Thursday, March 24

Beer Review: 2011 Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

I'm starting this party off with a review of a beer that's been sitting in my fridge for a week or two, waiting for the right moment.  A brand new blog obsessed with beer sounds like the right moment to me.  Let's take a look.

Soon I'll figure out how to fix these mirror images

I know essentially nothing about this beer going into this tasting.  I know that I enjoy Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and, come Christmastime, can't get enough of their annual Celebration Winter Ale.  But if you were to ask me two years ago what other beers Sierra Nevada made other than that ever-present pale ale, I would have returned your quizzical gaze with a slap in the face.  "Nothing, dipshit!" I would have elegantly retorted. "Sierra Nevada equals Pale Ale.  That's all they do.  Don't be dumb."

Indeed, I was the dumb one.  Sierra Nevada has a rich library of delicious beers and I'm really looking forward to giving this one a taste.  The bottle advertises Hoptimum as "The Whole Cone Imperial IPA."  Any Imperial IPA is good in my book.  I'm a bonafide IPA whore.  When Half Acre (a Chicago staple and a brilliant, forward-thinking local brewery) releases their Double Daisy Cutter, a Double IPA, I typically go apeshit for a few days until every last drop has magically disappeared -- except whereas wizardry might be blamed in earlier days, now all signs point to my thirsty ass.

Anywho, the beer looks great and I'm eager to dig in.  The bottle is covered in hoppy art and the mere mention of a whole cone experience is making me weak in the knees.

10.4% ABV


Carefully positioned as a beer boner

Hoptimum pours a fairly thick head and a dark amber body.  The suds in the head cling to the glass for dear live, clearly aware of their overbearing deliciousness.  No, I have still not tasted this thing, but it's killing me just to look at it.  It has all the aura of a fantastic and hop-heavy IPA.    The carbonation seems a bit light, but then again, it's been cooling off in my refrigerator for a couple weeks now and has been staring me in the face for over eight minutes.  Let's smell this sucker.

A massively resinous sniff.  The beer smells like a dense pine forest with very mild citrus notes.  There is a touch of malt to the whiff as it coats the nostrils in a thick smog of hoppiness.  The smell tickles the back of the tongue as it dig deep in the nose.  Honestly, the hops smell so fresh I'm amazed this beer wasn't brewed three days ago in my own basement.  Time for a taste.

My first taste bathes my tongue in bitter hop glory.  The hops really are the story here.  They swarm the taste buds and don't stop the harassment until well after the sip has dissipated.  The beer is so rich in hops that it has developed sweeter notes in fermentation, like burnt caramel and toasted marshmallow.  Almost all the action takes place in the back of the mouth.  For an IPA, I'm surprised by the lack of a citrus bite.  There is a touch of tartness on the finish, but it's overwhelmed by the bitterness.  This beer is no joke.  If you don't love hops, don't even bother opening your wallet.

This beer, as I just noted, is a hop beast.  However, at 10.4% ABV and with such an overwhelming hop flavor, I might suggest the cellar for this guy.  Don't get me wrong -- if you're trying to get beaten up by your beer (which I often am), this one will do the trick.  It's delicious, if extreme.  Still, I have to believe that nine months in the cellar will really bring out some crazy flavors in this one that will aid its lack of a lighter side.  Every great hop-heavy beer has some serious complexity that works with its hoppiness.  This beer lacks that, but give it some age, and it surely will break out of those caramel and hoppy flavors to develop some real funkiness to melt your face clean off the bone.

Nonetheless, this bear is a freak of nature in the best of ways.  If drinking now, pair only with the meatiest and most flavorful of meals.  A burger from Kuma's Corner or a rich Hanger Steak.  Sweet merciful crap, stay the hell away from poultry on this one.  Or just drink one on its own, but if I might suggest, start your night with this one instead of finishing it as long as you enjoy waking up without a blistering headache.


Drink up me hearties, yo ho.



  1. I don't know anything about beer but I do like that you quoted Pirates of the Carribean.

    Please expect dumb posts/comments from me at any given moment. It's the least I can do.

  2. I am truly indebted to you for such inane commenting. Much obliged.

  3. sierra nevada bottles are applesauce because the labels come off very easy. save them for your own brews. the bottles, not the labels. and you're right. their not pale ale beers are good too.