Blind-Tasting 115 of the Best American DIPA/Imperial IPAs: We Have a Winner

Drink Lists double ipa
Blind-Tasting 115 of the Best American DIPA/Imperial IPAs: We Have a Winner

Back in April, when we unveiled our blind tasting and ranking of 116 American IPAs, we had a hunch that it would probably draw a good bit of readership. India pale ale remains, after all, the most popular and standard-bearing style for the American craft brewing movement, and few styles have a more fevered conversation (read: argument) at their core about which beers are incredible and which are “overrated.” So yes, thanks to the prodigious size of the ranking and the blind nature of the results, we had a feeling it would do well. But as it turned out, that was an understatement.

That ranking essentially took on a life of its own. It’s currently been shared 64,000 times on Facebook alone, with a pageview count pushing 1 million. In the days that followed, I heard from dozens of breweries that wanted to be involved in future tastings. Our master list of PR contacts grew larger accordingly, and our blind methodology earned so many positive comments that we decided to make it standard. In short, the IPA ranking changed the entire way that we conduct rankings at Paste, for the better.

Since that point, we’ve done rankings of many more niche styles—American wheat beers, saisons, Berliner weisses, goses and American sours most notably. But we always knew that the next truly massive ranking was going to be double India pale ale/imperial India pale ale. As the stylistic sequel to the earlier list, it simply had to be. And so, we went all out. What we assembled is probably the highest-quality collection of DIPAs I’ve ever seen in one place. In fact, this may be the largest, most comprehensive tasting of DIPAs ever conducted in Georgia, or in the American South. I say “may” to leave room for potential error—if you know of any tastings outside the Great American Beer Fest that have gathered more DIPAs into one place and tasted them all completely blind, I’d be curious to see their results.

Getting 115 DIPAs to blind taste is a pretty mind-blowing thing when one considers a few numbers. Take this fact: There are 11,344 single IPAs on BeerAdvocate right now. DIPA? Only 4,466. There’s only 39 percent as many DIPAs out there in total, and many of them are seasonal, limited or otherwise more difficult to get. The fact that we were able to get the same number of DIPAs as single IPAs is a testament to how much our PR contacts have grown in the last four months, and the untold hours spent writing emails and in phone calls with brewery PR people. You can view the entire lineup of labels by visiting our gallery of all 115.

Notes on beer acquisition

This section is intended specifically for the reader who is already warming up his fingers to fire off a scathing missive in the comments section because we “forgot” his favorite DIPA. If that’s not you, then you may not need to read it.
Putting together this type of tasting, even with the resources of Paste and time to plan, is a very difficult and occasionally thankless task. In fact, the more comprehensive you want to make your tasting, the more difficult it becomes to acquire the beers you need and to deal with the ultra-serious, fanatical criticism that will inevitably be hurled your way. The reality is that a lot of those criticisms are impossible to avoid.

Regardless, we began the process by scouring all the usual lists of the most highly regarded DIPAs and reaching out to those breweries. Shortly after, I created a reddit thread polling the readers of r/beer about more under-the-radar breweries we should seek out, and they contributed a few hundred good suggestions. You’ll note that we were able to acquire quite a few of those beers, so thank you to r/beer for turning us on to a few ones we might not have found otherwise:

With that said, you will no doubt notice plenty of well-known, world-class beers that are missing. And there are a dozen reasons why this could be. Here’s the least likely reason: We “forgot” about it, or weren’t aware of it. Here’s the most likely reason: There isn’t a fresh batch of it out there right now. After their huge success in the single IPA ranking, a brewery like Maine Beer Co. obviously wanted to contribute their DIPA, Dinner. The only problem is that they haven’t made any for months. Same thing with say, Surly Brewing Co.’s Abrasive. There’s just none to be had right now. You can say “Well, you should have had the tasting in ____ month,” but just as many DIPAs would be unavailable then. Unlike certain other styles, there is no true “DIPA season”—breweries produce them whenever they please.

There’s plenty of other reasons something may be missing as well. Sometimes a brewery tells us they’re sending something in, and then simply forgets to ship that box until it’s too late. Sometimes we assume a beer will be easy to get because we can buy it in our area, but then there’s none on the shelves when it comes time. Sometimes we can find a beer, but we can’t find any fresh bottles. And sometimes, breweries simply don’t want to participate because they’re already dealing with too much publicity as is. In those cases, we can sometimes acquire the beer (as we did this time with The Alchemist and Lawson’s Finest Liquids, for instance). Other times, as with say, Hill Farmstead, they’re simply out of our reach.

