[NOTE: Apologies to anyone who gets this twice. I somehow changed the Published Date on this so it showed up sometime in April and not at the top of my blog. Also, it apparently has caused it not to be sent out to Twitter and my Facebook page. Again, sorry if this is a repeat – Ed.]
Continuing with my review of beers recently reviewed by blogs I follow, I turn to Sierra Nevada’s new release Hoptimum. SN terms this beer a “whole cone” imperial IPA. Translated: hoppy, big alcohol. If you’re interested in what others have to say about this beer (and you should be), I encourage you to check out these excellent reviews by Beerproof, lyricslibationsandlife and Beerbecue. If I’ve missed anyone, feel free to put a link to your review down in the comment section.
I find SN interesting in that they seem to be really pushing the envelope when it comes to hops. Not in the sense that they’re making hoppier beers then other breweries, but in the way they’re utilizing them. Their Northern Hemisphere Harvest uses “wet” hops – hops that have been picked and used immediately without drying. Their Southern Hemisphere Harvest uses a combination of New Zealand hops which are flash dried, flown to the brewery in Chico and used immediately. All of which is an attempt to get otherwise lost hop oils into the beer to give it a different flavor and aroma profile than you’d normally get from stored, dried hops. And then of course there’s the torpedo. But more on that later.
THEM: The grain bill consists of 2-row pale, golden promise, and Munich malts along with a helping of wheat. Its starts out at 22.8 plato and finishes at 4.5 plato for a finishing ABV of 10.4%. Sierra Nevada isn’t shy with the hop varieties. Hoptimum is bittered to 100 IBUs with German Magnum hops. The aroma kettle additions and dry hops are a combination of Simcoe and a new proprietary variety unique to SN. Then they finish the beer with a torpedo of Citra and Chinook hops.
A torpedo is a device that SN has developed to extract the most hop essense out of a small amount of hops on a consistent basis . From the brewery:
“Traditional dry hopping is really wasteful, in regards to the amount of hops used. With traditional dry-hopping, hops are literally stuffed into bags and placed inside of the fermentors. The hops at the center of the bags don’t get as much contact time with the wort and there’s really no way to measure how much of the aroma is imparted on the beer from batch to batch.
With the torpedo device, there is a known quantity of hops used in the thing, and it can be used with a big volume of beer. Requiring less hops by volume, with a BIG difference in imparted flavors.”
You can probably guess which other SN beer the device play a predominate part in. Psst….Torpedo IPA, which happens to be favorite of yours truly.
When most people read a description of the device, they probably envision a stainless steel body that houses some alien technology stolen from Area 51. The device is powered by an engine acquired via NASA from the surplus stores of their now defunct shuttle program. The entire device is naturally cloaked with a perception filter that gives it the same attributes of the Silence in Doctor Who – you forget what the device looks like the moment you turn your eyes away from it.
However, having worked for a while in the production side of my company I can tell you that the truth in these matters is often far less romantic. I can image more likely that one night in a fury of inspired genius, they ripped one of the washing machines out of the employee wash room and dropped it into their set up. Hopping beers would be a matter of simply dumping in the hops and selecting hot, warm or cold for the level of extraction you desired. Then it would be a matter of setting the washer on normal, heavy, delicates or permanent press depending on the beer and letting her rip. The discharge would go through an in-line lint trap to make sure no hop leaf got into the wort. The hardest thing about the whole set up would be making sure someone on the floor always had the $3 in quarters needed for every load – and making sure someone doesn’t mistakenly do a load of socks.
ME: Hoptimum starts with a small head that dissipates into a thin lace on top of a deep amber body. The nose was way lighter than I thought it would be. Oh, you get the smell of hops, but they don’t slap you in the sinuses like Deviant Dale’s. Being lulled into a false sense of security by the light smell of grapefruit, tropical fruits and rose water wafting from the glass, I took a healthy sip. Yeah, there’s the hops; big citrusy, woodsy hops that quickly beat down the quick flash of malt at the front of the tongue. The middle is pretty pleasing with a medium body with plenty of mouth feel and a nice level of carbonation. By the time the lingering bitterness subsides at the end, you’re ready for another sip.
Because of the name I was expecting this to be more of a hop monster, but I’m happy to find that not to be the case. Don’t get me wrong, there’s enough Humulus lupulus in there to make any hop head happy, but it’s not over the top like some other beers out there. No, instead I just find it to be another interesting, well balanced and solid beer by SN. Although I still prefer Torpedo – you can bet some of those cans will be making their way into my cooler for next week’s Phil’s game.
Time for another beer.