Beer Review 0134: Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

Here we are with yet another big Imperial IPA that has some hype behind it. This one comes from the classically great Sierra Nevada, and is whole-cone hopped to a whopping 100 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). This one is also dry-hopped, and “torpedoed,” which is a process they use on their Torpedo Extra IPA (I rated that beer 91 points).

The hops used in Hoptimum are an incredible bill: this beer has German Magnum used as bittering hops; Simcoe and a proprietary exclusive variety used for aroma; again Simcoe and the proprietary variety used for dry hopping. Then things get more complicated: this one is “torpedoed” with Citra and Chinook. Got that? Then we have some malts for balance (maybe?): Two-Row Pale, Golden Promise, Munich & Wheat.

Cheers to Sierra Nevada for listing that information on their website! I don’t know about you, but I want to know how many “proprietary hops” Sierra has up its sleeve. How many other breweries boast their own exclusive hops?

With big hoppy beers like this (and this one is big, 10.4% alcohol by volume), you can’t help but think of Bell’s Hopslam, a beer I gave a perfect score to. Hopslam has quite a reputation, and one has to wonder if a bit of catch up isn’t being played in regards to the quality of that beer. There seem to be an awful lot of limited release hop bombs these days…

Let’s get to the beer, and I sure hope it is tasty and lives up to the talk.

The pour produced an average size head, very soapy and sudsy in texture, but long lasting. The beer was orange with golden highlights, clear with no particles or sediment. The lacing clung to the glass in thin, stippled sheets. This one looked very tempting…

Aromas revealed a definite hop explosion. There’s bright citrus; orange rind and grapefruit, a heavy resinous pine note and tropical fruits. All of your traditional hop scents are here, only amplified and extremely fresh. There’s also a balance with some sweet caramel and a hint of grain. Fragrant and awesome.

And the awesome continued on the palate — Hoptimum does not disappoint, delivering a pungent grapefruit and orange blend up front, followed by a transition to a dull bitter pine and chewy tropical fruit. The mouthfeel was thick and creamy, but left the mouth dry for more. The finish was very bitter, hitting the extreme of the pine and actually touching on a little cedar. There was a noticeable alcohol kick; notice I didn’t say taste, but kick, meaning as in feel. This is a big beer not to be played with.

So, the ultimate question…is Hoptimum as good as Hopslam? In my opinion, no. The finish is too bitter and somewhat out of balance, and lacks the smoothness that Hopslam offers. I credit this to the higher ABV — 10.4% compared to just 10%. But this is a classic beer, worth the hype, and worth making a special trip to seek out. If you’re as into hops as I am, you will not be disappointed. Prepare to have your palate crushed by an enormous punch of hops!

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum, 97 points. Price: $2.79 for one twelve ounce bottle.


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