Paying Homage to the Bitter Beer Face
A Review of Hoptimum by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Posted on 8/26/2012 by Chops
                   
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In the world of craft breweries, it can be difficult to set oneself apart. More often times than not, young breweries will garner attention from one or two brews and then expand from there. It seems the bigger a brewery gets, the more avenues they like to explore (even when they shouldn't). These can be murky waters to tread, because hasty exploration can make or break a brewery. Expanding the business is great, but you don't want to tarnish your name with bad brews. There is always the possibility of setting oneself up as a craft brew pioneer by discovering and applying a personal signature to each beer (see Stone or Dogfish Head). Others choose to play it safe. Still others achieve something even more delicious to the bottom line: staying power. This is the story of Sierra Nevada. Their brew arsenal is simply massive and often laborious to explore. At this level of production, their beers will rarely knock your socks off. But, that's okay. It just makes it that much sweeter when you do stumble upon an unexpected gem. I recently discovered one such gem in the Hoptimum Imperial IPA, brewed with whole cone hops.

In the glass, this beer has a coppery golden coloration. It comes with a frothy white head that has long lasting retention. Once you get in for that first whiff, you start to realize what makes this beer special: aggression. Pure, unapologetic aggression. The citrus smells are big and bold, coupled with a needling piney sting. Once you acclimate to the aromatic assault, a sweet caramel base malt appears. It's no counterweight to the hops, but it's there nonetheless.

Going into that first sip, you're expecting nothing but a hop bomb. It's a proper foreshadowing because that's exactly what it is. The hop profile assaults you right out of the gate. This beer is extremely aggressive, very pungent, and very bitter. The mouthfeel is quite ferocious, but not in a nasty way, just in a face puckering way. The body resides in the thin-mid area, finishes quite dry, and leaves behind a very bitter, long lasting aftertaste. Throughout the flavor train, you can detect faint wisps of sweet caramel struggling for attention, but are usually squashed by the hops.

One very important aspect of this beer is the warming effect. If you ever want to study how warming affects the taste of a beer, do so with the Hoptimum. This beer significantly smooths as it warms, gaining richness and sweetness that go a long ways in balancing out the bitterness.

Overall, Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum Imperial IPA is a relentless hop bomb with lots of character. It's very much a fantasy brew for extreme hop heads. Even though it's big, bold, and bitter, most seasoned beer fans will find it to be delightful. The hop blast is very flavorful and fun to study without scorching your taste buds. It's not a massive brew, just really aggressive. Course, that rules novices out completely. Remember those old ''bitter beer face'' commercials? Yeah, that's a beer novice drinking a Hoptimum.

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Hoptimum by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
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