Sounds like a movie title right? DING DING DING!! Give yourself a cigar. The title is based on one of my all-time favorite movies – “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” – something I first saw with my retired veteran grandfather at the age of 12. In this classic movie, an insane general starts the countdown to nuclear holocaust, and a war room of politicans and generals try to stop this from happening. In my life, this is all about my own actions to stop myself from enjoying the pungent blast of hops from IPAs and pale ales, especially after being a self-proclaimed fan of the malt bomb.
It started when I was 18, while tearfully watching as my fraternity house burned to the ground due to an electrical fire. One of our alumni – who lived a few blocks away – was on hand and he offered me a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to help me wash down my pain. At that point I had always been into pilsners, bocks and the like. It was either light beer (a frat house staple) or it was dark and heavy, which is what most of the experienced drinkers in the house were enjoying. I had never had this one before and was a little apprehensive considering every other pale ale/IPA I had really tasted like crap to me, but I took it anyway. This opened a door that to this day I knew would never close.
Despite my apprehension to drink an IPA, even up until a year or two ago, I finally gave in when I was awarded a can of Heady Topper from one of our contemporaries. I had never really had a good experience with the bitter beers, but I decided to give this a shot. Hey, it was free and from what I heard, it was highly acclaimed and extremely hard to get in this area and was well worth the trouble. Taking this into consideration, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a go. I opened it with the intention of simply doing a review on it for this site. The moment I tasted that sweet hoppy goodness, my mind – and my palate – screamed out “HOLY BLEEPING BLEEP!!! This is BLEEPING DELICIOUS!!” (insert favorite expletive)
That moment completely awakened all of my senses and gave me a reason to embrace the hops, not shy away from them. I was so blown away by the delicious citrus and tropical flavors that I swore off my previous stance towards anything hoppy and decided to give them all a shot. Forays into other heavily hopped brews quickly followed – like Founders Devil Dancer, which made at least one of my fellow Keg Tappers writhe in agony due to its astronomical IBU level. It says it’s 112, but I kid you not, it could just as easily be over 200. BAM!! That’s a nuclear hop explosion if ever there was one.
Granted, I haven’t found too many other gems like Heady Topper out there, although Russian River’s Pliny The Elder is the exception. If I’m not mistaken, I believe these are considered two of the best IPAs on the planet. My expectations were set to such a high level after tasting that beer that now I expect every one of them to be this good. I know, I know, I’m setting myself up for disappointment and/or heartbreak. Still, from the moment I tasted that delicious goodness from a can, it opened a whole new realm of possibility when it came to my taste in beer. It broadened my palate spectrum and showed me that beer can be sweet and bitter at once, with varying degrees of each. It also gave me incentive to keep trying other varieties of beer, just so I could find the one that hits the nail right on the head for me – “BAM! Now that’s the one I’ve been searching for.” Know what I mean? If you’ve never had it you can’t say you don’t like it, right? This should give you some inspiration to get out there and expand your mind/palate. Take the hint and get to it. You’ll thank me later. Cheers…