By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sometimes, just to engage the thirsty crowds that show up for the monthly Oregon Beer Growler tastings, I quiz them like a beer-serving schoolmarm. “What is a double IPA?” I asked. The answers included: “More hops, more alcohol!”
That response does prompt the question, though: more hops and alcohol than what? Certainly in Oregon, an IPA 7 percent and higher — even without the “double” designation — is not unusual. International Bittering Units above 80 in a pale ale are also common in hop country.
Double IPAs, sometimes called imperial IPAs, are in the category foremost for their palate-jacking hop characteristics. And, despite its official designation as an “American” style, the double probably originated in the hop-centric West, especially in Oregon and Washington, where most American hops are grown. Because we’re hopheads, many Oregon brewers don’t even bother to designate their high-alcohol, high-hopped beers as “doubles,” preferring instead to list the hoppiness on the label and let the drinker beware. I had no idea until recently, for example, that one of the first hoppy beers I ever loved — Lompoc’s C-Note, featuring seven hops that start with “C” — is considered a double.
Oregon hopheads also know that “hoppiness” does not always mean “bitterness.” The hops in doubles are sometimes floral and fragrant, complementing the extra and often sweet malts required to push up alcohol content, and sometimes tricking your tongue into thinking this beer is less alcoholic than it seems. Don’t be fooled! Read the label. Pour wisely.
Our tasters chose the following Oregon double IPAs as their favorites. All are available now on tap, at the breweries, or in stores:
Rogue: 8 Hop IPA, Newport 8.88% ABV, 80 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: These aroma hops are grown at Rogue Farms in Independence. Then brewmaster John Maier selects and blends eight varieties to create the brash and burly flavors of this IPA, the boss of Rogue’s IPA family.
Consumer Comments: Bubblegum yeastiness! Well balanced and not overwhelming. A true IIPA, yum! McDreamy in a glass. Multiple hop flavors blend together. Floral, like a field full of flowers. Sage and pine. A bratwurst kind of beer. Woodsy and yummy … a lumberjack beer. Tongue-tingly goodness.
Gigantic: Ginormous Imperial IPA, Portland 8.8% ABV, 100+ IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Developed in a secret testing facility deep in Southeast Portland, Ginormous is powered by seven mighty hops. His mission is simple; to deliver a massive hop punch to those in need.
Consumer Comments: Refreshing, apricot and peach. I want a pint! Smooth — I’d bathe in this. Interesting flavors. Nice malt and nice balance. The best so far! Spicy! Great river beer, when you are looking to get lost on a beach. Deep flavor, fairly smooth with light bitterness. A good starter beer. Lingering pleasant aftertaste.
Silver Moon: Maui Wowie Double IPA, Bend 8.2% ABV, 100+ IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This small-batch beer, brewed only a few times a year, is not your average hop bomb. The “Big Three C’s” — Chinook, Centennial and Citra hops — create a high-gravity, hazy copper ale with an intense pine, pineapple and citrus flavor.
Consumer Comments: Killer beer! It’s my favorite so far. A hot beer for a cold day. A delicious amount of hoppiness. One taste is not enough. I’ll have a pint, please. Juicy and tropical. Are we on the islands? Super easy to drink.
Two-Shy: Ignition Double IPA, Roseburg 9.5% ABV, 115 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This has a balanced, but mildly sweet malt profile with Nugget, Simcoe and Cascade and dry-hopped with Citra and Cascade.
Consumer Comments: Peaches! I could drink this with a meal, especially with pork. Light, fluffy — something to drink on a patio in the sun. Not overly bitter. Nice and fruity. Bubbly and refreshing with a light kick. A poolside beer for sure. A good winter solstice, curl up by the fire during a blizzard beer. Strong, but smooth. Drink by a roaring fire in a cabin in the snowy woods.
StormBreaker: Triple Double IPA, Portland 8.5% ABV, 90 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Achieving a triple double in hoops is impressive, but achieving it in your beer is even better. Ten hop additions of three hop varietals — Mosaic, Citra, and Amarillo — scores on your palate, rebounds with big aromas of grapefruit citrus and pineapple, and is assisted by citrus flavors to balance the slight upfront bitterness and big ABV.
Consumer Comments: Roasty with a nice finish. Nice, light and malty. Yummy perfume for the tongue! Semi-sweet finish. Mellow taste with great finish. No strong bitterness, something you can drink in a relaxed setting. Nice mixture of citrus and tea. Anytime! Citrus upfront, good flavor, I dig it!
