For years, Sierra Nevada was represented to much of America as a single beer, the California brewery’s venerable pale ale. And it was good, a staple I still enjoy today on occasion, even as a veritable hurricane of new beers sweeps around us all on a daily basis.
In recent years, we’ve gotten new tastes of Sierra Nevada, from the Harvest IPA series to Hop Hunter and more, I’ve become more and more impressed with what the brewery has to offer. So, I wasn’t surprised when I picked up a bottle of Sierra Nevada’s Hop Bullet Double IPA and was quickly impressed.
This slightly hazy, amber orange beer is one that exudes tropical hop aroma almost as soon as it hits the glass. I moved the glass toward my mouth and didn’t even have to inhale to get my first impression what lay ahead, with the qualities of the Magnum hops, from the citrus beginnings to the bitterness that awaited.
The beer also is brewed using lupulin dust, an additive designed to infuse the beer with concentrated hop flavor. Sort of a double-down on the West Coast hops, if you will, and then finished with Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Magnum and Crystal. It shows. With the first sip, I got the expected big malt body that tends to come standard with a double IPA, along with the slightly sticky presence on the palate. The thick beer finished dry and was a bit chewy as I got into the first few drinks.
At first, the sweet malts overtake the bright, tropical flavors infused by the hops, but it balances out as the palate adjusts, culminating in a sharp, piney finish that rises up to meet the malts. The citrus qualities manage to stay in the conversation.
I found this to be a very good imperial IPA, one created with the purpose to overtake the taste buds and provide a memorable experience in a 12-ounce bottle. It delivers on that, to be sure, with its delicate balance to go along with a big, bitter smack in the mouth. Best of all, even though it registers 8.0 percent alcohol by volume, there isn’t an overriding booziness in the new Hop Bullet – it tastes like beer.
I’m not going to say this one is special, but it’s certainly worthy, and does nothing to dampen my interest in what Sierra Nevada has going on in this craft-beer-crazy marketplace. Sometimes, you just dance with the one that brung you, as the saying goes.
Kevin Gibson is a Louisville, Ky.-based free-lance writer who writes about everything from food to music to beer to bourbon to professional football. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono (pissed her off a little, too). He is author of "Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft" (2014, History Press). He published his first novel, "The Liberation of Crystal Hill" (Bearhead Publishing), in 2011; he also published "Crohn's Disease: A Memoir from the Toilet" in January 2015 and his currently working on two more book projects. He co-hosts a weekly local radio show, and also plays in a couple of bands, the Uncommon Houseflies and the Nick Peay Band. Not surprisingly, he doesn't sleep much. But when he isn't running around town chasing stories or poised at his trusty laptop writing, you can often find him at one of the local breweries and being thankful for the life he lives. That, or he'll be sitting on his couch with his trusty sidekick Darby. Check out his beer blog, 502Brews.com, or his website, KevinGibsonWriter.com, to find out more about his books and why he does what he does. Or feel free to call him names on Twitter: @kgramone.