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.
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
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
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
City: Boston, MA
The verdict: Boston Beer Co. steadfastly resisted getting into the American IPA game for as long as they possibly could, presumably owing to Jim Koch’s much-theorized dislike for the style. However, they eventually bowed to the economic pressures with a full line of session, single and double IPAs, and the results aren’t bad. Rebel Rouser packs a solid aroma of green, grassy hops and solid citrus (lemon) and pine characteristics, and a clean, grainy malt body. Certainly on the lighter side for the style, which isn’t surprising given the source, you could do far worse in easing someone into the lighter side of DIPA. In fact, after tasting it we tend to think that this combination of dank, green hops and bitter lemon peel flavor would probably be welcomed by plenty of tasters in a blind setting. The brewery has a bit of a harder road in being seen as “legitimate” these days, especially in the world of IPA, but Sam Adams shows their typical consistency here.
City: Louisville, KY
The verdict: I’m not sure exactly what Against the Grain is doing that makes their “normal” beer styles retail on the shelf for 50-100% higher than the prices of other breweries making similar products, but it can make them a little difficult to objectively rate. Citra Ass Down is a pretty solid DIPA though, easily identifiable in our blind taste as being on the lighter side of the spectrum at only 8% ABV. Most of the more lightly colored beers of this tasting tended to be the monster hop bombs, but Citra Ass Down is actually more balanced than most of the ones that appear this way in the glass—a bit of pleasant, crackery malt goes a long way toward adding complexity. The Citra hops, of course, bring the trademark blend of juicy citrus and tropical fruit that have made them so sought-after in the brewing industry. You’ll be seeing quite a lot more beers featuring Citra and other new-school American hops on this list.
City: San Diego, CA
The verdict: Green Flash’s classic West Coast IPA is a study in both the single and double IPA styles, and how they’ve changed over time. For so many years it was 7.3% ABV, a style-defining IPA that was an almost perfect example of the BJCP definition for a West Coast-style American IPA. In 2014, though, Green Flash updated the beer to reflect changing times and taste, boosting it to 8.1% ABV and in the process transforming it into a lighter member of the DIPA family by default. The flavors didn’t really change that much; they were simply amplified—balanced hops and caramel malt backbone, with tons of pine and resinous, woody hop flavors. One taster literally wrote “classic west coast” in their notes. It’s an accurate name.
City: Bloomington, IL
The verdict: Bloomington’s Destihl has gotten a lot of good press in the last couple of years for their sour program in particular, but they’re also making a solid DIPA. This one feels big, and tastes even larger than its 9.6% ABV. It’s what I often think of as a “fruitcake” DIPA, combining heavy caramel and burnt sugar flavors with tropical hop character and more than a little bit of booziness. It’s a burly, assertive beer that restrains itself at the last moment from going too far in the malt/booze department, pulling out enough tropical hop character to contribute just a tad of balancing bitterness. In general, no shortage of character with this one.
City: Charlotte, NC
The verdict: An interesting, unusual DIPA from a brewery recently recommended to Paste via readership, Triple C’s Baby Maker is a fairly unapologetic malt bomb, compared to most of these offerings. Ruby red in color, it’s powered by both deep caramel/dried fruit/Grape Nut-like flavors and piney hop bitterness. There are some beers on the table that tended to come off as “barleywine lite,” but this one almost makes us think more of the ill-defined “American strong ale.” Regardless, if you’re looking for a comparison, something like Stone’s Arrogant Bastard is a good place to start. This one certainly packs a lot of flavor into an 8.5% ABV frame.
City: San Diego, CA
The verdict: The name of this beer makes you think it’s probably a single-hop DIPA featuring popular new American variety Mosaic, but Mosaic is only the “featured player”—it also has additions of Amarillo, Simcoe and Chinook. That hop blend contributes to create a fantastically expressive aroma packed with tropical fruit notes—melon, passion fruit and berry. The flavors, on the other hand, can’t quite match the spectacular assertiveness of the aroma, making it slightly difficult to rate thanks to a thinner body. The aromatics alone, though will make it a worthy beer for hop-heads to seek out.
City: San Marcos, CA
The verdict: Another genre classic, this time from Port Brewing, Mongo is very much the type of beer one probably pictures when someone says “DIPA from California.” Amber in color, with no shortage of bready and caramel malt flavors, balanced with citrusy, orange and grass-forward hops that let you know there’s probably some Amarillo in there. Still, compared to a lot of the other DIPA entrants it’s really a beer on the drinkable side of the spectrum, with only moderate bitterness and a bit lower threshold of flavor. Regardless, it’s still a good example of an old-school West Coast-style DIPA.
