The Finals: DIPAs #s 25-1
25. Union Craft Brewing Co. Double Duckpin
City: Baltimore, MD
The verdict: This highly sought-after DIPA from Union is a beer I’ve chased down on the festival floor of GABF in the past, so I wasn’t particularly surprised to see it advance to the final. It can boast of at least a bit more malt balance than most of the beers that made it into the top 25, with hints of caramel and bread crust that are quickly overtaken by big waves of orange/tangerine/grapefruit citrus. There’s something of a pithy quality to that citrus—clean and crisp rather than “juicy” sweet, with moderate bitterness and good drinkability. It’s very much a DIPA in the west coast style, despite hailing from the opposite side of the country. Excellent balance overall, and that’s always worth a few extra points.
24. Banded Horn Daikaiju
City: Biddeford, ME
The verdict: None of us were at all familiar with this Maine brewery heading into the tasting, but if they’re naming beers after Japanese giant monsters, how bad can they be? This one is big, clean and full of character, with a lovely nose that hits you with a waft of pure, sticky resin and hints of tropical fruit. There’s good balance between these differing aspects of the hop profile, coupled with moderate bitterness that reminds you of the fact that yes, this is indeed an element that every beer in the DIPA category used to universally feature. One taster was particularly impressed with how drinkable Daikaiju was in spite of its hop rate, writing “I’m pretty sure I could drink 100 of these.” We’re not sure that’s a great idea, but if you’re already burnt out on NE-IPA, the clean, resinous profile of Daikaiju could be exactly what you’re looking for.
23. Rogue Ales Straight Outta Newport
City: Newport, OR
The verdict: Alright, we have to admit we are pretty damn impressed on this one. This brand new DIPA is unlike anything hop-forward we’ve ever had from Rogue in the past, and it’s completely upended our expectations for the longtime Oregon stalwarts. They’ve made something that feels like a comfortable midpoint between west coast and NE-IPA, light on the haze but vivacious on the hop front, while still retaining a bit of malt balance at the same time. Lush tropical fruit notes of pineapple and grapefruit are augmented by mild, honeyed sweetness and hints of toasty malt, with lovely balance. I wrote earlier in this piece that older breweries discovering new modes of IPA brewing had become a major theme of our experience, and this is exactly what I was talking about. You never know where a great IPA is going to come from, these days.
22. Highland Park Brewery 1-Up
City: Los Angeles, CA
The verdict: You know a beer is probably exemplary in some way when one of the tasters’ notes just begins with a “woah.” Highland Park’s “extra life” of a DIPA features an absolutely gorgeous hop nose: A massive blast of sweet tropical fruit and dank resin are an incredibly inviting way to begin. The same notes carry over onto the palate, although they’re not quite as assertive or intense as the nose might promise. What it develops into on repeated sips is a very clean, lighter-bodied, dangerously drinkable DIPA, albeit one that is 100% focused on hops. But man, the nose—if you could turn these beers into a perfume or cologne, I’d wear this every day.
21. Trillium Street Shark
City: Boston, MA
The verdict: It’s interesting to us how Trillium and Tree House in particular always seem to be invoked as two sides of the same coin in terms of their prominence in the NE-IPA community, but their actual house styles actually seem quite distinct from one another whenever we get to taste their beers. While Tree House DIPAs typically strike us with their softness and juicy-sweet fruit character, Trillium offerings have a different signature note that always seems to be up front: Grass. Grassy and resinous, dank, earthy and green; to us this is Trillium in a nutshell, and Street Shark is a fine example. That isn’t to say this one isn’t also bursting with tropical fruit, because it is, with plenty of pineapple and lemon and mango, but that’s after the initial rush of sticky-sweet resin has subsided. Thick, chewy and full in terms of mouthfeel, this style of full-throttle NE-IPA has a difficult time being anywhere near “refreshing,” but that’s not why you’re drinking it. Rather, Trillium’s DIPAs strike us as celebrations of the hop plant itself, because it’s hard not to be reminded of those hop cones while drinking them. They’re holy grail beers for acolytes of those dank hop flavors.
20. Seventh Son Brewing Co. Proliferous
City: Columbus, OH
The verdict: Ohio: Always overlooked as one of the country’s best beer states. Why? We can’t rightly say, but there always seem to be new breweries to get excited about from the Buckeye State. Columbus’ Seventh Son offers us this lovely 16 oz can, which contains one of the tasting’s best versions of West Coast IPA—perfumey, piney, resinous and grapefruit citrusy all at once. Mild-to-moderate bitterness holds everything in check, while a deftly calculated balance between crisp malt and citrusy American hops are the twin stars. Moderate residual sweetness lends a touch of juiciness to the fruit flavors, but this is far from an attempt at NE-IPA. Solid from start to finish.
