As I have marched relentlessly through hundreds of beers, there are certain ones which mark turning points in my evolution; after which things will never be the same again.
I believe that Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of those. Way back in 2003, following a trip to Vancouver and Seattle, I returned to the UK full of excitement about the American Craft brewing scene. Unfortunately however, examples of the US scene just had not made the long trip across the Atlantic. Except for Sierra Nevada. It was the first beer to regularly pop up in accessible locations, including Waitrose. The Waitrose thing was particularly exciting, as I could nip in and grab a bottle just before my Monday night ping-pong session at Hall Green Library. These things leave a lasting impression don't you know.
As for the beer itself, it was a revelation: light, refreshing, but packed with hops - the type of hops which just didn't exist in British brewing at that point. In 2004, when I got the chance to try Stone Arrogant Bastard in California I came to realise the difference between the largeness of an IPA compared to the more delicate hop balance of an American Pale Ale such as SNPA. That same year, 2 of my favourite 'at home session' beers were SNPA and Goose Island IPA - I remember both of these lads easing the pain of England's exit from Euro 2004.
Even as recently as 2007, the discovery of SNPA on tap at the Fighting Cocks in Moseley was a heartwarming find. On tap it was fresh, juicy and lethal, but the hipsters lapped it up. To see SNPA on tap, in branded glasses a few yards from my flat, gave me a really positive sense that the craft beer revolution had been continuing apace, even while I was in a beer hunting hiatus.
I'm supping a SNPA as I write this, and I must admit it just doesn't have the same excitement for me now: the hops are subtle and slight compared to the beasts I prefer, along the lines of Great Divide, Oakham or Kernel. Even so, it's a beautful sight to see the iconic green label, and somewhere in the mists of time, my heart still skips a beat.