An output of Sierra Nevada's annual Beer Camp, I just picked up two twelve-packs of Sierra Nevada's Best of Beer Camp 2011 Collection (released in the brewery just yesterday). Because two of the four beers in the pack exceed 8% ABV and I am heading back to the mothership this evening for a Belgium Brewers Beer Dinner this evening (hosted by the head brewers from Lost Abbey, Allagash, Dogfish Head, Avery, and Sierra Nevada), I chose to start the evening with the (relatively lighter) Sierra Nevada Beer Camp California Common #8.
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp California Common #8 had a semi-transparent white head fed by mild carbonation from a transparent orange body. Ale yeast and aromas of biscuits were prominent in the nose and supported by a sweet pine backing.
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp California Common #8 had a crisp, clean start that immediately revealed the malt-dominated profile of the ale-lager hybrid, toasty and wheat biscuit-like. The mouth-feel got a little sticky at the end, and it had the iconic "Sierra Nevada Big Body" that managed to be both full but light on the palette.
Of the few takes on the California Common style I've tried (the most iconic being Anchor Steam Beer), Sierra Nevada has created the best. It has plenty of character and depth that highlights the hybrid brewing style approach without ever loosing the crispness and distinct flavor that typifies the style. It does weigh in at 20-30% more alcohol than most California Commons, but drinks like a session beer.