The hopheads are taking over. Dublin's quality beer off licences are bursting with isohumulones these days, between the new-style hopped-up Belgians, some bitter delights from across the Irish Sea, and of course those crazy Americans and their IBU fixation.
Amid much rí rá agus ruaile buaile, Sierra Nevada Torpedo hit Dublin recently, and I secured one to bring home and dispose of safely. Everyone who'd already tried it warned me that it wasn't some hop-monster as the name might suggest; that this 7.2% ABV IPA is actually quite balanced. I'm not sure I'd agree with them. What's very true, however, is that it's gorgeous.
The aroma is zesty and clean -- none of your big boozy vapours here -- while the flavour is binary: it rocks between sweet marmalade and very slightly harsh, resinous piney hops, which just pitch over into lemon washing-up liquid right at the end. There's a solid, and actually quite sticky malt base to it. So why, in the name of sanity, is this hyperactive flavour orgy so damned easy to drink? It took herculean restraint to hold myself back from draining the glass before I could string any kind of verbal impression together. It's that tasty.
I'm not a hophead as such, nor am I attuned to the very finer points of hop appreciation, and that's why I will quite blithely announce that Torpedo is every bit as enjoyable as Pliny the Elder.
Next, I raised my hoppy game further by following up with Victory Hop Wallop, stronger at 8.5% ABV and paler -- just at the point where yellow becomes orange. And yet despite the higher strength it lacks the malt profile of Torpedo and is actually quite thin. But bitter? Oh my yes. Bitter as the day is long. Fell out of the bitter tree and hit every branch on the way down. Not harsh, or any way difficult, just very very charmlessly bitter. Of fruit, you get a chaste peck from a sugary mandarin orange at the start of each taste, before Dame Bitter comes round to claim her due. It's not that it's unpleasant, it's just not very enjoyable, in complete contrast to its tamer stablemate HopDevil.
Proceed with caution, is the message to those wielding the hopsack, I guess.