Tasting: Sam Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner

Posted on 01.10.08 5:30PM under IPA, Pilsner, Tasting

Sam Adams Hallertau Imperial PilsnerI have taken my own challenge again. I have developed an image of Sam Adams whereby I consider their beers to be OK, but boring and sort of aiming for the middle of the pack – nothing too offensive to anyone. This is, of course, not counting Utopias. Although I haven’t tasted it, it clearly isn’t for the middle of the pack, but it is also priced way out of range of average Joe, unlike Dogfish Head’s super-high alcohol beers. Hell, even Donald Trump might think twice about plunking down $170 for a bottle of beer. But I digress.

Another interesting beer Jim Koch and Co. have released is their Hallertau Imperial Pilsner, which they call “an intense hop experience”. This piqued my interest, and I was able to find a pack of it at Gordon’s in New London. Seems like it’s made with Hallertau hops, which I was afraid might be a bit over the top when used in abundance. They’re more meant for delicate finishing in my mind. But I could be wrong.

The first thing I couldn’t help but notice is how cloudy the beer is. I could easily tell it was pale and cloudy, even while it was in the brown bottle. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that, and still the odd tannish-orange color and cloudiness make it look more like cider than beer. But the head was nice and not too big, not too small, fading slowly.

The smell was a wakeup call. It is an avalanche of hops – floral, slightly spicy, green, and herbal hops. Those noble hops sure know how to give off some good fumes. I feel like I’m smelling an actual piece of hops. This thing must have been dry hopped like no tomorrow. Doesn’t Boston Beer Company know there’s a global hop shortage? I, like most of you, started my journey into the deepest corners of beerland with big hoppy IPAs. There was no such thing as too much hops. In this context, the overwhelming aroma of these wonderful hops was almost too much on the nose. But not quite.

Taking a sip, I muttered, “wow” to myself, even though there was nobody else in the room or even the house to hear me. Intense hop experience is right! This thing is bitter as any IPA I ever had, and it is a nice clean bitterness for the most part. There’s a hint of grassy haylike flavor from the pure volume of hops in there, which increases as the beer warms, but never gets too unpleasant. The hops are accentuated by a distinct alcohol warmth to accompany the 8.8% ABV this bad boy is packing. The finish is long and bitter, like I’m nibbling on a little piece of hops.

I’m starting to wonder if this is a rebuttal to DFH Golden Era (the other insanely hopped Imperial Pilsner I know of). As I sit here drinking it, hoping I can complete the post before the booze kicks in, I can’t help but be reminded of Victory’s Hop Wallop. Now it was a while ago that I last had that beer, but I recall it to be totally dominated by hops in a mouth-numbing way, just as this beer is. Regardless of the works of other brewers, this Hallertau Imperial Pilsner is extreme, that’s for sure.

This beer is pretty full with a dry bitter ending. It sticks a bit to the roof of my mouth, but is soft in the middle, thanks to the nice bubbles in there. The feeling is well-matched with the flavor. It is an intense and enjoyable experience to drink this beer. This beer will make you slow down and take notice of it. Just what I was hoping for based on the packaging. Truth in advertising is nice, isn’t it?

I already had dinner, but I am trying to figure out what the heck I could pair this beer with. All I can think of is some Mexican food with absurd heat. At Margaritas restaurant, I always love the Enchiladas Muchachas (I know muchacha means girl, but I still like it.) It has a ton of cheese and plenty of nice mexi-style flavors. You can get a side of what they call “Habañero Fuego” which is simply crushed up habañero peppers. I always do this, and sometimes I can eat most of it. I think that the highly bitter and hot flavor of the fuego, balanced with the fatty grease of the cheese and the base of the tortilla and chicken would all work great with this beer. The hops would match the hot pepper, and the bitterness would clean away the cheese, while the chicken and tortilla would help to mellow out the beer finish a bit.

Bottom line: love hops? You’ll love this beer.

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