Doubling Down

Martin Johnson - Double IPAs are having a moment.

Last Sunday a young woman pushed her cart down the beer aisle where I work and paused as she perused the six packs. I was in the aisle having just finished offering a round of sampling beer and cheese to the clientele. I always loiter in the aisle in case customers have questions. It's a great opportunity to introduce people to beers or even whole categories of brews like Saisons or White IPAs.

When I offered the woman with the cart assistance, she asked an intriguing question. “What double IPAs do you have, I just see that one,” she said pointing to the Southern Tier 2 X IPA. The question pleasantly surprised me. I am accustomed to being asked about India Pale Ales, gluten free beers, ciders and the like. The question about double IPAs was a first, but it underscored something. That style of beer, essentially an IPA with a higher alcohol volume (usually 8% or higher), and more intense flavors ranging from pine and resin to tropical, stone and citrus fruit, has become a thing among New York City beer lovers.

There are several reasons for this trend. For one, the Paste magazine list of 115 best American Double India Pale Ales was released in August. It's one of the few beer lists I actually respect as it's a blind tasting; I've heard from other beer fanatics that they hold it in similar esteem. The impact of the list, aside from adding some new brews to people's shopping lists, was simply to put the term double IPA into circulation. Secondly, and a related note, was that Grimm's Artisanal Ales placed two beers, Tesserac and Lambo Door in the top four of that list, and Grimm's first set of cans, a Double IPA called After Image was due out last weekend. News of the release went viral via social media and beer lovers all over New York City began swarming outlets in search of it. Thirdly, some of the other beers of the moment are Double IPAs - Pipeworks Ninja v. Unicorn and Westbrook's Citrus Ninja Exchange. Lastly, IPA enthusiasts are naturally looking for the next step up, and the codification of Double IPA clarifies their search.

I introduced the customer to our variety of Double IPAs, which included the Six Point Resin, the Firestone Walker Double Jack, Brooklyn Brewery Blast, Founder's Devil's Dancer, Evil Twin Yang, and several others. She chose Southern Tier, Ninja v. Unicorn and Firestone Walker, and she took cellphone photos of several others for future reference. She said she and her boyfriend were hosting a double IPA party that night. Only my strong sense of professionalism kept me from trying to invite myself to it. Of course, she also asked about the Grimm's After Image. We decided to “premiere” it Tuesday at 3 with a two can per customer limit. Tuesday afternoon around 2:30, when I stopped by the store to grab my boss and go to a cider event, there were six people milling around the beer aisle awaiting the release. We sold out in a matter of hours without ever putting the beer on the shelf. Happily, the crowd also bought a variety of Brett IPAs, and of course, other Double IPAs, presumably for comparison.

As my boss and I walked to the cider event, we laughed about how episodic it had become. We sold out of Ninja v. Unicorn in two days over the weekend, now Grimm's After Image was all the rage. People were already asking about the Westbrook, which we were putting out on Wednesday. Indeed, double IPAs, something only known to the cognoscenti a few months ago, were having a moment.

The Author:

Martin Johnson is a beer buyer and merchandising manager for Westside Market East Village in New York City.When not selling or drinking beer he writes about jazz and beer for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate, beer for Eater and about a variety of cultural and culinary topics for The Root.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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