Frosty Beverage Report

Hop Crisis Imperial IPA

Sipping our way through the craft beer renaissance—one brew at a time.

You like beer? Great, we do too. So much, in fact, that we’re kicking off a brand new weekly column on the libation that made ol’ Mr. Franklin believe in a benevolent God. And in the spirit of starting things off right, we’re skipping the weak stuff and diving right into the deep end with one of the stronger imperial IPAs on the market right now.

Hop Crisis, brewed by San Francisco’s 21st Amendment (a brewpub and restaurant founded in 2000 and named for the Constitutional Amendment that repealed Prohibition), was first created in the midst of an actual hop calamity. Prices for the essential brewing ingredient shot through the roof a few years ago, and 21st Amendment decided the best reaction to the problem was to make the hoppiest beer it could muster. And they succeeded: Hop Crisis is a bitterly hopped-up monster, clocking in at a mouth-puckering 94 International Bitterness Units (or IBUs) and a hefty 9.7% ABV. That’s more than two-and-a-half times the bite of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and nearly twice the alcohol, for those of you keeping score at home. So take it easy, or you’ll wind up on the floor in short order.

Going slow may be a challenge, though. It seems like a beast on paper, but Hop Crisis goes down shockingly smooth (the result of aging the brew over oak spirals to cool out some of the more intense flavors). That first sip still opens as you might expect: Big, with a huge hop kick and slightly piney taste to accompany the bright, citrusy aroma. But instead of wrecking your palette with bitterness like some other IPAs with this much booze and hops in the mix, it resolves into a toned-down, slightly oaky aftertaste with malty notes and just a hint of a burn from the high alcohol content.

It’s so good that I indulged in three cans (yes, it comes in cans) in one evening. I didn’t wind up all the way down on the floor, but I eventually found myself on my couch in a pleasantly tipsy haze while those last strains of pine and oak played out across my tongue. If you’re the kind of guy that enjoys the bitter side of beer but isn’t looking to obliterate his taste buds, I highly recommend you do the same some time.

More information on availability can be found at 21st Amendment’s website. A four-pack of 12 oz. cans will run you about $10-12.

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