176 of the Best DIPA/Imperial IPAs, Blind-Tasted and Ranked

The best of the best double IPAs

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176 of the Best DIPA/Imperial IPAs, Blind-Tasted and Ranked

On the first day of blind-tasting DIPAs, one of the judges made an offhand remark. It was something along the lines of the following: “I feel like I’m drinking three to four different eras of American IPA.”

Some 13 additional days of tasting later, I find myself in complete agreement. Like few tastings that Paste has ever organized before, this leisurely stroll through 176 freakin’ DIPA/Imperial IPAs was like buying a ticket to “the museum of DIPA.” Imagine a place where you can walk down a huge corridor that represents the timeline of this beer style, complete with a tap handle and tasting glass every 10 feet. At the first stop, you drink American DIPA as it was in 1992. At the second, DIPA in 2000. At the next, DIPA in 2008. And then 2011. And then 2013. And so on, and so on, rapidly shrinking from years to MONTHS as the breakneck pace of this style’s evolution kicks into high gear. That’s what this tasting was like.

We had old-school DIPAs that placed a premium on the balance between piney hops and biscuity, caramel-rich malt. We had the drier, West Coast DIPAs that followed, intensely bitter, resinous and citrus pithy. We had the softer, sweeter generation that followed, highlighting juicier fruit impressions of citrus and tropical fruits. And of course, there was plenty of representation from the hazy NE-IPA camp, and even the still-nebulously defined “milkshake” camp beyond. In the end, we found examples of almost every style to enjoy.

In the end, despite the power of trends (such as NE-IPA), what this tasting revealed was that all of these different styles of DIPA are still able to exist alongside one another. Gaps in age and experience in the craft beer community made this clear among the tasters, some of whom felt strongly drawn to one style or another. There were numerous discussions on the subject of “What SHOULD a DIPA taste like?”, and just as many answers. The only thing that remained clear was one of the universal truths of the craft beer experience: You like what you like, and you don’t have to justify it.

So let’s get to it: The fruit of 14 days of DIPA tasting, starting now.

A Note on Beer Acquisition

As in most of our blind tastings at Paste, the vast majority of these DIPAs were sent directly to the office by the breweries that choose to participate, with additional beers acquired by us via locally available purchases and the occasional trade. We always do our best to reach out to breweries we’re aware of that make exemplary versions of particular styles, but things always do slip through the cracks. We apologize for a few significant omissions that we couldn’t acquire, either due to seasonality or market shortages. There will never be a “perfect” tasting lineup, much as we continue to try.

The issue of seasonal availability is especially difficult to manage when gathering DIPAs. Because there’s not necessarily a single season associated with the style, breweries tend to produce their DIPAs whenever they feel like it. We chose “September” for the tasting almost a year in advance, on the assumption that this would likely be as good a time as any to have it, but that always has a few side effects. For example: We weren’t able to obtain a few high-rated beers such as Maine Beer Co. Dinner, not because they didn’t want to participate, but because there simply isn’t any fresh Dinner to be had right now. Ditto with several other beers we obviously would have wanted to include.

Rules and Procedure

- This is a tasting of DIPAs, largely determined by how the breweries chose to label their products. To be admitted, it had to be labeled as “DIPA,” “Imperial IPA” or “Triple IPA,” given that the lines between double and triple IPA are particularly thin. There was no specific ABV limit, high or low. When in doubt, we simply allow a brewery’s marketing to define a beer’s style, and expect them to stick to the designation they’ve chosen.

- There was a limit of two entries per brewery. The beers were separated into daily blind tastings that approximated a sample size of the entire field.

- Tasters included professional beer writers, brewery owners, brewmasters and beer reps. Awesome, style-appropriate glassware is from Spiegelau.

- Beers were judged completely blind by how enjoyable they were as individual experiences and given scores of 1-100, which were then averaged. Entries were judged by how much we enjoyed them for whatever reason, not by how well they fit any kind of preconceived style guidelines. As such, this is not a BJCP-style tasting.

- The top 1-2 beers from every day of tasting advanced to a second, 25-beer FINALS TASTING that was held in a single afternoon, in order to crown a grand champion.

The Field: DIPAs #s 177-51

Suffice to say, given the fact that this is our second biggest tasting ever, we’re looking at a very, very large field this time around. Most of these beers, predictably, were perfectly fine drinking experiences. Sure, there were a few overly bitter messes in here, and certainly a few NE-IPAs gone awry, but on any average day you’d probably be happy to have the vast majority of them in your glass. I honestly wish that we could include more in the ranked portion, but I’m pretty sure that writing about more than 50 of these DIPAs would put me in an early grave.

You’ll notice plenty of great breweries, here in the field … and if you read through the entire list, you’ll also notice many of the same breweries in the ranked portion, or even in the final. This tasting proved particularly difficult for breweries to land multiple beers in the rankings, and only a handful managed that feat. Only one brewery scored two different beers in the top 25. We’d like to think this shows a good level of parity between these brewers in the ultra-competitive field of DIPA, along with a sense of mortality—none of these places are invincible. Not even if they’re Russian River, The Alchemist, or Trillium, or Three Floyds.

