They get a bit of grief, Sierra Nevada, for being something of a one-trick pony. Big and hoppy is their shtick, and their efforts away from that genre are somewhat patchy. So no pissing about with European styles for this one: a straight-up 10.4% ABV Double IPA that's more American than Steve McQueen driving a Mustang through a gun show. It's not merely hopped up, it's Hoptimum.
Even before the little green guys start their work this is an attractive beer, pouring the sort of mingled cream and amber that would have Poe scrambling for a clean piece of paper and a biro. Stick the nose in and you get lovely big mandarins at first. Inhale deeper (you'll want to) and there's a lingering threat of pine resins and sinister grapefruit. Strident, wall-to-wall west coast hops.
The taste is quite harsh at first: a green acid acrid bitterness with vegetable notes. Leeks to me, broccoli said the missus. The texture on which this is delivered is all slickness: greasy and heavy without any soft malt fullness or roundness. Add in the prodigious hopping and the overall feeling of oiliness is unavoidable.
I confess I had a moment of disappointment at this stage, rejecting the beer like the other Sierra Nevada hop-bombs in 710ml bottles (Southern Hemisphere and Wet Hop) which were just too unbalanced and difficult. But then I had a fit of the vapours. That amazing smell just does not quit. Even when your tongue is drowned in acid bitterness, the aroma just keeps on coming, filling the nasal cavity with those gorgeous juicy fruit flavours. However they've constructed the aroma here it works fantastically, balancing a beer that's basically all hop.
Hoptimum is a symphony to the hop, an aria in lupulin. Clearly the work of someone who knows quite a bit about which hops to put in, in what order and how much. I'd recommend this beer, though I wouldn't recommend following it with a bottle of Torpedo, which ended up tasting as malt-driven as Samuel Adams Boston Lager in the aftermath.