Therefore, don’t think of this list as “the best DIPAs in the world.” Recognize it for what it is: A gathering of 115 DIPAs, mostly highly rated, which we blind-tasted and ranked. Winning #1 of 115 is still a huge, huge deal. Disagree with where they fell? Go host your own blind tasting, and we promise you’ll be surprised by the results.

Rules and Procedure:

— All entries are either defined by their brewery as a DIPA or are over 8% ABV (and thus were too high for our single IPA ranking). There is no upper ABV limit. BJCP doesn’t recognize “triple IPA” as a separate style, and neither do we. There was a limit of two entries per brewery, and the breweries decided what to send. Don’t see your favorite beer from your favorite brewery? They chose their representative, not us.

— Tasters included professional beer writers, brewery owners, brewmasters, BJCP-certified tasters, restaurateurs, brewery reps and assorted journalists. Awesome IPA glassware is from Spiegelau.

— Beers were divided up into daily blind heats of 10, with 1-2 heat winners per day advancing to a second, final tasting. Both taste and aromatic palate-cleansers were used in-between beers for the final. All finalist beers were kept as cold as possible until consumed for the sake of freshness.

— Beers were judged by how exemplary they were as individual experiences, and given 1-100 scores, which were then averaged.

The Field

We used to conduct these tastings as complete rankings, all the way from best to worst. Although the “bad beer” reviews are fun to write and read (unless it’s one of your favorites), we came to the conclusion that this wasn’t really the goal of the tastings. It doesn’t accomplish anything to dwell on the subpar beers—this is about sussing out our favorites.

The Field listed below is beers #51-115, listed in simple, alphabetical order. Obviously, they are not ranked. Most of them we enjoyed quite a lot, and would be happy to drink them anytime they were placed in front of us. There were also obviously a few we legitimately disliked. Going up against 114 other beers just isn’t any easy task for any brewery, but we include these just so you know the full list of everything we were able to gather.

Alaskan Brewing Co. Hopothermia
Anderson Valley Heelch O’ Hops
Bell’s The Oracle
Black Diamond Brewing Rampage Imperial IPA
Boulevard The Calling
Breakside India Golden Ale
Brooklyn Blast
Christian Moerlein Bay of Bengal DIPA
Clown Shoes Galactica
Coronado Brewing Co. Idiot IPA
Drake’s Brewing Co. Aroma Therapy
DuClaw Serum DIPA
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Hurricane Deck
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Lizard’s Mouth
Finch’s Beer Co. Hardcore Chimera
Flying Dog Double Dog
Flying Fish Brewing Co. Exit 16 Wild Rice DIPA
Foothills Brewing Seeing Double
Foundation Brewing Co. Epiphany
Founders Double Trouble
Four Sons Brewing Co. The Great One
Fremont The Brother Imperial IPA
Golden Road Wolf Among Weeds
Good People Snake Handler
Great Divide Hercules
Green Flash Palate Wrecker
Harpoon Leviathan
Headlands Brewing Hill 88
Heretic Brewing Co. Evil Cousin
Highland Brewing Co. King McAlpin
The Hop Concept Lemon and Grassy
Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) Ace of Spades
Karbach Brewing Co. Rodeo Clown
Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. DRIPA
Left Hand Twin Sister
Lost Coast Brew Labs Double IPA
Monday Night Brewing Co. Blind Pirate DIPA
NoDa Brewing Co. NoDaRyeZ’d
Odell Barrel Thief
Orpheus Brewing Transmigration of Souls
Oskar Blues Gubna
Rogue Imperial IPA
Rogue New Crustacean
Saint Archer Brewery DIPA
Saranac Imperial IPA
Ska Brewing Decadent
Southern Tier 2XIPA
Southern Tier Unearthly
Spiteful Brewing Working for the Weekend
Spiteful Brewing Minnie the Moocher
Starr Hill Platinum
Stone Ruination 2.0
Straight to Ale Gorillanaut
Terrapin Rye Cubed
Three Floyds Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker
21st Amendment Hop Crisis
Uinta Brewing Detour
Upland Brewing Co. Coastburster
Urban Chestnut STLIPA
Victory Brewing Co. Dirtwolf
West Sixth Brewing Heller Heaven DIPA
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe
Wicked Weed Freak of Nature DIPA
Wormtown Brewery Hopulence
Yards Brewing Co. Cape of Good Hope

Next: On to the rankings! DIPAs #50-21