Fearful Symmetries

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28 September, 2015

Good Morning Campers!: Hoppy Lager by Sierra Nevada



It's autumn now so what better time to drink the last of this year's vernal brews, right?

Sierra Nevada seems to be at the vanguard of collaborative brewing, at least as far as large microbrewers go. Their latest collaboration saw them partner with German brewery Brauhaus Riegele, founded when the most recent white visitor to North America was Leif Erikson, to produce an Oktoberfest. Subsequent iterations of the beer will feature collaborations with different German brewers. Last year Sierra Nevada began Beer Camp Across America which saw them come together with twelve other breweries across the country. Close to home they paired up with New Glarus to produce an ESB called There and Back. Farther afield they conspired with Ballast Point to brew Electric Ray, an India Pale Lager. The beer was brought back for an encore this past spring with a slightly tweaked recipe and a new nom de beer - Hoppy Lager.

I'm not sure who begat the IPL moniker but it's one of the more recent entries in the ongoing marketing atrocity that labels everything with some West Coast hops an India something-or-other. I've noticed the IPX phenomenon attacking cider now. We now have India Pressed Cider and India Wheat Cider because apples just aren't good enough, apparently. And now that winter approaches, you can have your Double IPA lip balm. Too potent for your delicate lips? Don't worry because there's session IPA lip balm too.

While the IPX moniker and the marketing abuse of hops generally (hop cigars, hop shampoo, hop bar soaps, hop air fresheners, and do any locals remember when Madison Sourdough put hops into bread?) have most certainly become a bad joke, that doesn't mean that tasty beers cannot be had with that unfortunate moniker.

Hoppy Lager pours, contra my photograph, a bright gold color. The beer was quite hazy but I suspect this was chill haze – Stone Brewing's blog has a nice explanation. The haze results when malt proteins bond with hop polyphenols at cold temperatures. Going by the blog post, I'd guess that the age of the beer is partly to blame. The haze doesn’t affect flavor and, if I'm going with the age hypothesis, I certainly can't knock Sierra Nevada. You can see the big, foamy white head for yourself. (It lasted a goodly amount of time.) But the haze obscures all of the bubbles going up the beer.

As I've come to expect from this style, the aroma was full of the requisite hoppy scents, i.e. – citrus and floral, from both Citra and Equinox varieties. But the malt was also evident here with the aroma having a very sweet component that smelled of honey and apricot.

Hoppy Lager had an intriguing mix of flavors. As hops go a dull(ish) blood orange or tangerine flavor was the first thing I noticed. A relatively new variety of hops, El Dorado, are used here and descriptions emphasize its big tropical fruit flavors so I'm assuming that they're responsible for the up front fruity flavor. There was also a floral flavor to be had and I presume that came from the Equinox hops. As in the nose, it was subservient to the fruity hop flavors.

Despite being a hop forward brew, the malt made its presence known. It tasted rather sweet to my tongue – reminding me of bread dough. But I also tasted something like plum – a fruitiness that wasn't sharp or bright like citrus. Perhaps this is the malt and the Palisade hops working in combination. The carbonation

The finish was dry with a healthy dose of spicy hops providing a lingering bitterness.

Although it had a clean flavor, Hoppy Lager was just too sweet for me. The malt flavor stood too far apart from and in too great an opposition to the fruity-floral essences of the hops. It's like there were warring factions on my tongue instead of complementary groups working together to find a zymurgylogical gestalt. The high carbonation added a bit of détente by way of dryness but not enough. As someone who is not a big fan of hop forward beers, I found that I didn't mind the 55 I.B.U.s of bitterness here. I think this is likely because of the fruity hop flavor along with the malt that refused to cede to the botanicals.

Junk food pairing: Hoppy Lager is a fairly big beer. The malty sweetness gives it a medium body and it clocks in at 7% A.B.V. Pair it with something sharp-tasting, something that will cut through the IPL miasma such as Snyder's Jalapeno Pretzel Pieces or Cheez-It Duoz Sharp Cheddar and Parmesan crackers.

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|| Palmer, 1:05 PM

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