Barley Brown’s: Tank Slapper Double IPA, Baker City 9.2% ABV, N/A IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Intense pine and citrus notes in this double IPA come from massive amounts of Simcoe and Chinook hops. At more than a half ounce of hops per pint, this is not for the faint of heart.
Consumer Comments: Good smell with bitter hops. Well-rounded flavor. Malty flavor that has a nice bitter front taste that goes away nicely. Honey-like. Yogi and Boo-Boo climb a cedar tree on a hot day to get to the honey. Wahoo! Cantaloupe melons and butterscotch. Solid gold grapefruits.
McMenamins: Major Threat DIPA, Portland 8.39% ABV, 62 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A true West Coast DIPA in which hops were incorporated at every step of the brewing process from mash to keg. Nugget hops were used for bittering while Chinook and Simcoe were used for the main hoppy flavor. Simcoe and Mosaic were then overloaded in the back end of the boil for a great tropical aroma. Finally, Mosaic was used again to dry hop each keg for a huge burst of hoppy dankness.
Consumer Comments: Bitterly delicious. Not overly hoppy. Very good, some sweetness, pleasant bitterness, drink in winter and early spring. Delicious and refreshing beer. Hoppy, earthy hops. Caramel and pomegranate. Mango! Nice and fruity, slightly sweet.
Ninkasi: Tricerahops, Eugene 8% ABV, 100 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Double IPAs are noted for their hop profiles. Earthy, floral hop aroma and flavor are abundant in Tricerahops. The bigger body and higher alcohol balance the large volume of hops to create a beer that is very flavorful while still being balanced and drinkable. The beer can be deceiving, as it is very smooth.
Consumer Comments: I really like this one! I could drink some more of this! This feels like a day of cutting pine trees. The pine flavor resonates in the mouth. Basically good. A bubbly tongue blaster. Nice hops, lightly malted, but still balanced. Nice malt. Oddly delicious.
Plank Town: UnObtainium, Springfield 8.6% ABV, 100+ IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our mad scientists added eight varieties of hops combined with U.K. Maris Otter and Crystal malts to make this an unforgettable third version of our annual double IPA brew.
Consumer Comments: Really nice. Magical brew made of fairy dust! Hooray! I’d pair this with a spicy meal. Hands down favorite. Good anytime. Strong beginning and great finish. It’s weird, but awesome.
By Andi Prewitt and Will Oberst-Cairns
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
The Northwest is full of hop heads, which means IPAs are all the rage and pushing the boundaries when it comes to IBUs is now the norm. Enter the double or imperial IPA, where increased bitterness is expected and a stronger alcohol flavor usually comes through. According to Beer Advocate, the term “imperial” is borrowed from the Russian imperial stout that was originally brewed in England for the Russian Imperial Court of the late 1700s. The double IPA was the focus of a blind and random tasting competition held in February at homebrewing supply store F.H. Steinbart Co. in Portland. Only consumers are allowed to participate, no one who works for any participating brewery is allowed to vote. The top seven beers are listed below. The following descriptions and comments come from the participating breweries and consumer tasters who attended the event:
Lompoc: C-Note Imperial Pale Ale, Portland 6.9% ABV, 100 IBUs
Brewery Description: This highly-hopped ale has a deep copper to orange hue with a bold aroma of pine and herbal spice. Hints of toffee and caramel are followed by a citrus finish that is dry and refreshingly bitter.
Consumer Comments: Things that make you go hmmm. Rich and luxurious, this should be served in a fine wine glass. Would be perfect for Thanksgiving or even just with a turkey sandwich. Subtle, sneaky delicious. Beautifully red like an Irish minx. Great aroma and flavor. Like the flavor. A bit too bitter, but I would order more than one. Smooth, relaxing, light, refreshing.
McMenamins: Major Threat (Edgefield Brewery) Double IPA, Troutdale 9.29% ABV, 100+ IBUs
Brewery Description: The latest installment in our double IPA series is a true West Coast double IPA. Hops were incorporated in every step of the brewing process, from mash to keg. Nuggets were used for bittering and provide a smooth, mellow bitterness. Cascade, Centennial and Santiams were added during the boil to deliver a piney and citrusy burst of hop flavor. Simcoe and Chinook hops were added late in the boil to give a nice citrusy hop aroma. Finally, a mighty dose of Centennial hops were added during fermentation for a blast of hop aroma. Malts: 2-Row, Dextra Pils. Hops: Nugget, Cascade, Centennial, Santiam, Simcoe, Chinook.
