Beer Review: Boulevard/Sierra Nevada Terra Incognita

I’ll be perfectly honest with you; I’m a badge whore. My purchase of Terra Incognita, a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Boulevard Brewing, is proof of that. When TI  was released, Untappd announced a “Join the Journey” badge and a chance to win a trip to Chico, CA. So when I was in Bin Ends not too long ago, I spotted this brew on the shelf. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Boulevard’s flagship Tank 7 (which is personal taste, not a slight on the beer itself) but I thought their Chocolate Ale was incredible so I took a flyer on this Sour/Wild Ale aged in bourbon barrels.

From Boulevard/Sierra Nevada:

Situated at opposite ends of the California Trail, pioneering breweries Sierra Nevada and Boulevard have once again embarked upon a journey into the unknown. It was in 2012 that we first convened to craft a beer for SAVOR attendees. And it’s that collaborative effort, aptly named Terra Incognita, which brought us together to relive our collective adventure in 2013—and this time we will release it out into the world.

Earlier this year, Sierra Nevada Head Brewer Steve Dresler and Boulevard Brewmaster Steven Pauwels met in Kansas City to create a blend of three components:
  • Terra Incognita aged in Templeton Rye barrels
  • Terra Incognita aged in a 2,000-gallon foudre
  • Fresh Terra Incognita dry-hopped with East Kent Golding
The end result is a, fittingly, earthy beer, celebrating the unique terroir of our two locations. The blend incorporates (roughly) 45% foudre-aged, 30% Templeton-aged, and 25% fresh dry-hopped beer—all aimed at showcasing some predominant oak characteristics with a subtle hint of earthy hops. Then just prior to bottling we added a dose of the wild yeast Brettanomyces, and allowed the beer to age for over three months.
In the spirit of two breweries joining forces, we encourage you to enjoy this beer with good friends (and good food), and then join us in eager anticipation as we wait for Terra Incognita to return yet again in 2014.
The Numbers:
Color (EBC) – 92.5
Bitterness (IBUs) – 38.5
Original Gravity (Plato) – 16.9
Terminal Gravity (Plato) – 2.10 (after BC)
Alcohol (ABV) – 8.5%

Terra 1

Beer Advocate: 82, N/A
RateBeer: 95, 67
Untappd: 3,64

Appearance: Terra pours a dark brown, with slight garnett accents if held up to the light. In my snifter, it poured with a big tan head of large bubbles. Visually appealing. The head dissipates quickly and leaves minimal lacing.

Smell: I get a strong nose of molasses, raisins and some oaky, bourbon character. A little bit of yeast funkiness/sourness and there’s a slight hint of booze. I’m not getting too much in the way of hops. The bourbon-barrel aging probably mellowed the aroma from the dry-hopping.  There’s a sort of wet earth quality to it.

Taste: There’s a hint of sourness that is mellowed by the molasses/raisin bourbon flavor with some roast in the finish. There’s a bit of light fruitiness and tart bitterness. It’s a tough flavor to describe. There’s a lot going on, but I feel it has all been mellowed by aging into a subtle, earthy flavor with sweet (fruit, molasses) and sour notes.

Mouthfeel: A little bit thinner than it looks, but still a substantial body with frothy, active carbonation. This finishes dry with a light coating on the tongue,

Final Verdict: 3.5 out of 5. Try it.

This is definitely an interesting brew. It reminds me of Dogfish Head’s Raison D’Etre but with less of a sweet, raisiny flavor and more earthy notes. I’ve been resisting the urge to refer to any of the flavors/smells as “dirt.” The sour character is also distinct without being overpowering. I bought a 22oz bomber and I have no buyer’s remorse but I wouldn’t buy another one. It’s enjoyable. If you like sour beers or are a ticker (try as many beers as possible) it certainly won’t disappoint. Just don’t expect the boozy bourbon flavor of most barrel-aged beers.

Terra 2


One Comment

  1. I might try to look for one of these, age it a year and have a head to head tasting with the 2014 version. I think it’d be a good way of really getting a handle on the way the Brettanomyces changes the beer over time.


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