmers-market. There’s a faint note of something more sinister too, like a waft of a carcass retreating back into the soil. It’s a confusing smell to be sure, because it’s coming from a pint glass. But this is undeniably the California foothills, all red rock and clay with a sandy head. A gravestone under a ponderosa pine for a local church lady who loved the scenic views.
Mammoth defines this beer as “desert sage, juniper, and local hops.” We have never known a truer beer label. If not for the iconic, fizzy head you would be forgiven for mistaking this for an herbal tea mixed with smooth bathtub gin. They chalk up its purity to the water — besides local hops, their beers are crafted with water from those local creeks. We chalk it up instead to that image that our minds keep melting to when we sip this: us kicking off our hiking boots, dipping our toes into a crispy, cold creek and fishing out a bottle of 395 nestled between the stones and popping the top with an otherwise unused hunting knife.
Dairy Pairy: Cantal Vieux St. Mamet (Cheddar’s French Grandad).
Soundtrack: Violent Femmes’ “Good Feeing”

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5 Responses to The Real Sierra Nevada

  1. buss says:

    where might a weary traveler find such a fine bottle of hoppy goodness?

  2. EVAN says:

    We snagged this up the 95 freeway around Bakersfield. But we’ve seen Mammoth Brewing bombers before in a couple of stores around L.A. including the close-to-downtown Ramirez Liquor.

  3. Zac says:

    This just makes me want to move to California…That and Stone, Russian River, Ballast Point, Firestone Walker, etc.

  4. Sean Turner says:

    Hey All, thanks for the great review. Yeah, this is an Eastern Sierra inspired beer, and we purposely went for the desert sage & juniper to capture it. It will be available in 4-packs of 12oz. bottles around Memorial Day 2010. But sorry, we sell every drop we make, as fast as we can make it, in the Eastern Sierra and Yosemite NP only. The furthest south you can get it is Lancaster/Palmdale, and the furthest north you can get it is Reno/Tahoe (although we’ve heard of smuggled bottles getting sampled throughout Northern America…). Cheers, The Mammoth Brew Crew

    • Chelin says:

      I just found a couple 22s at BevMo in Santa Monica. This review had piqued my interest about a year ago. I did a double take when I saw it on the shelf. Cheers.

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