As the season of warm nights and summer ales comes to an end, we beer geeks have begun to retire our summer fare and started breaking out the heavy brews in preparation for that familiar autumn chill that has begun creeping back into the air.
As the temperature continues to steadily drop, there is a bevy of delicious, hop-heavy beers available for consumption to warm the chilly fall evenings. If you’re in the market for a bitter beer that will fulfill your hop obsession, look no further than the Hop Crisis Imperial IPA from the 21st Amendment Brewing Company.
Based in San Francisco, the 21st Amendment brewpub has been turning out unique craft beers laden with politically charged packaging since 2000. Their distinctive selection of beers includes such gems as the Sneak Attack Farmhouse Saison and Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer, as well as the American-style Back in Black IPA, arguably the company’s most popular brew. The exquisite attention to detail in every beer from this company is apparent, and in fact, their Brew Free or Die IPA has been a staple of my personal beer stash for quite some time.
On its label, Hop Crisis is billed as an Imperial IPA. IPA, or India Pale Ale, refers to a style of brewing within the larger category of pale ales, typically characterized by a bitter taste due to high hop content. Imperial IPAs, also known as Double or American IPAs, are noticeably bitterer in taste because they employ a more intense hop composition to create a strong flavor. As an advocate of IPAs, my personal beer philosophy is “the bitterer, the better,” and Hop Crisis certainly gave me a run for my money in terms of bitterness.
Poured from a 12-ounce can into a pint glass, the hazy golden shade of Hop Crisis begets a thick off-white head that lingers, leaving a considerable amount of lacing. The aroma is equal parts bitter citrus and sweet-smelling oak, with definite floral notes and hints of earthy malt. While the name is indicative of a hoppy flavor approaching critical mass, the taste is definitely more bitter than hoppy.
The taste of the Centennial and Cascade hops used in the brewing take a back seat to the sensations of smoky wood and vanilla, but the undertones of bitter citrus are accompanied by an unmistakably hoppy aftertaste. Mild carbonation lends itself nicely to a crisp finish that leaves the tongue feeling thick and the palate satisfied. While the alcohol and malt make their presence known in this beer, they by no means overpower the delicate complexion that makes this such a unique and enjoyable brew.
This beer is unique on its own, but what really sets Hop Crisis apart from its Imperial IPA counterparts is the aging process. Aged in oaked barrels to augment flavor, the woody taste is readily noticeable in the beer’s complex map of flavors, but not so much to the point that it overwhelms the rest of the brew. The aging process for beer helps to ripen the flavors of the hops and malt, and in the case of Hop Crisis, the aged quality lends itself well to a beer that is overall a unique flavor experience.
While Hop Crisis could act as a nice compliment to a spice-heavy dish such as Thai or Mexican food, the intricate flavors of this beer are better suited for consumption on their own. Hop Crisis is a beer so complex in flavor that it acts almost as a meal entirely on its own. That is not to say that it should be consumed on an empty stomach, but your taste buds certainly won’t want for anything when it comes to this beer. Drink wisely and keep an open mouth.
Emily A. Brightman can be reached at [email protected]