City: Boulder, CO
The verdict: I think this may have been one of the first DIPAs I ever tried, which was certainly starting out on this style with a bang. Some might call Maharaja a malt bomb, but it’s just a flavor bomb in general. It’s like the brewers over at Avery said “Hey, what flavors do people like in DIPAs?” and then included every answer they received. The malts are huge, deep, toasted and toffee-like, packing big residual sweetness and a mildly harsh booziness. The hops are also there, however, and like the malt they’re doing many different things at once: piney, spicy and big tropical fruitiness that only enhances the “fruitcake” impression. Everything is simply turned up to 11.
City: Washington D.C.
The verdict: It’s interesting how subjective ABV can be in a style like DIPA. Some of the 8% beers that we tasted were straight-up boozy malt-bombs. DC Brau’s Solar Abyss, on the other hand, drank like a hop-forward single IPA at 10% ABV, giving us quite the shock when looking up the alcohol percentage later. It’s a single-hop Mosaic beer, which is also a little unusual for DIPA, but Mosaic’s calling card tends to be its almost schizophrenic complexity of flavors. Here, they mostly come forward in a pleasant (but not over-the-top) blend of citrus, floral, pine and maybe a bit of apricot-like stone fruit. Well-crafted and surprisingly drinkable, it hides that 10% ABV remarkably well.
City: Bend, OR
The verdict: Boneyard’s single IPA, RPM, was a finalist in our previous IPA tasting—this one can’t quite scale the same heights, but it’s a solid DIPA nonetheless. Hop-forward but not exceedingly so, it actually seems to be striving for a bit more balance than we expected. Hops are grapefruit citrus and lots and lots of resinous, earthy pine, which also makes it a little bit musty, in a pleasant way. It’s not huge on the caramel like many of the other amber-colored beers we sampled—there’s a bit of it there, but also some lighter, biscuity malt. The name implies an all-out hop assault, but the reality is a more complex, balanced DIPA with lots of nice green hop flavors.
City: North Charleston, SC
The verdict: Very malty, but in a different way than most of the bigger, high-ABV malt bombs on the table, Coast Brewing Co.’s Boy King is an unusual offering. Rather than the really deep, dark, dried-fruity crystal malt flavors we got in many other beers, the maltiness of Boy King is much drier and more bready/toasty—sort of like an amber ale, elevated to imperial IPA strength. The hops are a bit tougher to pick up, but they come through as a faintly tropical and secondary to all that pleasant, surprisingly drinkable, toasty malt. We’re still not entirely sure what to make of this one, but our curiosity kept us coming back for more.
City: Crozet, VA
The verdict: As the lowest-ABV beer on the table, Starr Hill’s King of Hop is clearly intended as a more “sessionable” DIPA, if such a thing is possible. We’re not too surprised to have enjoyed it here, after positively reviewing it as a welcome change of pace for the brewery when it was first released in the spring. As before, we found it primarily hop forward, with citrus/tropical notes of grapefruit and pineapple, along with some notable grassiness. Your assessment of this particular beer will likely depend on whether you can accept a 7.5% ABV product as a “double/imperial IPA.” It has pleasing hop presence and drinkability, but some may find it lacking in the body and malt backbone to really be great. Regardless of the label though, it’s tasty.
City: Houston, TX
The verdict: Funny thing about this beer—it almost made the finals of our single IPA competition before we realized at the last minute that the ABV was a whopping 8.9%, putting it far outside our accepted range (whoops). Tasting it a second time in this DIPA blind tasting, though, Endeavor can still hold its own. It’s on the sweeter side in its ABV class, and awash in an eclectic array of hop flavors—lemon citrus, peach-like stone fruit and dank grassiness, all at the same time. Surprisingly easy drinking despite the sweetness, it certainly comes off as more approachable and less rich here than it did when surrounded by single IPAs. It’s an intriguingly effective DIPA from a Texas brewery not typically associated with big, hoppy beers.
City: Petaluma, CA
The verdict: All year round, beer geeks know that Hop Stoopid is one of the best pure values you can find at your average package store—if there’s another brewery putting out a better beer in a $5 bomber, we haven’t seen it. It’s also sort of indicative of DIPAs evolution—we recall having our taste buds absolutely smote in years past by the intense bitterness of Hop Stoopid, but the rest of the field has clearly caught up. Believe it or not, the bitterness actually comes off as soft and supple these days, which pleasantly supports flavors of dank, piney and citrusy American hops. It’s not really the most complex palette of flavors, but it zeroes in on the notes it wants to deliver and then handles them flawlessly.
