We Tried Sierra Nevada's New Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA. Here's What We Thought

In April of the year 1516, the ruler of Bavaria, Duke Wilhelm IV, decreed a law that, for the hundreds of years to come, would dictate the way beer could be brewed in Germany. Called the Reinheitsgebot in German, per History Today, and known as the German Beer Purity Law in English, the law is often seen as having protected the quality of beer by preventing conniving brewers from using cheap, even unsafe ingredients in the beer-making process, but in truth, the Reinheitsgebot was as much about bakers as it was about brewers. By limiting beer production to just three ingredients: water, barley, and hops (and later yeast, though at the time it was not yet a recognized component in the brewing process), the German Beer Purity Law ensured that wheat would remain available for the production of bread.

While the Reinheitsgebot did indeed keep the bread supply higher (and bread prices lower) and kept beer purer and safer, it also meant that, for many years, there was little room for innovation. After all, how complex and nuanced a beer can you really make if the only ingredients you're allowed to use are water, barley, and hops, plus the yeast needed for fermentation? Actually, you can brew pretty amazing beers that abound with complexity, nuance, and, of course, sublime taste. Any beer lover can tell you that. From this beer lover, let us tell you that Sierra Nevada's new Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA confirms as much once again.

What's in Sierra Nevada's new Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA?

This IPA is made in America, so the brewmasters at Sierra Nevada could have thrown anything they wanted into this brew with no German Beer Purity Law stopping them. But they didn't; the brewers at Sierra Nevada made this new beer using only water, yeast, barley, and hops. In this case, it's an ale yeast, the grain bill consists of Carapils and Two-Row Pale malts, and as for the hops, that's the real story.

The beer is hopped with Mosaic, Citra, and Simcoe hops, all of which are grown in the Pacific Northwest, not far from where Sierra Nevada beers are brewed. But in order to ensure that this beer was made with the very freshest of wet hops — which is to say hops picked from the vine and used in brewing before they could dry out — the hops are rapidly frozen once harvested. Sierra Nevada uses what it calls "A patented cryogenic process to separate the hop cone and isolate the jackpot inside: pure lupulin, the ... Cryo Fresh [process] makes a wet hop IPA possible, anytime." See what Sierra Nevada did there? It froze the aging and drying process, literally, so when it brews with these hops, it's like brewing with just-picked material.

How much does Sierra Nevada's new Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA cost?

So, here's the thing: If you go out searching for this beer in a six-pack or 12-er or on tap at your local watering hole, you're going to have a bad time. As of right now, per Sierra Nevada's site, Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA is only available in the brewery's Hoppy Sampler Pack, a 12-pack of bottles of beer in which you get three of these newest, freshest-hopped beers along with three Torpedo Extra IPAs, three Dankful IPAs, and three of the brewery's classic Pale Ales, one of the beers that helped bring on the American craft beer revival a generation ago. As for how much that Hoppy Sampler Pack costs, that depends on your location. A PR rep for the brand told us the company's MSRP was $18.99, but we also found Hoppy Sampler Packs for sale for $20.99 at a few outlets.

Let's split the difference and call it an average price of $19.99, and then divide that by 12, to get a price of $1.66 per bottle of beer included in the Hoppy Sampler Pack. Is that a good price for a bottle of Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA? Yes it is, we say.

How long will Sierra Nevada's new Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA be available?

We do not know specifically for how long this beer will be available — Sierra Nevada is keeping rather tight lips on the matter of availability, without published plans for the so-called "sunset date" of the Hoppy Sampler Pack posted anywhere, nor could we find any intel on plans to offer the new Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA as a standalone brew. What we do know for sure, however, is that it's not going to be a permanent addition to the Sierra Nevada lineup; not this go-around, at least. Why? Because this Cryo Fresh brew is brewed with a few ingredients of which there is known to be a limited supply.

To prepare the hops for this new beer, Sierra Nevada partnered with Yakima Chief Hops, the company that created the unique "frozen fresh" hops process. According to a statement from that company, which often goes by YCH, the YC 301 Frozen Fresh Hops Cryo Hops is a trial program that was just kicked off this year. If the success it seems likely to enjoy does indeed come to fruition (as it has with this beer), then expect these fresh frozen (yeah, it does sound like an oxymoron) to be generally available in the future, though.

How does Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA compare to other Sierra Nevada beers?

If you have a decent familiarity with the core brews from the Sierra Nevada lineup — say, the company's flagship Pale Ale, its Torpedo Extra IPA, and the enchanting seasonal Celebration Fresh Hop IPA — then you would be able to identify this beer as a Sierra Nevada even in a blind taste test. It's a perfectly logical addition to the brewery's bench of beers, most all of which tend to be variations on hoppy to quite hoppy to very heavily hopped ales. In fact, one could easily argue that Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA tastes more Sierra Nevada than the brewery's Narwhal Imperial Stout or its Kellerweis Bavarian-Style Wheat beers. We won't officially say that, mind you, as we love both of those beers. 

And the other point here is this: quite frankly, don't feel too bad if you can't get your hands on this newest Sierra Nevada beer. As we'll explain in more detail later, it's something of an evolution for the brewery, but it's hardly a revolution: Sipping a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, available just about everywhere, is an entirely decent runner-up. Having sipped both, we're confident in that assertion, and that's a kudos for the brewery's longtime classic beer, not a knock on the latest brew here.

What are the stats for Sierra Nevada's new Cryo Fresh Torpedo IPA?

As you have possibly heard us say many times before (because we always tend to say it in this part of the review), beverages that have alcohol in them are not regulated by the FDA and, per Lehrman Beverage Law, they are not required to divulge ingredients or nutrition information in the same way as booze-free beverages and foods are. So we don't have the 4-1-1 on the calories, the carbs, and so forth, but we can tell you that, per Livestrong, an average IPA has about 155 calories per 12-ounce serving, along with 1.6 grams of protein and about 13 grams of carbs.

We can, however, tell you some very specific other stats about Sierra Nevada's new Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA. We can tell you that it rates at 7% alcohol by volume, for example, and that it clocks in at 45 International Bitterness Units, or IBUs (For reference, the brewery's OG Pale Ale rates at 38 IBUs, so this is a pretty close comparison). And in case you have been wondering about the word "torpedo," FYI it's a dry hopping device, dry hopping being adding hops after the boil. Per the company's site, "Beer circulates out of a fermenter, flows through the column of hops [called the torpedo], and back into the tank. By adjusting the time, temperature, and speed of circulation, we can control the aromas and flavors in a finished beer."

Did we like Sierra Nevada's new Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA?

Yes, we enjoyed this beer. Very much so, but primarily for a reason that might surprise you: subtlety. This beer, while rich and complex in hop flavor profile, is not a hop slap to the taste buds. We rather expected something more akin to a Stone Ruination IPA level of hop potency where everything you taste for a while after sipping the beer is laced with lingering hop flavor, but that was hardly the case here. Instead, this beer, as noted, is quite comparable to a classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, albeit with a hop taste that really does come across as fresher. It's as if the flavor is a bit stronger yet also a bit milder, if you can wrap your head around that. The edge is off of the bitterness, yet all the flavor of the hop blend remains.

Sipping Sierra Nevada's new Cryo Fresh Torpedo Wet Hop IPA is not a life-changing event, but it's a beer good enough that you may well remember the moment you first tried it, as was the case for us with the brewery's Celebration Ale one winter holiday season many years past. And it's one you'll miss fondly if it proves to be a one-time release.