Ok ok, I said recently that I had something special planned for IPA Day 2012. Last year I did 5 reviews and this year I had hoped to do none and get out on the streets for a bit of a journey across the city. Unfortunately time conspired against me and I wasn’t able to. Instead, I am doing a review… I know that’s a tad cliché and boring so I’ll try to make it interesting.
What does make this slightly interesting is that this is a beer I struggled to finish when I first tried it two or so months ago. It was at the end of a big dinner and after six fairly tasty beers my palate may have just rejected a beer that is described on their website as “a 100 IBU, whole-cone hurricane of flavor” on principle alone.
From memory, it tasted like teeth coating bitter.
I guess you are probably wondering why I wanted to revisit this beer then, particularly for such a fun day as IPA Day 2012 (by the way, read last year’s posts for background and stuff: http://aleofatime.com/tag/ipa-week-2011/). I wanted to revisit it because I think this is an interesting case study. This is one of the biggest IPAs out there and not many people would deny that super-hopped-up, fragrant IPAs have led the craft beer boom in the USA – which in turn has trickled down to other countries. It’s also hard to deny Sierra Nevada’s influence on craft beer, with many considering their Pale Ale to be a bit of a godfather to the craft beer movement. If you’ve ever seen the turntabilist/DJ documentary “Scratch”, then Sierra Nevada Pale is to craft beer, as Herbie Hancock’s Rockit is to DJing.
I can only assume everyone has seen the turntabilist/DJ documentary Scratch. Right?
Anyway, let’s talk about the beer and maybe I’ll sneak in some opinions about IPA and beer along the way.
This is an Imperial IPA and is weighing in at a ridiculous 10.4%. This ain’t no Grandmixer D ST doing a “wik wik wik” with a weird AM radio headset on… it’s more an I-emerge DMC routine. Big, confusing, up in your grill and probably too much for the casual fan.
Ok that’s it with the DJ nerd stuff.
Straight out of Chico California, this is from the Sierra Nevada brewery who have been in the Australian market for just over a year but are already making an impact with beer nerds and regular beer fans around Oz.
It cost me $30 for 4, which definitely isn’t cheap.
How does it look?
The packaging is green with a scholarly gentleman on the front of the box and bottle… but wait… his head isn’t a head… IT’S A HOP CONE. Some sort of crazy hop that has passed his exams at Oxford and is ready to be on Downton Abbey. What a clever hop.
In the glass it is clear rust with a big whipped cream resilient head that laces down the glass as you drink the beer.
How does it smell/Taste?
It smells like grapefruit, blood orange, lemon and pine. The amount of hops in this beer are fairly apparent even after it’s made the journey to Australia. It smells huge and almost fake. Like a lemon and pine cleaning product. It borders on unpleasant but to someone who enjoys the occasional hopped up beer, it’s fairly inviting.
Taste wise, grapefruit is dominant. It coats the mouth with a thick bitterness leaving a dry grapefruit and lemon aftertaste that just won’t let up. It just rests on the back of your palate and at half-way through the bottle you are wondering if it’s all really worth it.
When should I drink it?
A bottle of this and a spiced up Jamaican Jerk Chicken would probably be brilliant. Fragrant hot jerk sauce, some fresh lemon and crispy chicken skin would bring the grapefruit and lemon flavours right to the front of the beer while letting the sweet malt cut through the spice.
I’m not sure if I can finish this bottle, let alone 3 more. It’s great, it’s huge but it is just too dominant. I want to love everything about it but everything about it represents a side of craft beer that is pretty boring. Simply throwing as many hops into a beer isn’t really that interesting or fun. Hops are great and hopped up beers have driven the craft beer revolution with IPAs flying the flag proudly. However, when we get to something like Hoptimum, you really have to wonder if there is any point to all of this?
While not too many breweries could do a beer this big as great as Sierra Nevada can, it just doesn’t work for me. I’m sure some of those crazy hop heads out there love this but all it does is leave me wondering “when is session beer Day?”.
Finally, for those wondering what the hell I was talking about earlier: