Your standard IPA is just fine, and double IPAs are great, but the triple IPA? That’s where it’s at these days. The new frontier, a brave new world of booze and hops. Now, what exactly takes a beer from the double IPA category into triple IPA territory? Mostly packaging and marketing hype. But also triples are a bit boozier than doubles and usually a lot hoppier. Although, the whole single/double/triple designation is a gray territory. You’ll have some beers labeled as double IPAs that aren’t as boozy or hoppy as some beers labeled as single IPAs, and some singles that should really be labeled doubles or even triples. It’s a distinction that’s open to interpretation, and I’m okay with that. Generally speaking, though, a triple IPA registers over 10% ABV and usually lands above 90 IBUs. What that means, is that you have to warm up before you drink one of these beers. Start with a standard IPA, say something like Sierra Nevada’s new Hop Hunter, then move onto a double (Heady Topper if you can get your hands on one) and then you might be ready for the big leagues here. You’ve gotta stretch those taste buds, otherwise you’ll pull something. Trust me. I’m a doctor.
Pliny the Younger
Santa Rosa, California
Probably the most famous triple IPA out there, Younger is a bit like Bigfoot—a handful of people have claimed to have experienced it, but for the large majority of us, it will remain a myth—a collection of stories and hazy pictures passed around web forums. You’re only going to get this beer on draft at Russian River’s pub and a few of their favorite accounts, and you’re only going to find it there for two weeks at the beginning of February. Damn you Bigfoot. Damn you.
120 Minute IPA
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Okay, maybe this is the most famous triple IPA and it’s not even labeled as a triple by Dogfish Head. Probably because the beer just speaks for itself, really—a ridiculous 15-20% ABV depending on the year, and 120 on the IBU scale. If that’s not a triple IPA…then what is? Actually, maybe we should start calling 120 Minute a quadruple IPA? The process is the thing here; the beer is continuously hopped for two hours of boiling then dry hopped daily for a month, then aged on whole leaf hops for another month. Dogfish Head brews the beer a few times every year, so you have a decent chance of finding some 120 minute out in the real world.
Stone Brewing Co.
Hoppy is an understatement here. RuinTen was originally a birthday beer, but they loved it so much Stone decided to bring it back each year. The beer itself is right up there with Dogfish’s 120 Minute in terms of bitterness, but there’s also plenty of citrus too, because this is Stone after all. And you can actually get this beer thanks to Stone’s robust distribution. Except you’ll have to wait until summer, as Stone typically releases this beer in June. And it’s a beast, coming in at 10.8% ABV and 110 IBUs.
San Diego, California
Green Flash doesn’t just overload this beer with hops, they carefully curated an innovative hop bill sourcing Pacific Gem and Green Bullet hops from New Zealand. Then they hopped the shit out of it. The result is intense. Intensely bitter, intensely fruity, intensely juicy, intensely malty…Green Bullet is the definition of a triple IPA. It’s simply more than a double in every way. You can find it on the shelves now and throughout fall.
Virginia’s Starr Hill has retooled a couple of their older recipes and put out a few killer beers already this year, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when they decided to brew a bold triple IPA for their 16th anniversary. Hopfetti is hopped to the gills with Amarillo, Apollo, Centennial, Equinox, Sorachi Ace and Triskel hops…and I think that’s all the hops, ever. And yet, the beer comes of as more boozy than hoppy, thanks largely to the robust malt bill. It’s 10.2%, a “mild” 72 IBUs and has some burn. It’s on the shelves now.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville’s most lauded brewery is probably best known for their sour program, but they’ve got a handle on IPAs as well. Their single IPA, Pernicious, just won silver at GABF. Menage-a-Freak takes their popular double IPA, Freak of Nature, and ratchets things up to 11, as they say. This beer is huge, coming in at 11.4% ABV and using six pounds of hops per barrel. You typically have to wait until May, though, and you can only get it on tap at Wicked Weed’s tap room. So, spring road trip?