Who makes the best Double IPA?
There are great questions in the world. Questions like how big is the universe? How and where will tornados form? What’s the best Double IPA? While it would be fun to tackle the first two questions… oh, wait… um… I just drank nine Double IPAs I think … um … yeah, I’ll stick to the last one there on that list. And so, to figure out this conundrum we got together the Denver Tasting Lab and a bunch of DIPAs (with a couple normal IPAs tossed in for fun). To get another perspective on this tasting be sure to check out Billy’s post. While not an exhaustive collection the samples cover a wide range. I can write a long list of excellent DIPA that should have been included in the tasting, but I think we are already at the upper limit for a single responsible flight. Here’s who made the list:
Russian River Pliny the Elder
Port Brewing Wipeout IPA
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA
Stone Ruination IPA
The Alchemist Heady Topper
A fairly solid bunch of ales I think. Some of the more popular and well known mixed in with a few random choices. My taste buds started salivating as soon as I saw them all lined up.
After much debate we came up with a very complex system for tracking the beer and keeping us tasters unaware. In fact our little system is so complex it challenges the fancy elections of the Doge of Venice. Okay, not that complex. We just used colors and number and separated the labeling tasks to different people. It did make for some rather unattractive drinking cup. Duct tape! You can always use some duct tape.
- Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
Okay, this beer shouldn’t be called a loser. It’s a great beer. It just shouldn't be labeled as an IPA. Plus the bottle that made it to the tasting had some age. The hop profile had diminished and left the distinctive 120 Minute flavor of rich dark fruits and complex maltiness. One sip and we all knew what beer we were drinking. And what we were drinking wasn't one of the hop beasts we were looking for.
So after all those beers what did the group prefer the most? Odell Myrcenary. Nice. This is just a well balanced Double IPA with plenty of American hops and a solid malt backbone. It’s clean and the flavors are sharp fresh and jump right out of that crummy little plastic cup. The group then elected Heady Topper followed by Headhunter IPA.
Yeah, I didn't completely agree with the group. But of course none of us totally agreed on the final three. Although, we all loved Myrcenary. Because I am West Coast fanboy my final three wasn't surprising:
- Russian River Pliny the Elder
- Odell Myrcenary
- Port Brewing Wipeout IPA
These three rock! Pliny is an excellent beer that is completely hop driven. This beer was fresh and tasted like a delightful barrel of freshly picked hops and unicorn kisses. Don’t listen to Billy in his post--he’s crazy. The one disadvantage a beer like Pliny faces in a group like this is that it has a light malt background (personally something I enjoy about this beer and look for in Double IPAs because like I say, I am a West Coast fanboy), but when comparing it to these other beers you see lots of hop depth and not much in the way of malt. Whereas a beer like Myrcenary has a kick of both.
So, if you just want to drink a delicious hop forward Double IPA go with Pliny. If you want a more balanced ale go with Myrcenary.
What about all those other beers?
There were many other beers in the mix here, and almost of all them kind of lumped together in the "pretty good, I'd like another" category. There’s nothing on this list that I would avoid. And I would highly suggest just trying all of them and picking out your own personal favorite.
Here's the only real lesson to take away from this post: freshness counts! Double IPAs are not for aging they are for drinking. A couple of beers in the group may have suffers a tad for being just a wee bit old. Hop flavors and aroma break down with age and the beers generally suffer as a result. This was well displayed with the 120 Minute that drank like a barleywine and nothing like a Double IPA. This is doubly true of West Coast IPAs like Pliny. Because Pliny is soooo hop forward you’ll have a pretty lame beer when the hops start to float away with age.
Now I can't wait for our next tasting.