About 30 men, women and children joined in an ancient American tradition involving sunshine, fire, meat and beer. In a small town in Oregon, a Saturday afternoon group gathered to participate in “barbecue,” a ritualistic feast that dates back to … I dunno. The day beer was invented? Whenever it all started, we enjoined our consumer tasters – many of whom were summer tourists from far-off climes – to taste Double India Pale Ales from Oregon’s breweries, also known as Imperial India Pale Ales.
What is a double IPA? According to so-called experts at UC Hayward, an American Double IPA will be hoppy, hop-forward, very hoppy, and did I say it would have a lot of hops? It will use American hops, (Cascade, Centennial, Tomahawk, Columbus, Chinook, simcoe, and Amarillo, almost all grown in the Northwest), with a medium to full body and a slight warming sensation in the mouth from the higher alcohol. These beers are typically higher alcohol, up to 9.5 ABV, but not always in Oregon. In fact, a lot of Double IPAs are light-bodied and lower IBUs, says our Beer Champion Will Oberst-Cairns. Several factors in Oregon play into this difference. Foremost – our brewers don’t confine themselves to California or even BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) beer types. Also important, our brewers have access to the freshest and tastiest hops, so IBUs may not be an indicator of hoppy taste and smell. Just know that this is not a beer for people who don’t like hops. Although some of our brewers did a nice job of adding malt flavors to the mix, be forewarned: This beer is not about balance! It’s about hops.
Our consumers, some of whom had very little experience with Double IPAs, gave eight beers, donated by Oregon breweries, the thumbs up. Below, listed in alphabetical order, is the commercial description of each beer, followed by consumer comments.
Big Horse Strictly Rude #4, Hood River
7.8 % ABV, 75 IBUs
This is #4 in our American IPA series for 2013. This DIPA was brewed with Simcoe and Meridian hops. Strong pine, lemon & grapefruit , says the brewer. “Wow! The full orchestra. It’s fall and I need a pretzel,” said one fan. “Each sip was better than the last,” said another. “Sweet nectar of the gods."
Burnside Alter Ego Imperial IPA, Portland
7.9% ABV, 99.5 IBUs
A clean silky malt presence with lots of hop flavor and aroma, said the brewers at Burnside. “It’s a sweet day in a relaxed beer garden,” said one taster. “I’m in an apple orchard on a hot day, cooling my throat,” said another. “I smell flower,” said a fan. “I need cheese,” said another.
Hopworks Ace of Spades IIPA, Portland
9.5% ABV, 100+ IBUs
Named in honor of Lemmy Kilmister and his Motorhead song and album, this IIPA features Amarillo, Cascade and Centennial hops added at every phase of the brewing process – in the mash, in wort, in the kettle, and in dry hop. All of this green goodness results in a beer with a huge hoppy citrus taste, aroma and clean bitterness, and added to all that – it is organic. “Fast and loud,” suggested one taster. “It cures a sad, dry tongue with a hoppy tongue,” said another. A poetic taster compared it to a yellow rose. Another said it is “bold and beautiful!”
Coalition Double Dog Dare, Portland
8.2% ABV, 80 IBUs
"Wicked delicious," described its brewer. Tasters described it variously as "Mellow and fruity." "Good for what ails you." "I'm going camping and I'm taking this beer." "Tastes like a German beer festival," and "Oh, wow, this is good," were among praises.
Natian Old Grogham, Portland
8.5 % ABV, 86 IBUs
Palisade hops were added throughout the boil and dry hop schedule, along with high alpha American hops for bittering, Noble hops for aroma and a few other varieties in-between to balance the heavy malt profile. Rum soaked Oregon oak spires added during the final stages of fermentation bring flavor notes of caramel and vanilla to complement the bitterness.
Pelican Imperial Pelican Ale, Pacific City
8 % ABV, 85 IBUs
Our mascot, Phil the Pelican, got this Imperial IPA recipe from his long-lost Indian cousin, and has recreated the flavor of the British Empire with his own American twist. Enjoy the huge Cascade hop aroma, the subtle malty sweetness abd spicy citrusy flavor of this robust gold-colored ale.
Widmer’s Nelson, Portland
8.6 % ABV, 70 IBUs
“Take your taste buds on a journey to the far side of the world. New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin hop gives us a powerful hop character, but none of the heaviness you sometimes find in Imperial IPAs. The result is a big brew with a sweet, malty character that perfectly balances the intense hop aroma and flavor,” says the company description. “Nice way to lubricate a meal,” said a fan. “Oh, wow! Most drinkable,” and “This is the little blue pill … all day and all night!” (Note: The writer, a woman, had to have that one explained).
Boneyard Hop Venom, Bend
10% ABV, 80 IBUs
According to the Boneyard brewer’s description, Hop Venom is a classic West Coast double IPA, It’s big and malty, rich in complexity, balanced with a hoppy floral flavor, not bitter. Tasters loved it. “Peter Rabbit! Hop, hop, hop,” said one. “A perfect blend,” said another. “The smoothest, the best!” and “Malt-flower-fruit … it’s all there. So pleasant like the evening blending into night,” were among other comments.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.