On Saturday, I made the trek to Plainfield to hopefully kill two birds with one stone. I wanted to stop by the Chicago Brew Werks homebrew shop and pick up some needed supplies. I found all the ingredients I was lacking for the Skeeter Pee recipe, picked up some Star San, PBW and a new fermenting bucket. That left just under 50 bucks on the wooden gift card I received last Christmas.
Of course, Binny’s was right down the road and that was next on the list of destinations. Inside, I cornered one of their beer guys and gave him a short list, asking if they received delivery of two beers by DFH, Bierre De Provence and their Flesh & Blood IPA, new releases for May. Alas, they had neither.
I started scanning shelves and found one from Sierra Nevada, their spring release of 2016 Hoptimum Whole-Cone Imperial IPA. It seems like every year I spot this beer and pass it by in favor of some other, but this time, in an effort to get a bit closer to Sierra Nevada than I have been, I decided to buy this beer and try to find a taste difference between a whole-cone beer and one using pellet or leaf hops. With all the different styles of beer and all the different varieties of hops, I doubt if anyone with the exception of a few IPA taste geeks, could tell the difference. It’s still a brewery bragging point, though. Ten bucks and change changed hands and was happily out the door ready for the trek home.
No mysterious names, no legendary characters, the beer comes across in name as easily read and easily understood.
Let’s get started.
The beer poured a nice red-orange color into the glass and raised a one-inch, thick-knit, slightly yellowish head. The liquid was nice and clear, but the only carbonation in the glass came from the nucleation point at the bottom. The aroma held for me some sweet malts and hops just like many other IPAs.
The first sip was very surprising. I was expecting a tonsil wrecking bitterness bomb when in fact, what I got was a whole lot of mouthfeel, some sweetness at the front and that familiar grassy, resiny hop bitterness at the back. That bitterness however was slightly masked by the up front malt flavors.
This Hoptimum had a nicely balanced flavor. Malts and hops played nicely together. The hops used, Magnum, Chinook and Simcoe are all high alpha hops and I never expected this taste to come out of the beer with those hops in the recipe. According to SN’s website, there’s one additional hop used. “It features resinous hop varieties, Magnum, Chinook, Simcoe and a new experimental hop variety exclusive to Sierra Nevada.” No tropical fruit flavors, but rather quite tasty resinous pine and grass nuances.
A Frankenhop. I would think that the high alpha acids in the three mentioned hops would tend to mask whatever that fourth hop was packin’.
The more I drank, the more I realized how well-made the beer was. There a lot of tastes in each sip and not one ingredient stands out among all the others. The beer goes down nice and easy but it soon became apparent that sippage slowdown was in order. A bit of stomach warming was the first clue.
Hoptimum is part of SN’s High Altitude series and it’s joined by Bigfoot barleywine and Narwhal imperial stout. All are high alcohol beers with Hoptimum carrying the highest ABV of the three. It’s released in the late spring and goes until about September. Then Narwhal comes out. The three beers are the heavy hitters for the year.
Hoptimum is not a go-to beer. It’s a beer that should be savored in small quantities during a special drinking session. It should be remembered as a well-made, well balanced, world class DIPA. I gotta say, Hoptimum surprised the hell out of me.
Hoptimum should be available now wherever Sierra Nevada beers are sold. If you don’t see it, ask for it in a stern voice. And pound the counter with your fist. Be polite.
Style: Imperial/Double IPA
Taste: Delicious. Just what I was expecting and more.
Smoothness: Surprisingly calm for a DIPA.
Drinkability: Slow sippin’ makes for a great experience.
Bang for the buck: Great for the taste delivered.
Amount paid: $9.99 per four-pack of 12-ounce bottles.
Get it again? Probably so.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sniff) Citrusy again. (sip) Oh. Oh, this is almost medicinal. (sip) Dry and bitter. I don’t like it at all. (Yep. She’s in the bathroom brushing her tongue again.)