Sierra Nevada Brewing Co – Hoptimum Imperial IPA

I really debated doing this review today.  I was thinking of saving this beer for Friday all week, but I was beat to the punch earlier this week by another beer blogger.  While variety is the spice of life, I can also say I don’t want to step on any toes while doing my review either.  Plus, I always do my tasting for the Friday review on Wednesday, which means I already knew he had tasted and reviewed it before I ever even got the beer out of the fridge.  So, I must say that if you want a second opinion on this brew, you need to go check out my fellow comrades review of it as well.  He inserts far more humor anyway which some of you may appreciate.

Anyway, I have a little confession to make with this beer.  I thought I would love it before ever buying it.  I probably broke some unwritten rule of beer geekdome last year when I bought a sweatshirt bearing the image from this bottle without ever having actually tasted it before.  I was just getting into my blog here, and I wanted to pick up some nice glassware.  So, I started checking out different brewer’s sites.  Eventually I bought a cheap tulip glass from Sierra Nevada, but I couldn’t only order that.  I also ended up throwing in a Hoptimum sweatshirt.  Thus, I have been patiently waiting for the release of this beer this year.  I always feel like a copout when I wear a beer paraphernalia that I haven’t actually ever had.  I can’t exactly answer people’s questions if I’ve never had it.  I just tell people it’s good and they should try it.

Hoptimum is an interesting beer for a number of different reasons.  First of all it is supposedly a 100 IBU beer.  If you really don’t know about IBUs at all, I can tell you that it is supposed to be really bitter.  Secondly, it is considered a whole-cone imperial IPA.  Most of the time, with hops, you get these little pellets that are essentially the hops broken down into a bitter little pill.  Whole-cone is using the entire hop itself in the process.  If you look at the label you’ll get an idea of what a whole-cone would look like.  Apparently, torpedoing a beer means you are able to  harness the essential oils and resins in hops without really pulling out the big bitterness that lies in there as well.  I’m thinking this is where the ample tang comes from.  From what I’ve read, it works like a hop espresso machine.  This is essentially another step they take in the dry-hopping process.

This beer pours out a really nice looking orangey amber color.  There is definitely some amble amount of fluffy white head that develops on top of the beer as well.  The beer has some amazing clarity to it.  I’m pretty jealous because I’m worried my beer won’t be quite so clear in the end.  You do see some really light carbonation in the beer for sure.  I always find it interesting how you can see one little strand of carbonation in the beer.  Although there is really light carbonation in the beer, you really don’t see much lacing on the side of the glass.  You get a little bit of sticky residue on the side, but you really don’t see a whole lot on the glass at all.

The beer has some really deep hop earthiness to it for sure.  While the hops definitely dominate the aroma of the beer, but you certainly get a lot of the sweet malts in there as well.  Interestingly, it doesn’t say that there is honey in the brew at all, but I feel like I get some similar sweetness to the Hopslam that I enjoy so much.  There is obviously a lot of grapefruit and citrus in there as well.  The grapefruit is huge here.  The tangy quality is pretty apparent on the smell as well, and you get a little slight spicy quality in there as well.

I’m really hoping my imperial IPA has these big hop flavors, but that it ends up being as well-balanced as this one is as well.  You get a lot of really quick sweet malts.  The malts have a very short period of time to flourish before the hops come in.  The hops have some huge pine flavor at the start, but they eventually start to move to a lot of tangy flavoring.  I love tang in a good imperial IPA for sure.  The tang manages to combine with a lot of grapefruit.  There is a slight bitter bite from the hops after the tang that manage to combine with the a little bit of light spiciness.  I did have some horseradish for dinner, but I don’t think that’s where the spice came from.  The beer ends with a lot of hops, some light pine, and a little sticky sweetness.

The carbonation is definitely present at the start of the taste; however, it dissipates pretty quickly as the beer is given the ability to warm. Thus, the beer ends up with some ample syrup quality overall on the mouthfeel.  The tang makes the beer feel slightly thicker than it really is; however, the ample amount of hops keep it somewhat fresh.  This beer is definitely not for those who don’t like hops.

Ultimately I love this particular beer from Sierra Nevada.  Maybe I’m just taking it easy on them, but it meets all of the needs I have for an imperial IPA. Sierra Nevada ends up in that kind of craft beer brewer category that Sam Adams fits into as well.  I’ve always loved the big hop qualities you get out of Sierra Nevada.  I’m just glad they put something together for the beer geeks.

Teacher Grade: A



  1. Nice review. After I posted, I heard two people say that last year’s version of this was meh. Only one of them (drinkblogrepeat) has tried again this year, but he said that it was a vast improvement from last year. I wonder if they changed the recipe…although it seems like maybe these super-hopped beers have some variation from year-to-year. And that is a pretty sweet label. I imagine it makes for a cool shirt.

  2. I’m purposely passing on this review because I have a bottle in the fridge right now. I’ll read it after I have mine. But one question, it’s sitting next to a bottle of Nugget Nectar. Does that put to many hops in a small area? I wouldn’t want to cause some kind of cosmic collapse sucking us all into an event horizon of hoppiness.

  3. […] to say about this beer (and you should be), I encourage you to check out these excellent reviews by Beerproof,  lyricslibationsandlife and Beerbecue.  If I’ve missed anyone, feel free to put a link to […]

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