19. Noble Ale Works Nobility
City: Anaheim, CA
The verdict: Noble’s IPAs are magnets for medals at competitions such as GABF, and they’ve performed equally well in our previous tastings of hop-forward styles, including a place in the finals the last time we blind-tasted DIPAs in 2015. This one is a lot of things at once: powerfully resinous, but also quite fruity, with a tropical fruit character that is almost a little bit tart at times—multiple score sheets mention that unexpected element of acidity. It’s also fairly sweet, giving its fruity flavors an impression of grapefruit or mango candy, although it’s obviously not overwhelmingly so. A touch of booze rounds everything out, but the dominant impression is those sweet tropical fruits.
18. The Brew Kettle El Lupulo Libre
City: Strongsville, OH
The verdict: Now this is how you do a modern DIPA with some balancing malt in it. The Brew Kettle’s White Rajah IPA once came in #1 overall in our 2015 blind tasting of 116 single IPAs, and we’ve been suspecting they’d follow it up with another big IPA tasting performance ever since. This one is a beautiful balancing act—restrained, biscuity and toasty malt provides structure to an amber-hued DIPA, but never does it come close to overshadowing a big charge of juicy, tropical fruity hops, primarily derived from Mosaic, which then fade into dank resin. It’s big and assertive, but perfectly balanced; a testament to the fact that modern hop rates and juicy, tropical flavor profiles can still get along with a slightly darker malt profile. Hazy NE-IPA may have taken this tasting by storm, but DIPAs like El Lupulo Libre will never go out of style.
17. Knee Deep Brewing Co. Hop Trio
City: Auburn, CA
The verdict: Knee Deep is dependably among the best producers of west coast IPA in the country, so when we receive an entry from them in a hop-forward tasting, we’re usually assuming it will be a contender. Tasters took a particular liking to this assertive triple IPA, which flexes its muscles to a degree but doesn’t completely descend into boozy mayhem. It’s actually considerably drier than most of the other beers in the 11% ABV and beyond range, with an impeccable balance between toasted malt, light caramel and classic west coast hop notes of orangey citrus and pine/grass. “Malty, /w candied orange slices” writes one taster. “Meaty, chewy, big body and hop complexity” writes another. This is exactly the type of beer that was most likely to reveal generational differences at the tasting table—while younger tasters perhaps tended to gravitate toward the NE-IPAs of the crowd, beers such as Hop Trio made big impacts with tasters and brewers who had followed the style of DIPA throughout its evolution. If anything, it speaks to the ever-expanding diversity of exactly what the phrase “IPA” entails.
16. Melvin Brewing 2×4 DIPA
City: Jackson, WY
The verdict: 2X4 is the beer that has put Melvin on the map in Wyoming as a top-tier producer of IPAs, and it has a bevy of medals to prove it. It’s one of those modern DIPAs that finds itself as a midpoint between substyles—it’s not too typified by any one impression, because it has a bit of everything. Tropical fruity hops light up the senses initially with notes of pineapple and mango, but there’s also citrus and some floral hop impressions here as well. On the palate, 2×4 is slightly boozy, making its 9.9% ABV felt, while also retaining a fair amount of residual sugar. It can simultaneously appeal to lovers of juicy hop fruitiness and west coast DIPA purists who prefer clear beer and expect an alcoholic presence. If you like this style, it’s sort of hard to imagine you wouldn’t enjoy a can of 2×4.
15. The Veil Brewing Co. Weekend at Broznies
City: Richmond, VA
The verdict: It’s amazing how quickly fruited IPAs passed in and out of relevance in terms of critical acclaim, is it not? When the style was new a few years ago, writers and beer tasters fell over themselves in adulation of these grapefruit or pineapple-bombed beers, but just as quickly that tide receded. What people chase today are IPAs delivering hop-derived fruit juiciness, but Weekend at Broznies is evidence that you can still brew an amazing DIPA with fruit—provided that you do it in a way that feels authentic. This NE-IPA juice bomb from The Veil finds a way to cram in plenty of pineapple fruit into what must already have been a very tasty Citra DIPA, melding the flavors in such a way that it becomes impossible to tell where the hops end and the fruit begins. There are simply no rough edges on this beer at all—or as one taster wrote, “insanely low bitterness; incredible.” It’s a bit on the sweeter side, but when you read “pineapple IPA” on the can after the blind tasting is already complete, it actually seems impressively reserved, all things considered.
