Hoppin' It Up!

Bev Blackwood - In praise of Double IPA's

Another week, another round of Double IPA’s!It sometimes really does feel that way.One of the great things about hops is that you can combine them in infinite combinations to achieve a variety of results.I was pleased that when I dropped in at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewpub today, they had a brand new IIPA to try, Committed.It’s a notch above their Hopstorm in both alcohol (8.6%) and IBU’s (95) yet manages to gracefully meld those flavors into a potently quaffable brew that goes easy on harsh hop flavors in favor of a more rounded bittering profile.It also doesn’t hurt that there’s more than a little malt backbone there to take the hard edge off.

From time to time I have found myself with a broad selection of a particular style in my beer fridge and recently IIPA has been that style.It’s been great fun to compare and contrast these beers, usually two or three at a time. First on my list was the Stone / Sierra Nevada collaboration, NXS IPA.At 8.2% ABV, it’s definitely in the IIPA zone, despite the one “I” in its name.It’s actually a blend of three beers, 25% aged in gin barrels and 25% aged in rye whisky barrels which were in turn mixed and blended into the final 50% of fresh, dry hopped IPA.The result is deeply herbal with pine resins and faint citrus and a woody alcohol bite.It’s not quite “dank,” but close.I really enjoyed it, so much so that another bottle quickly found its way into my fridge.

I also revisited Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (look back to my January 4th post) and followed that with Avery’s Raja IIPA in cans… 

This beer is different from The Maharaja in that it’s brewed exclusively with two-row malt and Australian hops.The malt bill change is immediately evident in the beer’s color, a bright gold, while the hops make their presence felt in the intensely bitter flavor profile that carries a huge herbaceous note throughout.Without some crystal malt backing it up, it’s both light in body and the bitterness borders on overwhelming.Tasting it within the context of the previous two beers, it’s at once the lightest and yet the most bitter of any of these.(8% ABV and 80 IBU’s)

My good friends at DeFalco’s also treated me to a side by side tasting of Pliny the Elder (a brewpub bottling, (I.E. not labeled for resale) and a brewery bottling, both of which were barely a month old.) 

This is the beer that really “made” Double IPA’s, although I recall the debate between Vinnie Cilurzo and Sam Calagione at one AHA conference over who got there first: Dogfish Head (with 90 Minute) or Russian River (Pliny) and I recalled having Sam’s 120 Minute in Chicago at the Real Ale festival many moons before, back when the Dogfish label had the guy with a nail driven up his nose, so arguably Sam got there first… but the big difference between the two versions of Pliny was… subtle.They clearly both had similar hop profiles and the dry alcohol bite that helps to reinforce it, but the brewery version (all of two weeks older) was slightly more rounded and a bit more drinkable. We’d been enjoying some Founder’s All Day IPA up until that point, so our palates were actually primed for big hops.It was quite instructive.

I seem to recall there was some kind of sporting event last night… Honestly I had no “picks” or favorites for the big game, but regardless of whether your team won or lost (or if you were just there for the commercials) I hope the beers you had were every bit as good as the game. Mine sure were!

The Author:

Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.

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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