Beer Review 0470: 21st Amendment Hop Crisis Imperial IPA
21st Amendment began operations in the year 2000 and are located just two blocks from where the San Francisco Giants play baseball. Both principal founders — Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan — took a brewing science course at UC Davis, trading their successful careers to follow the passion of brewing beer.
As you might suspect, 21st Amendment is named after the actual 21st Amendment of the United States, which repealed the evil Prohibition.
A few years ago in the midst of a hop shortage, 21st Amendment came up with the idea to brew a huge IPA with a ton of hops at their brewpub, and to age it on oak. The beer was appropriately called Hop Crisis, and makes use of Columbus, Centennial, and Cascade hops. Aged on oak spirals, the beer comes in at 9.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 94 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
Hop Crisis pours an average size, creamy head that is bright white in color and looks very nice atop a golden-orange beer. The brew is slightly hazy but is still translucent, and is absent of particles and sediment. Lacing is perfect, especially for a beer with a higher ABV; the foam creates solid sheets that stick to the side of the glass that I’m not sipping from.
On the nose, there’s a heavy tropical fruit presence, especially passionfruit, pineapple, and papaya. The oak treatment shows its head and mingles well with all that fruity sweetness — this beer does resemble a fruit juice concentrate, but a hard one, as there is a noticeable punch of alcohol. The malts reinforce the moderate sweetness, giving off caramel and sweet breads. As it warms, a tangy note of grapefruit and some orange peel start to come out, and the oak begins to play nicely with the alcohol.
The flavors start with big punches of grapefruit and orange — the tropical fruits so prominent on the nose aren’t featured at first; in the middle, they start to show up, but lighter in fare; more of a mango and papaya than anything else. This beer gets fairly sweet very fast, and it stays that way, counterbalanced by a decent sized squeeze of alcohol and raw oak. The finish turns malty for a second, yielding to the oak and some Tootsie Roll candies before hitting a dry, grapefruit conclusion that warms the body with more alcohol. I found Hop Crisis to be full-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.
I really enjoyed this beer for a couple of distinct reasons — I’ve never really found an Imperial IPA that was aged on oak that was very good, but this one used the oak to its advantage and it never overtook the flavor of the hops. In fact, it played super nice with everything and in the end, even lent a bit of balance to the sweetness, supporting the bitter finish. There seemed to be a good balance here, and not a boring one — the sweetness was heavy, but the bitterness and woodsy flavors were just as prominent, rewarding the palate with a really full-flavored experience. I’d pick this one up again in a heartbeat.
21st Amendment Hop Crisis Imperial IPA, 93 points. Price: $3.79 US for one 12 oz. can.