14. Offshoot Beer Co. Conditions
City: Placentia, CA
The verdict: The Bruery certainly took quite a while to form spin-off Offshoot Beer Co. and produce their first ever IPAs, but it would appear they were simply making sure they’d be cranking out world-class hoppy beer right from the get-go, which is okay by us. Conditions, part of a duo with a session IPA called “Terms,” is a textbook NE-IPA that would be a near-perfect introduction to the style for drinkers who have never had one before. Lush tropical (mango) and citrus (orange) fruit juiciness dances on the tongue, while low bitterness encourages gulps rather than mere sips. There’s some hop complexity here in the form of resin/grassy notes that slowly build on the tongue after each sip, but you’d be forgiven for not even noticing them, thanks to the fruitiness and velvety smooth texture, derived from both wheat and oat malt. This isn’t the most complex version of the style that exists, but goddamn, is this beer easy to love.
13. Great Notion Brewing Super Duper Ripe
City: Portland, OR
The verdict: Ironically, one of the tasters actually wrote the phrase “super ripe” in describing this NE-triple IPA from Great Notion, owing to its panoply of juicy tropical/citrus influences. We liked it more than the brewery’s other “Ripe” entry, Over-Ripe DIPA, which took a good thing a little bit too far in terms of syrupy fruit sweetness. This one, on the other hand, is right on the money: Huge fruit flavors, supported by deeply resinous green ones. “Super fruity and creamy, with orange Starburst citrus and stone fruit complexity,” wrote another taster. “Starburst!” wrote a second, making for two tasters invoking the same candy on their score sheets independently of one another. Coincidence? We think not. Regardless, Super Duper Ripe is the type of sweet, fruit juice-driven DIPA that we can get behind, because it’s not difficult to imagine finishing a full glass.
12. Parish Brewing Co. Ghost in the Machine
City: Broussard, LA
The verdict: Ghost in the Machine is pretty easily the most hyped craft beer in Louisiana, and with good reason—the results justify the public acclaim. This one is very fruit and juice-forward, dripping with pineapple sweetness and nice touches of lemongrass-like herbaceousness and dankness that bump up its complexity a notch or two. The mouthfeel is as soft and smooth as you’d hope from the appearance, with nonexistent booze (makes sense, given the 8% ABV) and high drinkability, despite a very thick, creamy texture. With beers like this, the question is always how they’ll perform outside their home market, where they may benefit from being a novelty that has developed a big reputation, but even in a lineup stacked with stellar NE-IPAs, Ghost in the Machine obviously still held up very well. We’re sure it will continue to be a valuable trade chip for New Orleans beer geeks.
11. Grimm Artisanal Ales Afterimage
City: Brooklyn, NY
The verdict: This is a beer we almost didn’t have in the tasting, despite the fact that Grimm is the defending champion from 2015 (when they placed #1 with their DIPA Lambo Door). The reason is because this batch of Afterimage wasn’t the typical representation of the brewery’s popular double IPA, but instead a version that was lagered in an experiment to produce a crisper take on DIPA. As a result, the folks at Grimm initially hesitated in sending it … but clearly they needn’t have worried. Despite the crispness, lighter body and mouthfeel, this Afterimage is still a hop showcase, awash in lemon candy/orange citrus and more exotic tropical influences. Bitterness is low but still subtly present, providing just a bit of counterbalance to what are primarily sweet-driven fruit flavors. Regardless of how it’s been finished, it’s as good as we’ve come to expect anything hop-forward from Grimm to be.
10. Frost Beer Works Lush DIPA
City: Hinesburg, VT
The verdict: Frost is a brewery that has been sniffing around the upper echelon of several rankings of hop-forward styles in the past, but this is clearly their time to arrive in earnest—and not the only Vermont brewer to do so, either! This one makes use of hop varietals from both hemispheres to create an enticing and complex network of hop-derived notes: melon, mango, citrus, pine and dank. As one taster wrote: “Juicy, sticky weed resin, so into it.” Placed next to some of the other beers in the final, it wasn’t necessarily among the most explosively flavorful or assertive, but this is one case where an overall complexity and balance between elements is worth points. Lush is a great synthesis of multiple aspects of modern IPA brewing.
