Beer: The Further Pursuit of Hoppiness
Cowering in a corner of the cooler, the six-pack offered no resistance as I toted it to the cashier and plunked down $25, which seems to be the going rate for this once-a-year release.
My Hopslam poured a brilliant orange, first releasing grapefruit on the nose followed by a subtle floral aroma wafting up through my sinuses. It displayed a remarkable finesse for a double IPA, a style that’s supposed to body-slam you with its bitterness and alcohol.
I’d like to brag, but at this point, Hopslam is so...last week.
Every month, Sierra Nevada invites groups of retailers, distributors and other beer professionals to formulate and brew their own special beer at the company’s ten-barrel pilot brewery. About a year ago, a group of publicans from the famous Toronado Pub and other Bay Area watering holes concocted a massive double IPA to serve during San Francisco Beer Week in February 2010. The brew drew so many raves that Sierra Nevada decided to revive and package it in 22-ounce bottles for broader distribution.
Hoptimum weighs in at 10.4 percent alcohol by volume and 100 international bitterness units. It’s an intense, liqueurish fruit cocktail of a beer, with heavy notes of grapefruit, pineapple and other citrus fruit, and an alcoholic warmth that envelopes you after you’ve taken a few swallows. It’s seasoned with six varieties of hop, including German Magnum (for bittering), Simcoe, Citra, Chinook and three experimental strains so new “they don’t even have names yet, just numbers,” says communications coordinator Bill Manley.
The ale undergoes a dry-hopping and a “torpedoing” -- that is, the beer is pumped back and forth between the fermenter and a hop-filled tank called the torpedo because of its shape. As Manley explains, this enhances the delicate aroma of the whole-cone hops. (Sierra Nevada uses no concentrated hop extracts or pellets.)
Now here’s the rub: Sierra Nevada brewed 700 barrels of Hoptimum for the entire country, which makes it a far rarer treat than the coveted Hopslam. Brad Phillips, Sierra Nevada’s local rep, says 50 cases and 18 five-gallon kegs were allocated to the metropolitan area. There’s no way of knowing how much will remain by the time this item is posted, but Phillips advised checking out the usual suspects, including Total Wine, Whole Foods, Westover Market, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits and Magruder’s.
If you miss out, Manley promised that Hoptimum will return next year, albeit with a revised recipe to take advantage of whatever new strains the hop growers are peddling.
In other local brews news, the Whole Foods in Clarendon began selling growlers to go last week. There are four taps behind the counter across from the wine department. As of Sunday, the store was dispensing Lagunitas IPA, the Austrian import Eggenberg Pils, and Kolsch and Full Nelson Pale Ale from the Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, Va..
“Rare stuff and unique beers will definitely be cycling through our taps,” promises Justin Pogue on the market’s Facebook page. The store aims to have at least one tap feature regional beers from Blue Mountain, Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Md. and other mid-Atlantic breweries.
The empty growlers themselves cost $3.99, both for a 64-ounce jug and the smaller 32-ounce bottle. But if you already own a growler bearing the logo of Mad Fox or Rock Bottom or some other local brewpub, the store will be happy to fill it. Fills, for all beers, cost $8.99 for 64 ounces, $5.99 for 32 ounces, although prices are subject to change.
Like the Whole Foods in Old Town (which began filling growlers in December), the Clarendon site is offering takeout sales only.
Posted by: AlligatorArms | January 31, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: pgibson1 | January 31, 2011 8:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DJMonet | January 31, 2011 9:03 PM | Report abuse