There is a concept in the beer world known as "Lupulin Shift" and, in essence, this term describes a growing tolerance for hops in beer.
As the beer drinker continues to drink hoppier and hoppier beers, his or her ability to tolerate and even appreciate the hop flavor and bitterness is increased. It is similar to those heat seekers, whose ability to eat spicy food grows as they continue to torture their palates and gastrointestinal tracts with increasingly spicy peppers.
This term is credited to Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing, who brews the much coveted and highly regarded double IPA known as Pliny the Elder. And, it was created using the scientific name of the hop plant, Humulus Lupulus.
As Vinnie and some of the other early American craft brewers were pushing the thresholds of what was tolerable in beer, this Lupulin Shift was occurring amongst their adoring fans. This phenomenon gave rise to the hops arms race we saw with every new brewer in the American Craft Beer revolution trying to push out the hoppiest beer they could possibly make, and the birthing of the new style, American Double (or Imperial) IPA.
American brewers became notorious amongst the international brewing community for being too aggressive or brash with their hopping of beers, and it's the reason why an English IPA is barely hoppy enough to be considered an American Pale Ale.
This perceived aggressiveness was even adopted by some American craft brewers in marketing their beers, and it is why we have beers today with names like Arrogant Bastard Ale by Stone Brewing.
Roughtail Brewing could be considered one of the OG craft breweries in Oklahoma, and from their inception they have had a tendency to produce hop-forward beers that were quite different than the 3.2 percent ABV macro lagers that this state was awash in.
Roughtail made the gamble that the taste buds of Oklahoma beer drinkers would experience a Lupulin Shift if they continued to put out aggressively hopped beers—and it paid off. As Roughtail has grown in production and popularity, their boundary pushing nature is still on display with some of their newer releases, which are on the very bleeding edge of what is happening in the beer world.
Just one year into their history of being professional brewers, the guys at Roughtail put out their own American Double IPA: Hoptometrist. Quite a move for a style that only first appeared at the Great American Beer Festival in 2003. So without further ado, on to the review!
This beer is listed by Roughtail as being 8.99 percent ABV and having 100 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) utilizing six different hop varietals. On an interesting side note, 100 IBUs is considered the theoretical limit for how hoppy a beer can get because of science. So, it ain't getting any hoppier than this folks.
Aroma and Appearance
This beer opens up with a piney, resinous, and even citrus-like nose. I would say this beer even has some dank characteristics in it's aroma, and it should be noted that the hop plant is actually a cousin to the marijuana plant, and some hop plants are bred to bring out this aroma.
The color of this beer is deep gold to amber and the beer has a nice frothy off-white head that has some staying power.
Current guidelines from the BJCP and the American Brewers Association allow for more haziness in this style, whereas previous guidelines preferred clarity. Hoptometrist is decidedly hazy, so much so that it would likely be faulted as such in competition.
Flavor and Mouthfeel
The flavor of this beer comes straight out of the gate with an intense hop flavor that is well supported by the sweet malt backbone. To properly make a beer like this, the brewer needs to balance all of that hop flavor and bitterness with a malt bill that can provide a counterpoint, and Roughtail does this very well.
The body of the beer is medium-to-full and the finish of the beer leaves a not-unpleasant hop bitterness lingering on the palate which invites the drinker to go ahead and have another sip.
Despite the high gravity of the beer, the heat from the alcohol is barely perceived due to the hops and malt demanding your attention. Also this beer has very little of the vegetal or grassy flavors that can come with adding an enormous amount of hops to your brew kettle or fermentor.
For the sake of full disclosure, I feel I must mention that my own personal Lupulin Shift occurred a long time ago, and I am on the far end of the spectrum of what is acceptable in regards to bitterness.
If you don't like hoppy beers, you won't like this beer, Roughtail even says the same on their website. Much like the making of insanely spicy hot sauces, there is an art to making something that could be considered painful and also pleasurable. Roughtail Brewing shows their passion for making this type of beer with the excellence in their execution.
This is not a gateway beer. It is more of a destination on the beer drinker’s journey through the styles and flavors of the beer world. So for all those hop-heads out there who want to get punched in the palate with an aggressive Oklahoman Double IPA, this is the beer for you.