I had been pretty excited to get my hands on this one, ever since seeing breathless tweets announcing its arrival in Houston. To be honest, I'm not a particular fan of either brewery, finding Sierra Nevada to be solid but uninspiring, and Dogfish to be somewhat erratic. Of course, it's always worthwhile to keep in mind that rarity does not equal quality. Nor does a collaboration between two highly regarded breweries. Still, the amount of excitement that seemed to build up over this one was somewhat infectious.
While I didn't go particularly out of my way to find a bottle, I did run by Spec's on my way home a few times, after digital reports of its availability there. I came back empty-handed. Then, several weeks since the last reported sighting, I was dispatched to pick up a bottle of wine to accommodate some last-minute dinner guests. I happened upon a display of Life and Limb at the Kirby Whole Foods. I was momentarily tempted to grab a few bottles, swept up in the rush of unexpected discovery, much like Katharine and her maniacal hoarding of kolaches. Rationality won out, assisted by the $10 price tag.
Back at home, my wife finished up dinner and prepared for our guests, and I sat down on the couch to see what all the fuss was about. The label is a treasure trove of information, and darn good-looking to boot. A stylized tree with symbolically intertwined roots frames the story of the collaboration, further emphasizing the beer's arboreal elements.
Poured into a glass, the beer has the hazy, garnet-tinged hue of root beer (how appropriate), enrobed by a thin, Capuchin cloak of dense, creamy foam with excellent retention.
The nose takes a while to develop, and doesn't really come across until the beer warms somewhat. Then, a mix of dried and fresh dark fruit, baker's chocolate and earth envelops a slightly alcoholic waft, keeping it from being particularly vehement. It's pleasant enough, but nothing to get excited over.
Much the same can be said of the flavor profile, which was nice, but didn't have me wishing for another bottle while half of this one was left. It starts out with a hint of cocoa followed by a sightly fruity sweetness. Mild, char-like, burnt toast bitterness strikes in the back of the throat. Alcohol vapor manifests in the mouth, too, if you hold a sip for more than a second. Slightly spicy and peppery notes flit around the edges. Maple comes through the same way cedar does when planking fish. As it warms, spicier and fruitier notes take over. There's an interesting textural interplay at work, combining prickly carbonation and a thick, creamy body.
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I would definitely drink this again, if I found myself presented with a bottle. I'm not sure I'd buy it for myself, though, since I feel there are much better beers to be had at this price point (and below). The experience did, however, give me a new-found appreciation for both of the collaborative breweries involved. In comparison with this highly anticipated letdown, a solid Sierra Nevada Pale Ale sounds like a dependable comfort, and the occasional flashes of brilliance from Dogfish Head seem to offer thrills that compensate commendably for their less successful, yet equally audacious offerings.
It's nice to be reminded that, while special releases come and go, sometimes without ever passing your lips, there are just as many, if not more, readily available beers out there, offering just as much pleasure and excitement. Now, as for the next rare beer to sweep across the Houston marketplace, I'll probably try to get my hands on that, too. I'll just do it with my hopes held closer to the ground.