Consumer Comments: You’ve got to hop me up. Great to drink while watching the home team play, even if they don’t win. Best so far, strong hops. Slightly syrupy like your grandma’s down-home pancakes. Balanced. I like mouthfeel for a slower-drinking beer. Like the fruitiness, but too bitter for my taste.
Wild Ride: Brain Bucket Imperial IPA, Redmond 8.5% ABV, 90 IBUs
Brewery Description: Buckle up your chin strap and enjoy the ride! This beer breaks free from the pack and cranks it up a notch. We give IPA lovers more malt and hops, ascending Brain Bucket to imperial status. Classic Northwest hops, pine and citrus tones will knock your senses senseless! It wouldn't be a bad idea to wear a helmet while drinking this big, bold delight.
Consumer Comments: Smooth and balanced. East Coast-style, but fits in perfect on the West Coast. Perfect rainy-day beer. Sweet on palate, tasteful. I’d pair this with fruit and cheese, maybe make mussels with this as the base. Dry finish, full flavor. Finish is very pleasant. More please, more please. I need some beer for an expedition to watch the aurora borealis. Smooth. Refreshingly hoppy. It’s like a unicorn prancing on your mouth. Good aroma, crisp clean taste.
Pelican: Imperial Pelican Ale, Pacific City 8% ABV, 85 IBUs
Brewery Description: Pelican’s mascot, Phil the Pelican, has recreated the flavor of the British Empire with his own American twist. Enjoy the huge Cascade and Centennial hop aroma, the subtle malty sweetness, and the floral, citrusy flavor of this robust, gold-colored ale. This brew began life as a seasonal beer during our first year and was so popular while we had it, and so frequently requested when it was gone, that we turned it into our fifth regular beer style our second year.
Consumer Comments: Summer here in Portland. Really pleasant ride. Love the hops. The hops never stop, brings the flavor to the top. Lots of floral and not too bitter. I’d order another. Light and refreshing, second favorite.
Laurelwood: Megafauna, Portland 9.5% ABV, 140 IBUs
Brewery Description: This beer takes its name from the oversized animals of the Pleistocene Epoch or Ice Age. Large saber-toothed cats, hairy elephants and sloths the size of buses roamed the frozen tundras. Everything was big and/or hairy, with extra horns, tusks, teeth, etc. Like those massive animals, this beer is huge with hop aroma and flavor. We used several new aromatic hop varieties to get a layered and hop oil-soaked beer which, unlike the frozen tundra, isn’t bitter and finishes dry. The aroma and flavor are layers of pine, citrus and tropical fruit and the beer is a pale gold. We hope you drink it in good health and keep warm. **2013 National IIPA Champion**
Consumer Comments: Was my favorite by far. Interesting pine flavors. Not gulpable, but fun to drink. Great flavor, great aroma, would drink this all day. Put on your spacesuit and prepare to blast off with flavor. Excellent flavor hops. Finally, a nice piney sticky (in a good way) IIPA. After a 60-hour week, this is perfect to start the weekend with.
Burnside: Project Ale, Portland 8% ABV, 99.5 IBUs
Brewery Description: An Imperial IPA with a clean, silky malt presence that is loaded with hop flavor and aroma. It’s extremely well balanced, thus maintains its ability to pair with food. Project Ale is not your average hop bomb!
Consumer Comments: Great color. Great aroma. Loved the fruit notes. Crisp and peppy. Want to pair this with chiles. You’ve got to be hopping me.
Coalition: Double Dog Dare Double IPA, Portland 8.2% ABV, 80 IBUs
Brewery Description: The imperial version of our popular IPA, Double Dog Dare, comes in at a very drinkable 8.2 percent ABV. Notes of caramel and biscuit make up the malt profile, while a distinctive Northwest hop profile round out this beer. Bittered with Nugget hops; Sterling, Cascade, and Simcoe provide flavors of citrus, flowers and tropical fruit. A dry hop of Chinook brings the aromatics together in this deliciously big, but balanced IPA. Try some. We dare you. We Double Dog Dare you.
Consumer Comments: Lots of floral which I like, but a bit too bitter. Don’t know if I’d order more than one, very drinkable. I’d have six on a summer day, nice smooth bitterness, great rich flavor. Nondescript, decent.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.