21 May 2009

Hop much?

The hopheads are taking over. Dublin's quality beer off licences are bursting with isohumulones these days, between the new-style hopped-up Belgians, some bitter delights from across the Irish Sea, and of course those crazy Americans and their IBU fixation.

Amid much rí rá agus ruaile buaile, Sierra Nevada Torpedo hit Dublin recently, and I secured one to bring home and dispose of safely. Everyone who'd already tried it warned me that it wasn't some hop-monster as the name might suggest; that this 7.2% ABV IPA is actually quite balanced. I'm not sure I'd agree with them. What's very true, however, is that it's gorgeous.

The aroma is zesty and clean -- none of your big boozy vapours here -- while the flavour is binary: it rocks between sweet marmalade and very slightly harsh, resinous piney hops, which just pitch over into lemon washing-up liquid right at the end. There's a solid, and actually quite sticky malt base to it. So why, in the name of sanity, is this hyperactive flavour orgy so damned easy to drink? It took herculean restraint to hold myself back from draining the glass before I could string any kind of verbal impression together. It's that tasty.

I'm not a hophead as such, nor am I attuned to the very finer points of hop appreciation, and that's why I will quite blithely announce that Torpedo is every bit as enjoyable as Pliny the Elder.

Next, I raised my hoppy game further by following up with Victory Hop Wallop, stronger at 8.5% ABV and paler -- just at the point where yellow becomes orange. And yet despite the higher strength it lacks the malt profile of Torpedo and is actually quite thin. But bitter? Oh my yes. Bitter as the day is long. Fell out of the bitter tree and hit every branch on the way down. Not harsh, or any way difficult, just very very charmlessly bitter. Of fruit, you get a chaste peck from a sugary mandarin orange at the start of each taste, before Dame Bitter comes round to claim her due. It's not that it's unpleasant, it's just not very enjoyable, in complete contrast to its tamer stablemate HopDevil.

Proceed with caution, is the message to those wielding the hopsack, I guess.


  1. Great post!

    I think the Torpedo is excellent. I was less impressed with Hop Devil and Hop Wallop - for me they were both way past their best and had lost all the great, fresh hop character which was a real shame. It seems that your Wallop was similar to mine - a clingy dry bitterness but nothing else.

    Just read the piece on the GBBF last year. I missed all the US stuff last year and was gutted. I'll be doing my very best to get in on the first day this year!

  2. Denis1:38 pm

    Have to agree on Hop Wallop, charmless is the very word for it, a bitter little brute.

  3. Anonymous11:48 pm

    Drink Store again? Must get over there that torpedo sounds great.

    Did you see Sainsbury have 750ml bottles of Fuller's London Porter for #1.77 a bottle, a trip oop north beckons methinks.


  4. Yeah, both from DrinkStore, though everywhere has Torpedo at the moment. The £1.77 London Porter is a lot less attractive with a €34 train fare added on.

  5. I'm drinking a Torpedo right now. I agree it is delicous. I love Sierra Nevada.

    I'd also recommend Hopback Amber Ale from Troeg's Brewery in Pennsylvania if you get a chance to try it.

  6. I also like Torpedo to

  7. Torpedo sounds great. I must have some.

  8. Torpedo is great. It is amazing how easy it is to drink. I live in Southern California and am biased, but I think the best US IPAs come from brewers on the (US) West Coast. I have not tasted any memorable IPAs brewed east of California, Washington and Oregon, including the heralded Maharajah from Colorado's Avery. Freshness also key to the big hopped beers. Russian River's Pliny the Elder puts its date on the bottle. Beware of any highly hopped beer over two to three months old.

  9. Hey Beernut, could you tell me an off licence in West or Central Dublin that stocks the Torpedos? Thanks!

  10. DrinkStore in Stoneybatter will sort you out: four for a tenner. Tell 'em Beer Nut sent ya!