City: Sacramento, CA
The verdict: Absolutely a classic West Coast DIPA from a California brewery new to our tastings. Strong and assertive, with a big, perfumey blast of green, piney hops and orangey citrus, it’s also backed up by a judicious caramel malt balance. Maybe a tad boozy on the back end, but still drinks a bit lighter than its actual ABV. All in all, this is pretty darn close to the platonic ideal of how the BJCP would define the double India pale ale style, and it’s a beer we were happy to discover for the first time. If all Track 7’s beers are this good, they could be one of the better emerging breweries in California.
City: Shreveport, LA
The verdict: Certainly on the drier side than some of the other beers it was tasted against, Great Raft’s Grace and Grit comes off a bit more like an overgrown single IPA, with pleasant, citrusy hops and prickly pine. Malt is present and in good balance, favoring bready/grainy flavors over deeper caramel impressions. As one taster wrote, “complex, but goes down easy.” One imagines this would probably be a welcoming, food-friendly DIPA that would enhance rather than overwhelm most of the things you paired with it.
City: Atlantic Highlands, NJ
The verdict: This oddly named beer packs an absolutely outrageous amount of flavor into a 7.8% ABV frame. Seriously, this might be the “most flavor per point of alcohol by volume” in the entire tasting. It’s lighter in body but huge in hop flavors, without skimping on the malt either. Very fruity, with big citrus and pineapple-like tropical notes as well, chased by slight booziness and some drier, biscuity malt. It has the flavor of a 9-10% ABV American DIPA, economically packed into a significantly smaller package. Impressively put together—now how the hell am I supposed to say the name, again?
City: Atlanta, GA
The verdict: If there’s one thing this tasting taught us, it’s that there are more DIPAs under 8% ABV out there than we initially realized. SweetWater’s DIPA is derived from the pure lupulin scraped out of Yakima Valley hop pelletizers, resulting in a concentrated “hash” substance. Unsurprisingly, the resulting aroma is very dank, piney and resinous, but it also comes off as somewhat floral and lemon citrusy as well—nor is it entirely lacking in malt presence. It’s a fairly easy-drinking DIPA, given the ABV, and one that will appeal to chasers of those sticky, “green” hop flavors rather than the current fixation on tropical fruitiness.
City: Bend, OR
The verdict: Surprisingly dry for a 10% ABV beer, Half Hitch is a hop bomb of a DIPA and a good one at that. Another all-Mosaic beer, this beer from the whimsically named Crux Fermentation Project brings all of the tropical fruit flavors that are currently popular—it’s big on melon and pineapple in particular, both in flavor and aromatics. “Juicy” really is the word to apply this time—the hop flavors are very clean, bright, expressive and easily picked out, thanks largely to minimal malt, which once again isn’t the easiest thing to do at 10% ABV. Big on fruit, big on citrus, low on malt. An excellent find for those who love the new breed of tropical fruity hops.
City: Salisbury, MD
The verdict: This beer was a little oddly divisive, in the sense that all the tasters rated it pretty highly, but all praised very different aspects of its construction. Some found enjoyment in an understated caramel and biscuity maltiness. Others noted grapefruit-like citrus. Still others thought it had more of a catty, piney, hop quality. It was a rare case of this group of Paste tasters disagreeing fairly strongly on what exactly the beer tasted like, but all agreeing for different reasons that it was a good DIPA. If they’re all to be simultaneously believed, it’s a well-balanced example of the style between lightly sweet malt and citrus/green hops. Yeah, that sounds about right.
City: Houston, TX
The verdict: Karbach’s big, hop-forward DIPA drew a lot of interesting tasting notes from those in attendance in its heat. As one noted: “good citrus/floral aromas, honey, toast, grainy, well-balanced.” Another drew more stone fruit impressions, specifically apricot. Another went out of his way to write that it finished “SO CLEAN,” which can only be construed as a compliment. Karbach seems to describe this beer as an absolutely massive hop bomb, but that wasn’t quite our impression. It’s definitely hop forward, but by no means difficult to quaff, which is to its credit. Waffling between citrus, tropical and resinous characteristics, it’s a little tough to nail down, but a pleasure to analyze.
City: Escondido, CA
The verdict: We’re almost a little bit surprised to see Enjoy By fall outside the final, but that speaks both to the quality of this tasting and how well it still did, entering the top 25% of beers on the table. Since its first batch, Enjoy By has been an instrumental beer in making the average craft beer consumer aware of the importance of freshness in hop-forward brews of all kinds, and in that spirit we were able to procure samples of a special Enjoy By batch made specifically for the California market (09.02.15) to make sure it was still at peak freshness. Predictably, the beer presents very hop-forward, with lots of resinous pine but also a uniquely minty note that we were surprised to discover, along with an array of citrus fruit. Like some of the others in the tasting, though, we’re surprised how drinkable such a hop bomb seems when placed in a lineup of other DIPAs, many of them more harsh. In the end, the greatest beers tend to have a modicum of drinkability on their side.