With that said, in our typical fashion, I will remind you that the beers below in The Field are simply listed in alphabetical order, and are thus not ranked. I repeat: These beers are not ranked.

Adirondack Pub & Brewery Milkstache
Alaskan Brewing Co. Hopothermia
The Alchemist Crusher
Arches Brewing Rough & Ready DIPA
Asheville Brewing Co. I9PA
Avery Raja
Bear Republic Apex
Belching Beaver Pound Town
Black Shirt Brewing Red Evelyn
Blue Ghost Imperial Rye IPA
Blue Ghost Mountains to Sea
Bond Brothers Long Haul
Boneyard Hop Venom
Boneyard Notorious
Bonfire Brewing WtFO
Boulevard The Calling
Burial Beer Co. Allegory of Gluttony and Lust
Burial Beer Co. Gang of Blades
Burlington Beer Co. Beekeeper
Burlington Beer Co. It’s Complicated Being a Wizard
Castle Island Brewing Co. Hi-Def
Cerebral Brewing Fantastic Planet
Clown Shoes Space Cake
Clown Shoes Space Driver
Coronado Brewing Co. Idiot
Coronado Brewing Co. Stingray
Crux Fermentation Project Half Hitch
DC Brau On the Wings of Armageddon
Deep River Carpetbagger
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
Dry Dock DIPA
Dry Dock Grapefruit IPA
Due South Brewing Co. Category 5 IPA
Due South Brewing Co. Oaked Category 5 IPA
Exhibit “A” Brewing Co. Hair Raiser
Fiction Beer Co. Robopsychologist
Fiddlehead Mastermind
Firestone Walker Inferos
Foothills Seeing Double
Founders Redankulous
Four Noses Road to GABF
14th Star Brewing Co. Tribute DIPA
Fremont Brewing Co. Brother
Frost Beer Works Plush
Garage Project/Stone Fruitallica
Gizmo Brew Works Dynamite
Gizmo Brew Works Trojan Horse
Golden Road Triple IPA
Good People Snake Handler
Great Divide Hercules
Great Notion Super Over Ripe
Great Raft Grace & Grit
Green Flash West Coast IPA
Half Acre Deep Space
Heavy Seas Double Cannon
Henniker Brewing Co. Damn Sure
Hop Concept IPA Mosaic/Eureka
Hop’n Moose Brewing Co. Better Dayz
Hops & Grain Brewing Co. Haze County
Hopworks Urban Brewery Ace of Spades
Ill Mannered Brewing Co. Palate Fatigue
Iron John’s Brewing Co. Pedro
Iron John’s Brewing Co. Viejo
Joseph James Hop Box
Kern River Brewing Co. Citra
Knee Deep Tahoe Deep
Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
Lagunitas Maximus
Lakefront Clutch Cargo
Lord Hobo Boom Sauce
Melvin Brewing Drunken Master
New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA
Night Shift The 87
Ninkasi Tricerahops
Noble Ale Works/Pizza Port Fog Horn
NoDa Imperial Hop Drop ‘n Roll
Odell Myrcenary
Offshoot Hops and Rec
Oskar Blues G’Night
Our Mutual Friend Double Dang
Port Brewing Mongo
Prairie Phantasmagoria
Rhinegeist Knowledge
Rhinegeist Stryker
Rogue 8 Hop
Russian River Pliny the Elder
Scarlet Lane Brewing Co. Eirik Bloodaxe
Schlafly DIPA
Scofflaw Brewing Co. Double Basement
Seventh Son Brewing Co. Laniakea
Short’s Brewing Co. Superfluid
Sibling Revelry Noble Sibling
Sibling Revelry Triple IPA
Sixpoint Resin
Smartmouth Bandwagon VIII
Smartmouth Notch 9
Southern Prohibition Crowd Control
Southern Prohibition Paradise Lost
Southern Tier 2XIPA
Spider Bite Open Wide
Stevens Point Imperial IPA
Stone 21st Anniversary
Stone Ruination 2.0 (Orange Peel & Vanilla Bean)
Tattered Flag Manghost TIPA
Tattered Flag TMIPA
Terrapin Dave’s Not Here
Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf
Three Magnets Big Juice Smoothie Edition
Three Taverns Crave
Track 7 Left Eye Right Eye Left Eye
Trillium Mosaic Cutting Tiles
21st Amendment Blah Blah
Two Roads Road 2 Road
Two Roads Two Juicy
Uinta Brewing Detour
Union Craft Brewing Farmhouse DIPA
Unknown Brewing Co. V-Hop
Upland Coastburster
Urban Artifact Gaslight
Urban Artifact Hippodrome
Victory Dirtwolf
Wicked Weed Freak of Nature
Wormtown Be Hoppier
Wolf’s Ridge Brewing Howling Moon
Wolf’s Ridge Brewing Howling Moon Coconut

Next: Finally, the rankings! DIPAs #s 50-26

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