Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Double IPAs — Russian River vs. Sierra Nevada

Russian River
Pliny the Elder

ABV 8%

Deep golden.
Huge floral and citrus hops.
Smooth hop candy, medium body, grapefruit.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Long, lingering citrus rind bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):

Sierra Nevada

ABV 10.4%

Rusty orange.
Aroma: Sweet malts, cedar, slight piny hops in the background.
Flavor: Big thick body with sweet clover honey, citrus vodka and bitter notes.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Hoppy
Finish: Moderate sweet burnt lemon peel.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Good

Blow by Blow
This Bottle Battle, featuring two California heavyweights, could certainly qualify as a main event. In one corner we had Pliny the Elder, a highly sought after double IPA from Russian River Brewing Co., that is fervently worshiped by its followers. In the other corner we had Hoptimum, a highly anticipated, new, monster imperial IPA from one of the patriarchs of craft brewing, Sierra Nevada.

It was not a fight for the faint of heart. Pliny absolutely blew us away with its aroma. It smelled something like sticking a citrus-flavored Starburst in each nostril. The flavor followed suit with a smooth body and excellent grapefruit hop candy notes. Finally, the finish was long and bitter, but honestly, we didn't really have time to contemplate it much because we were too eager to take another drink. Pliny is truly a fantastic beer and one that is totally worth the hype.

Hoptimum also brought some game. First of all, it's without a doubt, one of the coolest beer labels around. The old-fashioned looking hophead portrait should immediately become the mascot of hop lovers the world over. The stuff inside wasn't too shabby either. Aroma-wise it wasn't nearly as good as Pliny, but not many beers are. It definitely had some piny hops, unfortunately, they were hidden behind the smell of malt and cedar. The flavor was big and sweet as well, starting off with distinct honey notes and ending with a punch of vodka-soaked citrus. Yes, at 10.4% ABV, the Hoptimum had a bit of difficulty hiding the alcohol. Overall, it was a pretty good imperial IPA, but it needed some more hops in the aroma and perhaps a bit less alcohol.

Winner by unanimous decision: Pliny the Elder

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