City: North Olmstead, OH
The verdict: Fat Heads has been showered with praise and medals for their Head Hunter single IPA in recent years, but it’s clear that the DIPA is no slouch either. This is a beer that really feels imperial in stature, in both the malt and hop departments. The aroma is big, big on spicy pine. Toasted bread and deep caramel maltiness—maybe even a little bit of mustiness—are the first flavor impressions, but just when you start thinking “hey, is this a barleywine?”, the cavalry of citrus and tropical hops arrive with giant flavors of grapefruit, pineapple and pine. It’s big on malt. Big on hops. Fairly big on booziness. It’s an assertive, in-your-face, thoroughly American DIPA that you could tell someone was “west coast,” if it didn’t hail from the heart of Ohio.
City: Hood River, OR
The verdict: It’s nice when breweries new to our rankings perform well in blind tastings—it’s a good reminder that there are always far more great, under-the-radar brewers out there who are making products just as good as the ones currently receiving hype. That was basically the case with Double Mountain Brewery’s DIPA here—totally unknown to us, but very tasty. It’s a pretty complex palette of flavors—more than a little malt richness, which give the tropical/citrus hops a rather candy-like quality. Many of the tasters have remarked that a little bit of residual sweetness can have a strong, positive enhancing effect on exactly these types of fruity hop flavors, and the Molten Lava is a fine example of how well that works. A classical northwest-style DIPA, and one that represents the style well.
City: Auburn, CA
The verdict: There were a few moments in the course of this tasting when we were absolutely shocked by a piece of information revealed about a beer. One of those pieces of information was the ABV of Simtra, a would-be triple IPA that hides its booze so well that it’s practically impossible to believe it could be that high. This stuff is frighteningly drinkable, but also hugely hoppy. Considering all the Simcoe, it’s not surprising that the hops come forward with big, massive pine needle aromatics. It’s dank and weed-like for sure, but also packs strong citrus as well, while featuring medium-high hop bitterness and still finishing dry. An 11.25% ABV DIPA should not be able to feature its hops so cleanly and still finish dry—we’re extremely impressed with this feat. There wasn’t another beer in the tasting quite like it.
City: Juneau, AK
The verdict: This tasting of DIPAs, more than any of the styles we’ve done before, revealed that our large group of tasters had differing opinions of what they wanted from a “great DIPA,” but the one thing we universally found appreciated by all were beers with great balance. Alaskan Imperial IPA has that great balance between malt and hops—lightly sweet caramel and toasted, nutty malt flavors are buffered by just enough woodsy, piney and grapefruit-citrusy hops to bring everything together into a harmonious whole. It’s warming and clearly identifiable as a DIPA on first sip, but still drinks very easily. That’s what true balance gets you—a synthesis of flavors that makes the whole significantly greater than the sum of its parts.
City: Grand Rapids, MI
The verdict: Devil Dancer may have been the first beer to refer to itself as a “triple IPA” beyond the double/imperial nomenclature, and it’s still debatable whether that’s a valid descriptor, or if we’re dealing with a hoppy American barleywine—it certainly would stand out as an outlier less in a barleywine lineup than it does in an imperial IPA lineup. Regardless, though, it’s impossible to miss the massive flavor bomb this bottle contains. Some of the tasters weren’t shy in admitting that they found it overwhelming or harsh, especially in its booziness, but others were smitten by the huge, burnt caramel/dried fruit malt flavors and undeniable complexity it possesses. It certainly drew some interesting tasting notes: “like a hoppy, carbonated version of Sam Adams Utopias,” wrote one person. “Like a bourbon barrel-aged DIPA,” wrote another. Ultimately, the praise outweighed any of the detractors.
City: Columbus, OH
The verdict: Columbus Brewing Co. sent two DIPAs to Paste for this tasting, and both of them turned out to be exceptional in their own ways. Creeper is the bigger (but more balanced) of the two, tipping the 10% ABV mark but still primarily hop-forward. Aromatics are an irresistible mix of juicy tropical fruit (especially pineapple), but with a notable degree of caramel/light toffee as well. Flavors are similar—an excellent balance between lighter caramel maltiness, very well-hidden booze and tropical/stone fruity hops. It stays dry, with fairly high bitterness in particular on the back end. This is a well-balanced but assertive DIPA that avoids throwing all of its eggs into any particular basket, which is a plus. Excellent stuff, and a gold medal winner at GABF, but Columbus also gave us one more beer that was even better.
