Nick Carr on February 9, 2015 0 Comments Quick Characteristics Brewery: Sierra Blanca Brewing Co. Location: Moriarty, NM Style: English Brown Ale ABV: 5.0% IBUs: 16 Hops: English Fuggle Appearance: Dark Chestnut Brown with Amber Highlights; Tan Foamhead Lingers Momentarily Aroma: Pleasant Malty Sweetness, Rich Nuttiness & Caramel Nuances; Hints of Bitter Chocolate Flavor: Rich Malty Sweetness Which Leads to Roasted-Coffee, Chocolate & Nuttiness Availability: Year-Round Pairs With: Grilled Steak, Rubbed lamb chop, light blue cheese, maple-walnut cake The other day I was thinking about how long it has been since I’ve paid homage to any of the more local breweries. Well, I decided to keep my eyes open next time I was out hunting beer, see what local new libations might be available; and low and behold as I went about scrutinizing the local shelves my eyes fell upon an icily painted box and a skeleton on a bone-caged horse, the words “Bone Chiller” coldly written across the top. Interesting. I moved on down the aisle, but there wasn’t much else so I came back for a second look. The picture seemed a little silly, though in all fairness it fit the name well. Then I saw that they had won gold in the Great American Beer Festival in 2012, and silver in 2013. Needless, to say the sixpack promptly went into my basket. I’d found my local beer. I was a fish and I’d been caught by the glint of something shiny. Honestly I can’t say if this beer was available down here before the new packaging or not. Other Sierra Blanca beers are, like Rio Grande Pancho Verde Chile (a surprisingly pleasant lager with a very New Mexican spin to it); so I’d have to guess that it probably was. “With balanced voice the Bone Chiller did sing, of complexity’s sweetly rounded ring.” What I’m trying to say is that it was the change in packaging that brought my attention to it. Something to be said for a change in design, if only to get the locals, passing by the same racks of beer week after week, to notice beer they might otherwise miss. Sierra Blanca was established in Carrizozo New Mexico back in 1996 by Rich and Suzanne Weber. They slowly built a reputation and with it their customer base. But, they realized that expansion was going to be limited by the rural setting of their historic location. So, in 2007 they made the hard decision to up-stakes and move to Moriarty, New Mexico. That same year they bought the Rio Grande brewing brand, making them the biggest craft brewer in the state. Examples of English brown ales aren’t half as common as there American cousins making any example worth note; attach a couple awards and it becomes a “must” experience. So, I guess I must… Pour and Aroma Bone Chiller is a dark chestnut brown with amber highlights, turning ruby when held to direct light. Even with a pretty aggressive pour the head bobs up at only a fingers height. Tan in color, it sticks but seconds, before dropping away to leave very little behind; which is quite appropriate to the style. Aroma is inviting and pleasant. Malty sweetness, rich nut, and caramel nuances overlay each other. Small hints of bitter chocolate and coffee play back-up for the bigger band, marking an interesting and sweet journey for the nose. Mouthfeel and Taste Carbonation is moderately low carrying the medium-full body well. Mouthfeel is smooth and slightly mouth-coating. Man the complexity in this beer is amazing. First that rich malt sweetness at the front of the mouth, not overdoing it, just rich and full. Mid-palate finds an expression for all shades within the malt backbone; roasted-coffee, chocolate, nuttiness, and just the sliest whisper of smoke. The sweet-richness climbs back up to center stage on the swallow. Hops remain mostly hidden — a trademark of the English brown ales, and one of the more discernible differences between them and American browns. The aftertaste is sweet and roasty, begging for that next sip. Finishing the Impression This one’s worthy of the praises it’s received. It is very drinkable. A go-to no matter the time of year, though maybe especially pertinent during those hotter months, when, after drinking a month’s worth of lighter fare, you have that craving for some complexity and weight without delving into a heavy hitting porter or stout. This toes the line just right. Complex and rich, but mellow, not heavy, with a nice middle-grounded ABV. If you need your hops… well, drink this anyway. Try a well brewed beer style (It won’t hurt you, I promise). Who knows it might surprise you. Here the hop plays a different role. They do what they are meant to do, balance the whole, orchestrate behind the scenes, and create a beautiful steady complexity.