Chris Black’s Ode to Pantone 362U

Chris Black on Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

American Pale Ale
First Brewed
November 21, 1980
Malt Varieties
2 Row, with a blend of English and American C60
Hop Varieties
Favorite Snack to pair a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with, Cream Cheese with a generous helping of Pickapeppa poured over it, served with Triscuits.
Falling Rock Tap House
Chris Black’s Ode to Pantone 362U

It is truly amazing how definitive and noticeable a color can be. I’m not speaking of just any color, but a specific color, Pantone 362U.

It’s been said that smell is the most evocative sense, but sometimes sight can also bring to mind a flood of memories. The particular shade of green that is Pantone 362U sends my memory straight to an aroma, a taste, an experience: that touch of crystal malt, the grapefruity scent, the literally thousands of times I popped the cap on a bottle. Ah, old friend, let’s just spend some time together. We don’t even need to talk all that much. And of course I remember the first time we met, back in 1985, the first time Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was available outside of California, the brewery having just moved to the 20th St. location.

By the time I had that first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, I was already well-versed in the ways of beers-that-don’t-taste-like-industrolagers. At 13, my father brought home a 6-pack of Anchor Steam, a beer he fell in love with while staying at the Mark Hopkins hotel in San Francisco during frequent business trips between 1968 and 1973. He was astonished that I liked it, because after all, it was quite bitter for its day.

A trip to Germany and Austria four years later confirmed my appreciation of good beer, a quality that landed me a job at an early beer bar while attending the University of Texas at Austin. I started reading all I could for information on beers I might like – in the times before the internet, before brewspapers, almost before communication had evolved beyond seven different grunts and smoke signals – and one brewery mentioned frequently early on was Sierra Nevada.

Chris Black on the bar at the Falling Rock Tap House in Denver.

Finally, in 1985, we started hearing from one of our distributors that they were going to carry Sierra. I couldn’t wait. I was home for the summer and went to a local mall to buy tickets for a later movie showing, stopping afterwards at a deli with ‘99 bottles of beer.’

A gentleman was there offering samples of new beer and I happily availed myself of the opportunity. He was amazed that I had already heard of the beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, of course, and we chatted for a bit after I had ordered a bottle. The gentleman’s name was Paul Camusi,

After Ken Grossman wrote his book Beyond the Pale in 2013, I was speaking with him at the brewery and mentioned that I had met his former partner “back in the day,” to which he responded, “Chris, there’s no way you met Paul.” I recounted the story and he stared at me in astonishment, recalling that Camusi had opened up a couple of new markets for the brewery, Houston having been one of them.

Left: Publican Chris Black enjoying a Sierra while kayaking on a mountain lake in Colorado. Right: Floating down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho while enjoying his Desert Island Beer.

Whenever I go to Chico, California to visit the brewery, Pale Ale is always my first beer. If you come to my house, the beer drawer always has Sierra Pale. In 2019, while on a one hundred mile rafting trip on the Salmon River, with no cell coverage and little civilization, we made a mid-voyage stop at a hunting lodge with a small shop. They had a minimal beer selection, but they did have Sierra Pale. I bought a six-pack and cracked a can minutes later while floating on the river, chalking up another Sierra memory.

Chris Black is the king of the Falling Rock Tap House in Denver, Colo. The Falling Rock has made virtually every “Best of” list about beer since its opening in 1997 and is the unOfficial Headquarters of the mostly annual Great American Beer Festival ®. Chris prefers using a lower case “k” in his business title of “king” as it shows great humility.

Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.

Brought to you by