City: Chandler, AZ
The verdict: This is a pretty unusual DIPA from a couple different perspectives. It’s a 100 percent Citra-hopped beer, and yet the flavors that pretty much every taster got out of it were much less citrus/tropical than that hop usually delivers—rather, multiple tasters commented on both its pine and spicy hop qualities. Secondly, the beer incorporates honey, which usually adds to dryness or thins the body as with any other residual sugar … yet KiloHop still can boast plenty of toasty, bready malt presence. To sum up, as one taster wrote, “serious hops, but big malty backbone.” We can’t quite say for certain if the beer we’re tasting is the way it’s MEANT to taste or the way it was conceived, but I can say that we like it just the way it is: A well-balanced, malty, piney, spicy DIPA.
City: Eugene, OR
The verdict: A lot of the 8%-range DIPAs could pass for single IPAs, but Tricerahops is not one of them. There’s no mistaking what this beer is—it’s a DIPA, and one that tastes quite a bit bigger than 8%. That is to say, it’s packed with flavor, and the hops and malt are both firing on all cylinders. Medium-strength caramel malt richness is supported by lots and lots of citrus-focused hops—primarily orange and lemon, but also some tropical fruits as well. It has a bit of that “fruitcake” impression, but it’s lighter and more drinkable than some of the others that evoke that same description. Tricerahops feels like an excellent middle ground between the really over-the-top richness of some of the boozier DIPAs and the bone-dry, perfumey hop bombs of the competition (which in fairness, we also love). Regardless, this feels like a DIPA that nearly any fan of the style would enjoy.
Next: The finals! The top 20 DIPAs
City: Auburn, CA
The verdict: Two DIPAs from Knee Deep in the top 25—pretty impressive finish for the Auburn, CA brewery, especially considering this is their first appearance in our blind tastings. Very nice aromatically, a real blast of big, bold hops that are very heavy on lemony citrus and especially grassiness, supported by just a bit of bready malt that doesn’t come anywhere close to “balance.” As it warms up, the fruity aromatics just grow more complex and tropical. On the thinner side, body-wise. Very much a hop-forward, drier DIPA with a complex array of hop-derived flavors. It’s a good example of what one taster labeled as “IPA +”—the subtype of drier, lighter, hop-forward DIPAs that could pass as particularly intense single IPAs in a pinch. Regardless of the label, though, this one is a hophead’s delight.
City: Ipswich, MA
The verdict: We’re coming to see, as we go through these rankings, that all-Mosaic hopped beers can be startlingly different, but the one thing they all seem to have in common is a surprising degree of complexity. Space Cake is another of those Mosaic beers, and once again they present with all kinds of different impressions on the nose—everything from floral and spice/pine to the more expected citrus/tropical/red berries. Hops are big, but this is still a fairly balanced beer as well, with some deep, fruity, burnt caramel maltiness. Residual sweetness is fairly high as well, almost pushing it into pseudo-barleywine territory. In short, Space Cake is a big, rich, pleasantly complex DIPA that gives us plenty to ruminate on.
City: Santa Rosa, CA
The verdict: Well, we’re officially into the big guns now, aren’t we? We couldn’t help but be curious where the vaunted PtE would finish in a totally blind tasting, and the legendary brew acquitted itself quite well. Ultimately it was one of those beers that was liked by just about everyone but championed as “best” by none, and we think that’s rather indicative of the unfair standard that a beer like Pliny essentially has to live up to. For something that helped kick off the prestige of DIPA as one of the iconic American craft beer styles, it has to deal with a lot of hype, but thankfully Pliny is still an excellent beer when tasted blind, even if it’s not at the TIPPY top. Light of body and intensely fresh in citrus/green, resinous hops, it’s a classic example of the drier West Coast style. Two different tasters both noted “tangerine” citrus in particular in their notes, so perhaps that’s what we’ll dub the iconic Pliny flavor. Regardless—Kudos to Russian River. Even in a field of 115, Pliny still stands out enough to make the finals.
City: Rogers, AR
The verdict: You want some unheralded DIPAs in the final? How about a beer with one rating on BeerAdvocate? On their website, Ozark refers to this simply-named brew as a “throwback ‘90s DIPA,” and that’s completely correct, but in the best way possible. Where so many of those ‘90s West Coast DIPAs would have been defined by excessive bitterness and pine-dominated hops, Ozark’s beer transcends the old tropes to deliver an homage that exceeds its source material. It’s a citrus bomb of the first order—every single taster’s score sheet remarks on the orange character in particular, which is like nothing so much as fresh-squeezed orange juice. It’s just balanced enough and just drinkable enough while still reveling in old-school, classic, Cascade hop flavors. It’s just a good damn DIPA. And if you’re shaking your head, feel free to check the Untapped scores. This beer is legit.
