As select parts of the country eagerly await the release of Bell’s HopSlam, we thought it might be time we got around to doing a write-up on this relatively new – yet wildly popular – style of beer … the Imperial IPA / Double IPA.
Brief History Lesson
The Imperial IPA is one of the newer styles of beer to be recognized by groups such as the Brewer’s Association and Beer Judge Certification Program. The first generally recognized examples were all developed out West, as brewers such as Vinny Cilurzo of Blind Pig (now Russian River) began to push the envelope of their standard IPAs around 1994. Rogue debuted their I2PA in 1996, and Stone joined the party with their first DIPA in 1998. From there, it’s been a firestorm of production, as nearly every microbrewery in the United States seems to have at least one (although it’s already becoming anti-establishment-cool NOT to have one… go figure).
What to Expect
Double IPAs are intensely hoppy and bitter – but with a robust malt backbone to hold it up and balance it out. It should be fresh, clean, and relatively easily drinkable for a beer with a full mouthfeel and high ABV. You may perceive everything from pine trees, to mango, pineapple, coconut, oranges, grapefruit, and even lemon peel. A really good Double IPA should elicit a second look at the glass, raised eyebrows, and a “wow”.
Below is the Gateway Beers profile of the typical characteristics you can expect to find in a Double IPA…
For food pairings, don’t be intimidated by the strong hoppy character – just stick with robust, flavorful combinations that won’t get drowned out. For cheese, go with a sharp or aged, moldy cheese – Stilton comes to mind, as would just about any other blue cheese. For a lunch, consider a Cuban sandwich for all of its strong flavors and mustard spice. Pork would be our go-to meat of choice. Grill up some marbled, thick-cut chops with a spicy peach chutney, and you’re golden. For fish, most crawfish recipies would be great as well, as would spicy tuna rolls for the more discerning palate. With chicken, you can keep it fairly simple with some spicey dry-rubbed wings… no better football watching companion than a plate of those with a good Double IPA. Dessert gets a little trickier, but consider trying some carrot cake with thick icing, or even a crème brulée – the fattiness will hold its end of the bargain.
As with many high gravity, flavorful beers, the Double IPA should be enjoyed at a warmer temperature than your Miller Lite… somewhere in the 45-55º range is usually best. Many bars will serve the style in either a tulip glass or pint glass, but we like the snifter, too.
There are a TON of DIPAs on the market now … as an example, Southeastern PA has access to over 120 varieties throughout a typical year – and that doesn’t even include the local brewpubs!
While there’s always a lot of buzz over “the Plinys” (Russian River’s Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder) – and rightfully so – they are limited releases which are not generally available to the majority of the country. So below are our Top 5 easier-to-find recommendations to look for …
– Bell’s Hopslam, 10% ABV (Kalamazoo, MI) … only available late Jan. thru early Feb.
– Stone Ruination, 7.7% ABV (Escondido, CA)
– Dogfish Head 90 Minute, 9% (Milton, DE)
– Weyerbacher Double Simcoe, 9% (Easton, PA)
– Port Brewing Mongo, 8.5% ( San Marcos, CA)
For further recommendations and insight, check out the American Double / Imperial IPA page on the Gateway Beers website.