Review Date 4/2/2011
So these days, I must say, I don’t drink quite as much beer as I did when I was younger. But that’s OK, because good craft beer is meant to be sipped and savored anyway, not guzzled and pounded. My problem is that I still like to buy a lot of beer (I can’t resist those tempting liquid treats when I see them in the store), so I often end up hanging on to beers and again them for a time.
That’s actually turned out to take on a life of its own, and I do so enjoy popping out a year-old Belgian dubbel or two-year aged barleywine from time to time. Not all beers improve with time, of course, but brews with extra hops and alcohol are always good candidates. Bottle conditioning is a plus, as well.
Now that I’ve said all that, I’ll get on to my thoughts on Sierra Nevada Hoptimum Whole Cone Imperial IPA. Because right off the bat I can tell you that I knew this one was not going to last that long. An IPA from Sierra Nevada (and they make a few) is a wonderful thing, an Imperial IPA made with whole flower hops should be truly sublime.
I bought a bottle of Hoptimum in January, and ended up drinking it in March. It’s a bit pricey at $10.99 for a 22-ounce bottle, although the bottle is pretty neat at that, shaped as it is like a bigger version of the classic Sierra Nevada stubby.
Don’t let the smaller-looking bomber fool you, though, this is definitely one big beer, with 10.4% alcohol by volume and a whopping 100 IBUs of bitterness. The grain and hop bill is equally impressive, from the Sierra Nevada website:
“BITTERING hops German Magnum
AROMA hops Simcoe & New Proprietary Variety
DRY hops Simcoe & New Proprietary Variety
TORPEDO hops Citra & Chinook
Malts: Two-row Pale, Golden Promise, Munich & Wheat”
Sierra Nevada Hoptimum Whole Cone Imperial IPA pours to a bright orange amber color with a thick rocky head formation and a huge flowery, citrusy grapefruit nose. Sierra Nevada says the nose suggests cedar and rosemary, too, and I do get that.
Taking a sip, it’s clear that this one is a hop blast (as if the nose didn’t tell me that), with a firm but not cloying caramel malt body that quickly is overwhelmed by the floral, citric, and very bitter hops. They’re grapefruity, resiny, piney, and just plain crazy hopped. In the finish, they deposit a long, dry, grassy-minty herbal bitterness on the tongue. There’s a considerable alcohol burn as well, and after the fact this one deliver some great hop burps.
At first sip, this one didn’t seem to me as big in body as I expected. But that’s a good thing: too much chewy caramel malt and you end up with a barleywine. To its credit, Sierra Nevada Hoptimum avoids that trap, and is all the better for it. Can’t recommend this one enough.
Update 5/23/2015: Who says you can't age an IPA? Not me. Tonight's bottle of Hoptimum Whole-Cone Imperial IPA was packaged on 4/11/14 according to the label, making it a year and a month old as I sip. I've carefully stored the beer in DBR (Dedicated Beer Refrigerator) Prime, and it has held up quite nicely. This bottle is 12-ounces in size from a 4-pack I got last year for $10.98, pricey for 4 beers but twice the volume of a bomber at the same price.
From the label:
Hoptimum is the biggest whole-cone IPA we have ever produced: a 100 IBU, whole-cone hurricane of flavor. Aggressively hopped, dry hopped AND torpedoed, Hoptimum delivers ultra-intense flavors to hop fanatics everywhere.
My bottle of year-old Hoptimum is still bursting with beautiful hop aroma and bitterness. Big grapefruit and resiny pine in the nose along with citric lemon zest. Taking a sip the beer has a firm caramel maltiness up front followed by zesty citric and piney resin hops in equal measure and then a long, lingering dry bitterness. It seems slightly more bready-malty, but that is to be expected. It's still an in-your face DIPA/Imperial IPA as good as any other in the style.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.