City: Waterbury, VT
The verdict: The beer, the myth, the legend—it’s Heady Topper. If you want some immediate evidence of how much people love this beer, just scroll down to the comments section and check out what are sure to be plenty of readers complaining about its placement, despite the fact that it beat out 100 others in a blind taste test. This was the first time most of us had tasted The Alchemist’s much sought-after DIPA, and we can finally see why it’s been a phenomenon ever since it was first unleashed. It’s a straight-up, aromatically intense hop bomb that incorporates a few different flavor groups—very heavy on the pine and florals, but simultaneously orangey citrus and tropical fruity as well. Malt is minimal, although there is just a touch of floral, honey-like sweetness. Very fresh, very hoppy, very good beer.
City: Chicago, IL
The verdict: No real surprise here, as Half Acre has shown itself to be an adept purveyor of pretty much every hop-forward beer style, and has regularly performed well in our tastings. Still, this actually is a bit of an unusual DIPA for the Chicago brewery, much different from the really dank, drier, West Coast influences of say, their Double Daisy Cutter. Navaja is a burlier, richer beer, with assertive crystal malt flavors and a commanding fruitiness that touches on tropical fruits and especially on a unique red fruit/berry note that we didn’t see in many other beers in this tasting. It’s a big beer, tasting every bit of its 9.5% ABV, with noticeable alcohol that warms and adds to the impression of intense, fruity, almost sherry-like richness. Despite that, there’s good balance between malt richness and fruity hops, which meet in the middle—perhaps a slight edge going to the malt. It seems like a purposeful statement that the brewery is trying to go in a different direction with Navaja rather than simply making a bigger version of award-winning single IPAs like Senita or Vallejo.
City: Milton, DE
The verdict: When all is said and done, the biggest surprises in these blind tastings come not from the hyped beers we acquire but from the old standbys and classics that get tasted alongside them. It’s an almost unavoidable fallacy to think we know all there is to know about a beer like 90 Minute IPA. But it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve had it—sneak it into a blind tasting alongside 100-plus other beers, and you’ll be surprised how fresh, new and unusual it seems. It sounds ridiculous to say, but we never quite noticed just how hoppy 90 Minute could be, with juicy tropical fruit and citrus qualities meeting somewhere in the middle with spicy pine. It’s also big on toasted malt and dark, dried fruitiness, which pairs wonderfully with the juicy, fruity hops. One taster was so enamored with the mouthfeel that he described it as having “the body of an Olympic weightlifter.” It’s funny to think that this is a year-round beer available at typical package stores throughout the U.S. We have to give credit where credit is due—this Dogfish Head original is really a classic.
City: Dayton, OH
The verdict: Another relatively unheralded DIPA in the finals, Warped Wing’s Mr. Mean has been made since last year and actually shares quite a few characteristics with 90 Minute, the beer it follows. Very assertive in both malt and a pervasively delicious citrus character, it probably goes a bit harder on the orangey/marmalade flavor in general than the 90 Minute does. Malts are toasty and dark, dried fruity once again, with moderate residual sweetness and a definite alcohol note that enhances rather than detracts from the whole. From one taster’s score sheet: “Malty sweet and orange citrus, candy in a glass.” A sticky, indulgent DIPA for lovers of really juicy citrus and barleywine-like malt.
City: Anaheim, CA
The verdict: No beer in this entire ranking advanced as easily from its heat to the finals tasting as Citra Showers. We simply stuck our noses in the glass and went “Yup.” Featuring absolutely massive Citra hop aromatics, this beer is the definition of a hop showcase. Malt presence is essentially negligible—that 8.8% ABV simply provides a canvas made of barley for the Noble Ale Works brewers to experiment on with their hop paints. This one is all about the aromatics: Very floral, and heavy tropical fruit impressions of mango and melon, but also plenty of dankness. What it lacks in balance, it makes up for in audacious presentation. One of the best compliments that we can give this beer was that the aroma reminded us of nothing so much as an IPA from Maine Brewing Co., which captured two of the top five spots in our single IPA ranking. Of course, that also makes us wish even more that we could have gotten some Maine Dinner for this tasting, to see how it would compare.
City: Portland, OR
The verdict: We believe we have the name of this new DIPA right, although we’ve also seen it referred to as “Mic Check” in some places. Regardless, having a representative from Breakside in the finals hardly surprises us after the GABF gold medal-winning Breakside IPA finished at #4 in our previous ranking. It comes across with big (but balanced) citrus and tropical fruit hoppiness and medium-strength caramel character that doesn’t get too cloying or scene-stealing. Orange is probably the dominant citrus fruit, but balance is really the feature that keeps us coming back to this one rather than intensity or even complexity. It’s just a wonderfully drinkable, non-fussy, perfectly executed Northwest DIPA where every sip leads directly into the next sip—you could zone out and find yourself with an empty glass dangerously easily. Sometimes, that simplicity is worth a lot.
