Sierra Nevada, Hoptimum

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Grade: A-

A big shout-out and thanks to my friends at Sonoma Wines and Spirits for hooking me up with this lovely little bottle. It's rare to find people who strive to be purveyors of fine beer, and approach it with such zeal. I am very lucky to have local business owners who care as much as I do about a simple little thing like beer. Be sure to check out their blog at The Cork Stops Here for some well written reviews of all things fermented.

Ok, let's just begin with the fact that I want the label of this beer blown up poster-size and hung on my wall. That aside, the buzz around this beer puts it dangerously close to the "hype beer" status. Limited in quantity, sought after by geeks of all backgrounds, and from a brewery known to deliver on excellence in the hop department. All these things together make for a lot of media (ok, blogger) attention, which tends to inflate expectations. I purposely wanted to avoid that so it didn't influence my delicate palate. I failed miserably. But in the interest of journalistic integrity, I forced myself to erase the memories of others reactions and form my own opinions. Had I known exactly how strong this beer was, I could have just had a bottle and erased all the memories I wanted.

A nice creamy head tops a crystal clear, brass colored beer. Very floral hops in the nose. Pine, citrus, peach, some slight tropical fruit, and maybe a little resin. There are some slightly sweet alcohol notes coming through as well, most likely from that 10% ABV.

Mouthfeel is fairly heavy, and while the carbonation isn't low, it certainly doesn't cut through the thick malt presence. Hops continue into the flavor, bright and fruity, with some citrus accents. I'm getting a lot of peach and tropical fruit nuances from the hops, which is working well with the bigger malt backbone. The bitterness is actually quite restrained, working to dry out the finish but certainly not getting in the way of the flavor of either hops or malt. There is some warming as you drink this beer, and there is a bit of alcohol hotness in the flavor as well. Neither of these things are particularly distracting, but they're noticeable.

I'm liking the showcase of the hop flavor without the usual accompanying bitterness, it really allows you to taste the nuances of those hops. I'm not sure if it's aided by the high alcohol, but I haven't had a beer that allowed you to taste those differences that wasn't Imperial. It's a well brewed beer, but while Sierra Nevada remains my favorite brewery, I can't say it's the best I've ever had (not to say it isn't up there though).

There are many out there comparing this beer to Russian River's Pliny the Elder, and unfortunately I can't agree with them. There's a drinkability aspect to Pliny that allows you to have one after the other, with Hoptimum I'm finding that one pint is good, but it's enough. The alcohol in this beer isn't exactly hidden (in it's flavor or in it's effects), and I think that's the only problem. Otherwise this is an excellent hop-centric beer from a brewery that (I believe) started America's love affair with the hop.


Eli said...

Mike, I am very glad you enjoyed the beer. I did tuck one away for a later date, which I may or may not save for myself. And, of course, thank you for the kind words!