O'so Brewing's name is short for "oh so good," but its latest creation Lupulin Maximus is more like "oh so hoppy"! Double IPAs have a reputation for being pretty hoppy -- here brewmaster Marc Buttera has taken the style and tried to top it by adding an actual hop flower in every bottle. Buttera says he's been getting lots of feedback from his customers asking for bigger and hoppier beers, so his Maximus is for those bitter-loving hop-heads.
What is it? Lupulin Maximus from O'so Brewing of Plover.
Style: The imperial or double India Pale Ale intensifies the bitterness of the typical IPA. However, it's not double the strength. Many brewers who make these beers like to say they double the amounts of key ingredients, especially hops. The Double IPA emphasizes bitterness, yet there should still be some malty sweetness. Because of all the malt and hops that go into these beers, their flavor is often described as complex, spicy and warm. The finish will indeed have warmth from the high alcohol level, which often ranges above 6% ABV.
Background: Lupulin is the yellow resin from the hop flavor that adds the bitterness to beer. Therefore, it's a fitting name for this extra-hopped beer. The actual flower that is added to each bottle of Lupulin Maximus is a Fuggles hop cone, taken from vines that grew this past summer at the Plover home of O'so Brewery owners Marc and Katina Buttera. The Butteras picked the hops in August and stored them in bags in their freezer until the beer was ready to be bottled. The brewery made about 250 cases, so that figures to be about 6,000 hop flowers that were individually inserted into each bottle just before filling.
The basic hops in the brew are what Buttera calls "some pretty obnoxious" bitter selections. The beer was made with five varieties -- Summit, Glacier, Chinook, Simcoe and the inserted Fuggles. That combination results in lots of piney and citrusy bitterness. The hops were added at eight different intervals, including the final hop flower just before bottles were capped.
Lupulin Maximus finishes at 9.3% ABV and sells for about $11/four-pack.
- Aroma: Strong resiny nose.
- Appearance: Hazy orange copper with a thick soft tan head.
- Texture: Full bodied, round, bubbly.
- Taste: Strong, firm, piney hoppiness in the beginning, with an assertive maltiness that keeps things somewhat balanced, but overall there is lots of complexity to the flavor.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Lingering resiny bitterness.
Glassware: Lupulin Maximus will stand up nicely in a large glass mug -- it shows off the rich orange-copper color and thick bubbly head. You'll also want a wide-mouthed glass so you get a good view of the hop flower as it floats to the top after being poured. Just be warned -- the flower is for show, not chewing.
Pairs well with: Ultimately, this beer really stands on its own. However, serving it with a meal requires a dish that competes, so don't settle one that's timid. Lupulin Maximus has lots of flavor, especially its resiny type of hoppiness, so a spicy Thai curry or hearty Cajun jambalaya will hold its own yet still be a pleasing match. You might also consider sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheeses as an appetizer with this beer.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Wonder about the definition of a hop-head? You might just be one if you enjoy Lupulin Maximus for its assertive bitterness, and if you smile at the thought of the tedious insertion of an individual hop flower in every bottle. There is an aggressive bitter character to this beer, but I appreciate the complexity of malt versus hop-flavor that almost creates a competition for your taste buds. Buttera has made a beer with a malty backbone that doesn't just turn into a hop-bomb. It's not a beer for everyone, but it is an adventurous hop-head's delight.