City: Warren, VT
The verdict: Another beer that easily dominated its heat to enter the final, Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine tastes like the descriptions one might read about obscure pot strains in a High Times magazine. Which is to say, it’s massively aromatic and dank, but also super-duper tropical. From one taster’s sheet: “Uniquely hoppy, pineapple and dank weed.” From another: “Zesty. Everything hits just right.” There’s just the slightest touch of graininess (maybe), but Sip of Sunshine is really an unapologetic, light-bodied hop bomb with juicy hop fruitiness as its one and only goal. Less a beer and more a shrine to hops themselves, it’s a holy grail beer without a doubt for the hopheads in the audience. This is a beer that the hopheads will drive across state lines to get without a moment’s hesitation.
City: Munster, IN
The verdict: Before you even start composing a comment about us getting the “wrong” DIPA from Three Floyds, know that the brewery chose its own representatives, and they scored big with Arctic Panzer Wolf. This is a DIPA with great complexity—rather than say, the drier, hop-driven explosion of their Dreadnaught DIPA, APW actually reminds us a bit more of the ill-defined “east coast DIPA,” with its dark honey coloration and balance of sweetness and huge, complex hop presence. Floral aromatics are strongly prominent, which is nice, followed by citrus and green, grassy flavors. From one score sheet: “classic old-style DIPA flavor, resinous pineyness, flowers and ripe grapefruit.” Finishing bitter, it reminds us of some DIPA we enjoyed years back that has only improved and become more venerable with age. In an age when it seems like IPAs are increasingly defined by single flavors they’re seeking, its subtleties seem refreshing.
City: Coronado, CA
The verdict: How’s this for a weird hop bill? “Citra, Galaxy, Green Bullet, Mosaic, Nugget and Simcoe.” That is one strange combination, bringing together influences both from old- and new-school American hops along with newer Australian and New Zealand varieties into a single DIPA. They give this new anniversary beer from Coronado a perfumey complexity that encompasses a wide range of tropical fruit varieties. It feels like a big beer, on the richer side with impressions of brandied fruitcake but a long, piney finish that helps dry things out just a tad. In its first heat, nothing on the table could compete with it in terms of volume of flavor. Among the giants of the finals, its strength turned to complexity and balance. Considering this is a one-time only anniversary brew, you’d better hurry to get some before it’s gone.
City: Fort Collins, CO
The verdict: What a beautiful, classic, fragrant DIPA this standby from Odell proved to be. An aromatically complex, intriguing nose draws you in with citrus, floral and spicy qualities, which lead into lemon and grassy hop flavors. It’s hop-forward, but with just enough malt to not go right out and label it as some kind of hop bomb. Malt comes forward with very light caramel and pleasant biscuit/breadiness that makes for a nice change of pace compared to some of the more intensely malty beers on the table. Very clean and crisp in its presentation, especially when considering the 9.3% ABV, Myrcenary feels and tastes like a beer made by a brewery that has perfected their system and their craft down to the most exact, nuanced level—one gets the sense that the final product is exactly what was intended. And that sounds like a pretty accurate description of Odell to us.
City: Petaluma, CA
The verdict: Love super dank, green, resinous hops? Lagunitas Sucks could be your go-to DIPA. The brewery does consider it a DIPA, by the way, despite being another beer coming in under 8%, and it earns that title through sheer intensity of hop aromatics alone. Popping open the bottles brings an explosion of pine needles and grapefruit citrus—you could pretty much tell blindfolded that it hails from somewhere on the west coast. Malt presence is pretty minimal, although there is some biscuit and just enough lighter, honey-like sweetness to keep it from being completely dry. Regardless, the hops are totally the star of the show in this clean, dank, hop-delivery vehicle. From past experience, we also feel like we can add that this is a beer that truly must be enjoyed fresh. The dank/citrus combo of really, really fresh Lagunitas Sucks is a pretty amazing thing.
City: Paso Robles, CA
The verdict: Fun fact: Every time Paste has ever rated IPAs, Firestone Walker has never finished outside the top 10. Here, it’s a top five finish for the much-loved Double Jack, certainly a poster child for the modern conception of what a west coast DIPA tastes like. One taster literally just wrote “Bingo” on his tasting sheet the first time we tasted it. Another who was feeling a bit more perspicacious had this to say: “Citrus, lemon and grapefruit especially. Caramel and pine hops too, but well-balanced and with very tasty biscuit malt. Pretty much right on.” In reality, this is simply one of those beers that nobody disliked. In every tasting, it received positive scores from every person who tasted it. That’s consistency, and that’s how you crack the top five of a 115-DIPA blind tasting. I don’t even know what kind of criticism we might possibly lob at it. If you like classical West Coast DIPAs, then you like this.
