here) that carries around 700 different beers is both a blessing and a curse. Its a blessing because of the near endless variety. But for that very reason I sometimes find myself walking round-and-round the aisles unable to choose between one awesome possibility and the next. On those rare days I sometimes reach back and reacquaint myself with an old favorite to see whether the love affair continues, or if my ever evolving tastes have moved on.
For only the second time in 115 reviews, I've decided to give a previously reviewed beer another write-up here on briankunkle.com. This time, the honor goes to Sierra Nevada's Hop Hunter IPA (Review #20).
The selling point of Hop Hunter is its use of Hop Oil steam distilled from fresh hops just as soon as they are picked in the fields. Brewers these days use everything from fresh 'wet' hops to dried whole flower hops, to hop pellets. Some hop during the first wort, some hop continuously throughout boil, some dry hop during fermentation, but Hop Hunter is the first example of using Hop Oil that I know of. And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. The oils in a hop flower are precisely what brewers are trying to extract when they steep hops into their beer. And, by now we've all heard of cannabis oils being concentrated for use in edibles and medicine right? Hops come from the same genetic lineage as marijuana.
So what happens when brew your India Pale Ale with hop oil? Apparently you get Hop Hunter.
One of the things that appealed to me about Hop Hunter 95 beer reviews ago was how fresh and bright both the aroma and taste of the hops were. I won't say that its impossible to get this much unadulterated "hoppiness" using other methods, but its certainly still more rare than I would like.
Chilled and dropped into a simple pint glass, Hop Hunter pours the expected pale-golden-straw. Well carbonated, the beer is mostly clear, though (held to a light) this particular bottle reveals some fine particulars I did not notice a year ago, and I believe this to in fact be hop oil held in suspension.
The aroma is still spectacular - if you are fond of citrus and pine-centric IPA's - with just enough malt scent to balance things out.
The flavor is primary pine driven, with that lip smacking, mouth watering dryness that personifies the west coast IPA lingering on the back end. Malts take a back seat, which is of course the point. Overall the flavors tread a narrow path (pine to bitter citrus peel, and a hint of the floral), where a new generation of IPA's now fan out into tropical terrain.
The verdict is that I still enjoy this beer for what it is. Hop Hunter is certainly one of best IPA's currently coming out of the nations biggest, most mainstream, craft brewers. While other brewers are currently doing more adventurous things with hops, Hop Hunter does what it does, and set out to do, very well, and I certainly cannot fault it for that.
Musical Pairing: Fight'em Til You Can't by Anthrax
Twin Tiers Beer Trail:
-Twin Tiers Craft Beer Club (Sayre)
- I-86 Beer Trail
- The Jolly Farmer, Waverly (Waverly)
- Bluestone Brewing Company (Sayre)
- Diversion Brewing Co. (Chemung)
- The Grille at the Train Station (Sayre)
- River Rat Brew Trail (Central Pa)