9. Fieldwork Brewing Co. King Citra
City: Berkeley, CA
The verdict: This one is for the orange juice lovers in the house. You know the ones we mean—the full-pulp purists who are likely to be shelling out a small fortune in order to squeeze their own every morning. You love Tree House Julius? This beer is from the same family tree, without a doubt. From one taster’s score sheet: “Very soft, absolute citrus bomb with peachy highlights.” From another: “Crazy fruity, with big orange/peach/apricot flavors. Delicious.” What it tastes like is an NE-IPA calculated to be the most universally approachable, easy to love beer imaginable, and that is in no way a bad thing. Beers like this are the reason that Citra might be the most beloved single hop varietal in the world—literally everyone loves a well-done Citra beer. And this is one of the very best Citra beers you’re ever going to find.
8. Columbus Brewing Co. Bodhi
City: Columbus, OH
The verdict: The last time we blind-tasted DIPAs back in 2015, this beer from Columbus Brewing Co. finished at #2 out of 115. This time, it’s #8 out of 176. In fact, of the entire top 10 field from 2015, it’s the only beer to land in the finals in BOTH tastings. So yeah, suffice to say—Columbus Brewing Co. makes a damn good DIPA in the form of Bodhi. And unlike so many others at the top here, it does so with both explosiveness and balance, all while being relatively dry and crisp. From one score sheet: “Really nice balance of resin and tropical fruity hops.” From another: “Beautifully resinous, woodsy nose with tropical fruit highlights.” Drinkable and lighter of body, with some solid bittering balance, Bodhi is a near-perfect execution of the classic West Coast IPA, while still being fruity enough to stand out among the NE-IPA crowd. If you live in a market where you can buy this beer all the time, consider yourself very lucky.
7. Proof Brewing Co. Warpath
City: Tallahassee, FL
The verdict: You want proof that a DIPA with some malt character can still compete in the world of the NE-IPA? Look no further than this entry from Florida’s Proof Brewing Co., which lands in a beautiful middle-ground between IPA generations. On the nose, it evokes modernity: “a big blast of tropical fruit, clean citrus, lemon and resin,” according to one score sheet. But then on the palate, you realize there’s more to this particular DIPA than just the hop presence—it’s also fairly malty, with notes of toasted bread, moderate caramel and enough booziness to make itself felt. It’s modern and nostalgic all at once, which made it resonate across generations of tasters as well. From another score sheet: “Rich, complex flavors. Just has a little bit of everything.” Ultimately, this type of tasting favors the extreme hop bombs on some level, but beers like Warpath still manage to find their way into the top 10 when executed with just the right degree of deftness.
6. Tree House Bright
City: Charlton, MA
The verdict: Now here’s a beer that took us by surprise, not necessarily because of what it was, but because of what it wasn’t. Namely, when the can came out at the post-tasting reveal … and it wasn’t particularly hazy! A Tree House DIPA, fairly clear! What what? Perhaps we simply didn’t agitate the can very much while pouring, but color us surprised. Less shocking is this beer’s wonderful overall hop aesthetic: Big, vibrant and yes, “bright” on the nose with assertive (but tactful) doses of dank resin and grapefruit/lemon citrus. It’s a beer that smells like it should be bitter, evoking some classic West Coast IPAs of yore, but on the palate it’s instead very soft and clean, with low bitterness and ridiculous “crushability.” Or as one less-than PG taster wrote, “light and drinkable as fuck.” Looking at the low ABV, that all makes sense. This DIPA is just a joy to drink, and it feels like something Tree House crafted for all those occasions where you’re not necessarily looking for dissection, but simple pleasures. Coming from a brewery so known for huge, “blow-the-doors-off” flavor profiles, we can’t help but find that really impressive.
5. Foley Brothers Brewing Prospect
City: Brandon, VT
The verdict: This is why we do blind tastings, right here. As far as I know, none of the judges present at any of these 14 days of tasting have ever sampled anything from Vermont’s Foley Brothers Brewing before. In fact, I’m not sure if any of us have even heard of this brewery before, but here they are at #5 in a blind tasting, out of 176 beers. And rightly so, because their DIPA, Prospect, is freaking phenomenal. Hazy and juicy in equal measure, it blends a wonderfully varied range of citrus, tropical and stone fruit characteristics, although most tasters were calling out pineapple and peach in their notes. On the sweeter side of the juicy spectrum, with very low bitterness, Prospect is a comforting, extremely accessible DIPA that even features some very lightly doughy malt along with the hops. We really couldn’t ask much more from any NE-IPA.