City: Brooklyn, NY
The verdict: A term like “pico-brewery” makes us want to drink to forget, but the beer from Grimm Artisanal Ales would not be so easily forgotten. These nomad brewers have been experimenting in beer for 10 years now, but only got Grimm off the ground in 2013 and continue to brew single batches at multiple breweries. Their Tesseract was like a hammer made of exceedingly dank and tropical hops, walloping us square in the taste buds. It just so happened to initially be tasted in the same heat as the vaunted Heady Topper, and there’s really no question—Tesseract was the beer we were most excited (and astonished) to reveal that afternoon, identity-wise. To quote one tasting sheet: “Yummy hop candy.” In fact, during the final tasting, one taster’s notes reveal that he was absolutely certain this beer was none other than Heady Topper. It casts a spectacular force field of pineapple, orange and mango that reaffirms everything we love about hop-bombs.
City: Healdsburg, CA
The verdict: In its initial tasting, every taster in attendance gave Bear Republic’s Cafe Racer 15 a score that differed by only two points—in that sense, it was one of the most unanimous and universally liked beers of the tasting. This DIPA is just so … well … balanced. Up front it’s all hops, with a great, complex array of floral notes, lemon citrus, resin and spice. Then the supporting malt comes into play, with a tapestry of light caramel and biscuit. This is the definition of one of those DIPAs that is more than the sum of its parts, because none of them really POP and make you go “What is that crazy flavor?” It’s all about synthesis. Just the right amount of citrus juiciness. Just the right degree of hop complexity. Just the right amount of supporting amount to let the hops shine without the beer seeming thin or inconsequential. It’s the synthesis that comes as a result of a master brewer at work.
City: Columbus, OH
The verdict: It feels good to be able to corroborate GABF medals in a huge, blind taste test of this nature, and this time we can say with some authority: Columbus Bodhi is some truly awesome beer. It’s a total hop showcase with only a smattering of biscuity malt, but it somehow manages to pack all those intense aromatics and hop-derived flavors into a package that comes complete with very soft bitterness and inherent drinkability. Big on both citrus and tropical hop notes, it inspired praise in the notes of tasters: “Bright, lively grapefruit and juicy hop aroma. Bright and inviting, with just enough bitterness.” In the finals, it again proved to be a standout on score sheets: “Very pure blast of resinous green hops and citrus, really heavenly aroma.” It feels like another one of those beers where we couldn’t possibly offer any type of constructive criticism. There’s nothing that could be improved. It’s practically perfection.
City: Brooklyn, NY
The verdict: Here we are—the road of 115 double IPAs led us to this point, and to this revelation: Grimm Artisanal Ales has emerged as the clear “Maine Beer Co.” of this tasting. A brewery that none of us in the room had ever even tasted before produced the #1 and #4 beers in a 115-beer field. That’s absurd. And that doesn’t happen by chance, not in a million years.
Lambo Door, like the earlier Tesseract, is a pretty unabashed hop-bomb, but one that revels in juicy hop deliciousness rather than any sort of intensive bitterness. Its aroma leaps from the bottle when you crack the top like some kind of hop genie desperate to be free. Searching through the score sheets, it’s interesting to see the variety of different fruity hop descriptors people throw at it. “Citrus,” obviously. “Tropical,” certainly. But then it gets more eclectic and specific. Pineapple. Melon. “Red berries.” “White peach.” Everyone finds themselves tasting something different in Lambo Door, and everyone independently agrees that whatever they’re tasting is absolutely delicious.
Grimm Artisanal Ales is currently releasing its beers in the most limited means imaginable, which honestly disappoints us to no end. We want more of this beer, and more of Tesseract. We want an unlimited supply. As is, Grimm is nomadically brewing beers like this once, with no guarantee they’ll ever exist again. And if that’s what comes to pass, it would be a crime. Because this is one of the most purely delicious hoppy beers we’ve ever come across, and far more people will need to experience it before it gets anything close to the acclaim it deserves.
So that’s it. A staggering 115 DIPAs, and god only knows how many hours spent toiling away on all the aspects of putting this piece together. Was it worth it? To discover a brewery like Grimm Artisanal Ales for ourselves, sure. It was worth it. Look for a feature or interview with those guys in Paste at some point in the near future. Because, as they say, the beer world never stops. It’s always time to move on to the next story.
Once again, if you want to check out the labels of all 115 DIPAs, check out our huge gallery of them.
Jim Vorel is Paste’s news editor. His hand is cramping after typing all of this, but his fridge is filled with great DIPAs, so it seems like a fair trade-off. You can follow him on Twitter.