Surely one of the most hyped, talked-about beers of the last month or so is Life & Limb, the first ever collaboration beer between Sierra Nevada Brewing and Dogfish Head Brewery: partly because there was a social media firestorm that buoyed in (largely sparked by the highly effective Dogfish Publicity Machine), and partly because the collaboration itself was genuinely interesting. I mean really, who would have seen the team-up coming between the flamboyant, extreme-brewing Dogfish with one of the oldest, best craft breweries in the U.S.?
I didn’t. But once I got over the surprise, I was impressed; it seemed to me that combining that flamboyancy with the solid, consistent brewing foundation Sierra Nevada offers could produce something greater than the sum of its parts.
The question of course is, is Life & Limb greater than the sum of its parts?
We’ll get to that. First, here’s a bit about the beer itself:
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, California. 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.
They also brewed Limb & Life from the second runnings of the Life & Limb: a draft-only, 5.2% beer also containing maple and birch syrups. I would be extremely surprised to find any of that here in Bend.
My sense is that Life & Limb is a pretty limited release, moreso than others, so I picked up a bottle at Whole Foods for $9.99 when I saw it. It comes in the 24-ounce bottle (not 22!) that Sierra Nevada has been using for their special releases: so at 10.2% ABV, tread carefully.
Appearance: Pours the color of pancake syrup, a deep dark red-brown in the glass when held up to the light. Generous rocky tall head, tan with a creamy note.
Smell: Fragrant as I opened the bottle… sweet with dark fruits—figs, dates; a touch of molasses and licorice; some darkish malts and an almost cidery fruit character as it warms.
Taste: Dark and dry, not harsh at all, warming effect of alcohol swirls down the throat at the first sip. Roasty kind of like a Porter with a syrupy brandy kick to it. There’s a woody essence to it, very mellow. Spicy and rummy, especially as it warms, with kind of a berry/currant thing going on.
Mouthfeel: Dry and well-attenuated, medium-bodied but thin, no doubt due to the syrups; there’s alcohol heat and a nice lip-smacking stickiness in the residual sugars.
Overall: Is this better than the sum of its parts? I would say yes; my notes started with “Superb.” It’s not as over-the-top as I was afraid it would be. It’s restrained, mature, big, hot, rich, and complex. Very nice.