When two of the heavyweights in the US craft beer scene team up. interesting things are bound to happen. A few of us nerds luckily got our hands on one such collaboration: Life & Limb, from Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head.
By now you’ve probably heard about this beer, but just in case, I’ll borrow directly from the description on DFH’s Web site:
“Life & Limb is a 10% ABV strong, dark beer that defies style characteristics- brewed with pure maple syrup from the Calagione family farm in Massachusetts and estate barley grown on the Grossman “farm” at the brewery in Chico, CA. The beer is alive with yeast-a blend of both breweries’ house strains-bottle conditioned for added complexity and shelf life, and naturally carbonated with birch syrup fresh from Alaska.”
So it’s clearly a big deal — not only is this a unique recipe made with “proprietary” ingredients, but it was a one-time brew. Word is that it sold out very quickly pretty much everywhere. I missed it at the downtown Spec’s, but still managed to snag three bottles — one at the Houston Flying Saucer, and two from a Spec’s in Austin (thanks to a priceless hook-up from a couple friends).
Tempting as it has been (and will be) to open one of the two bottles, I’m going to put them away for a while. In the meantime, here’s my review from the bottle I drank at the Saucer.
Poured out of a 24oz bottle into a snifter. In a dark bar, it’s really dark brown, if not quite black, with the tiniest bit of dark red highlights. The first pour doesn’t yield much of a head, leaving just a bubbly ring and traces of some slick. The second pour (pictured) is much better — two fingers, thick and sticky, although it also ends up as just a ring. Lacing is non-existant on the first glass, but the second time around it leaves thick parallel lines.
The nose surprises me at first, simply because it’s so subtle. I get some sugary and syrupy sweet malt but not much else. After teasing a big head out of the second pour, the nose improves noticeably — the aforementioned sweet malt load is more defined, and there’s some dark fruit and even a touch of cocoa.
Right away, you taste the sugary and syrupy sweetness as expected. There’s plenty of alcohol flavor too, but it’s not harsh, just present. There’s maybe a touch of dark fruit (fig?) as well. I don’t get anything in the way of hops or bitterness, but I think there’s a tiny hint of spice in the back.
After the second pour, the taste opens up a bit more. I get all of the above (sugar, syrup, fruit, spice), plus some chocolate, and it all swirls together nicely. The alcohol I noticed early on has also faded somewhat, although it’s impossible to drink 24oz of this without feeling it.
The beer is decently thick, with some fine carbonation and a touch of chewiness. I’d call it a medium-to-full body, and it trends more to full as it warms.
The Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Head Life & Limb is good beer. It’s not great, not yet anyway, and all indications are that it should age spectacularly. In the meantime, it’s well worth seeking out. If you can only snag one bottle, I vote that you put it away. If you get more, go ahead and crack one open soon. You’ll enjoy it.
B+ (The nerds over at Beer Advocate give it a B+)