4. Triple Crossing Ivory Tower
City: Richmond, VA
The verdict: Theory: Richmond, Virginia is secretly the best IPA city in the United States—and thus the world. Evidence: The Veil. Hardywood Park. The Answer Brewpub. And last, but certainly not least, Triple Crossing. These guys are Richmond’s secret weapon, and it’s not a new development—they’ve been a great brewery for quite a while, and one that hasn’t received the praise and national attention that was due to them. In 2016, their Jurassic Park-themed Clever Girl IPA placed in the finals of our 247 IPA blind tasting, but when it came to DIPA this year there was no denying that they were the absolute stars of the show. This one, the “lesser” of their two entries, is a gorgeously fruity NE-IPA with loads of grapefruit and orange citrus, chased by resin and an unusual, almost minty herbaceous quality that lends complexity. From one score sheet: “Wonderfully bright and fruity, plenty of juicy peach, grapefruit and pine.” It’s hard to believe that the same brewery produced another DIPA that was even better.
3. Creature Comforts Duende
City: Athens, GA
The verdict: Creature Comforts is in the middle of a pretty impressive run in blind tastings at the moment, having taken home the #1 honors in our 64-beer blind tasting of goses back in August. This, however, is arguably even more impressive, an absolutely brilliant DIPA for the fruit lovers in the audience. From the first score sheet: “Huge burst of bright pineapple, lemon and grass. Just awesome.” From another: “Big, funky blast of tropical and citrus goodness.” The other score sheets are more or less the same—tasters loved the vivaciousness of the tropical and citrus-forward American hops, as well as the accessibility of this quaffable DIPA, which features mild-to-moderate residual sweetness giving life to its fruit flavors. In terms of the breadth of the beer’s flavor profile, the brewers at Creature Comforts are getting the absolute most out of each of these hop varietals.
2. Triple Crossing Interstellar Burst
City: Richmond, VA
The verdict: The notes from one of the tasters on this beer begin with “This is how you do it. Tropical fruitstorm.” Yes, it’s the second entry from Triple Crossing in the span of four beers. Across all 176 entries, they are the only brewery to land two different beers in the final. And not just in the final, but in the TOP FREAKIN’ FIVE of the final. And it’s not like they just squeaked in, either—these were basically unanimous selections. In the entire time we’ve been blind-tasting beers, the only similar accomplishment I can think of was Grimm landing two different DIPAs in the top 5 of the previous DIPA tasting, in 2015. This is some seriously rarified air, is what I’m getting at.
Suffice to say, Interstellar Burst is a particularly stellar example of NE-IPA. Impossibly smooth and luxurious on the palate, it’s like drinking a cloud—except it’s a cloud of the best juice bar smoothie you’ve never deigned to pay $9 for. From one score sheet: “Ridiculously soft and juicy, tons of passionfruit and peach. Damn.” From another sheet: “I could drink too many of these—not a bad thing.” As the latter would suggest, perhaps the most impressive thing about Interstellar Burst is that it has that rare quality of drinkability that sometimes eludes even great NE-IPAs, which can be bogged down by a combination of chewiness and residual sweetness that rob them of a chance at being called “refreshing.” Triple Crossing is making some of the best takes on this style that we’re currently able to imagine.
1. Brew Gentlemen Lou (Ales for ALS, 2017)
City: Braddock, PA
The verdict: Somehow, we get the feeling that when the folks at Brew Gentlemen sent this one in, they knew exactly where it was going to end up. And not just because praise for this beer (and this year’s batch of this beer) has been uniquely effusive online (and it has, if you look it up), but because it’s just so damn good. In the last 49 entries, we’ve praised a lot of different kinds of double IPAs—malty DIPAs, bitter DIPAs, West Coast DIPAs, juice bomb DIPAs—but ultimately, the winner was the beer to best blend any and every aspect of what we love about DIPA into a single package. Call it a representative of NE-IPA if you will (because it is one, at least to look at), but that’s almost doing it a disservice. If you’re going to call it anything, just call it amazing.
The nose of Lou is a thing of beauty, combining explosive citrus and tropical fruit influences with perfumey florals and resinous notes, backed by one of the most wonderfully pillowy and soft mouthfeels of the entire tasting. It was one of those beers where every taster has seemingly found something different to appreciate. Some of them were in love with Lou’s greener aspects, keying on the grassy/dank side to its profile, while others were all about the juice. You can hear the delighted confusion just reading tasting notes: “There’s a fruit finish I can’t place, but I just love it. It’s so lush and wonderful.” As far as we’re concerned, this is the best, most complex DIPA we had a chance to taste, out of a whopping 176. Congratulations to Brew Gentlemen—we sincerely hope you guys can deal with a whole lot more people suddenly interested in snapping up bottles of this beer. Put us on the list, will you?
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer guru. You can follow him on Twitter for additional, similarly over-ambitious blind tastings.