By Andi Prewitt and Will Oberst-Cairns
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
The Northwest is full of hop heads, which means IPAs are all the rage and pushing the boundaries when it comes to IBUs is now the norm. Enter the double or imperial IPA, where increased bitterness is expected and a stronger alcohol flavor usually comes through. According to Beer Advocate, the term “imperial” is borrowed from the Russian imperial stout that was originally brewed in England for the Russian Imperial Court of the late 1700s. The double IPA was the focus of a blind and random tasting competition held in February at homebrewing supply store F.H. Steinbart Co. in Portland. Only consumers are allowed to participate, no one who works for any participating brewery is allowed to vote. The top seven beers are listed below. The following descriptions and comments come from the participating breweries and consumer tasters who attended the event:
Lompoc: C-Note Imperial Pale Ale, Portland 6.9% ABV, 100 IBUs
Brewery Description: This highly-hopped ale has a deep copper to orange hue with a bold aroma of pine and herbal spice. Hints of toffee and caramel are followed by a citrus finish that is dry and refreshingly bitter.
Consumer Comments: Things that make you go hmmm. Rich and luxurious, this should be served in a fine wine glass. Would be perfect for Thanksgiving or even just with a turkey sandwich. Subtle, sneaky delicious. Beautifully red like an Irish minx. Great aroma and flavor. Like the flavor. A bit too bitter, but I would order more than one. Smooth, relaxing, light, refreshing.
McMenamins: Major Threat (Edgefield Brewery) Double IPA, Troutdale 9.29% ABV, 100+ IBUs
Brewery Description: The latest installment in our double IPA series is a true West Coast double IPA. Hops were incorporated in every step of the brewing process, from mash to keg. Nuggets were used for bittering and provide a smooth, mellow bitterness. Cascade, Centennial and Santiams were added during the boil to deliver a piney and citrusy burst of hop flavor. Simcoe and Chinook hops were added late in the boil to give a nice citrusy hop aroma. Finally, a mighty dose of Centennial hops were added during fermentation for a blast of hop aroma. Malts: 2-Row, Dextra Pils. Hops: Nugget, Cascade, Centennial, Santiam, Simcoe, Chinook.
Consumer Comments: You’ve got to hop me up. Great to drink while watching the home team play, even if they don’t win. Best so far, strong hops. Slightly syrupy like your grandma’s down-home pancakes. Balanced. I like mouthfeel for a slower-drinking beer. Like the fruitiness, but too bitter for my taste.
Wild Ride: Brain Bucket Imperial IPA, Redmond 8.5% ABV, 90 IBUs
Brewery Description: Buckle up your chin strap and enjoy the ride! This beer breaks free from the pack and cranks it up a notch. We give IPA lovers more malt and hops, ascending Brain Bucket to imperial status. Classic Northwest hops, pine and citrus tones will knock your senses senseless! It wouldn't be a bad idea to wear a helmet while drinking this big, bold delight.
Consumer Comments: Smooth and balanced. East Coast-style, but fits in perfect on the West Coast. Perfect rainy-day beer. Sweet on palate, tasteful. I’d pair this with fruit and cheese, maybe make mussels with this as the base. Dry finish, full flavor. Finish is very pleasant. More please, more please. I need some beer for an expedition to watch the aurora borealis. Smooth. Refreshingly hoppy. It’s like a unicorn prancing on your mouth. Good aroma, crisp clean taste.
Pelican: Imperial Pelican Ale, Pacific City 8% ABV, 85 IBUs
Brewery Description: Pelican’s mascot, Phil the Pelican, has recreated the flavor of the British Empire with his own American twist. Enjoy the huge Cascade and Centennial hop aroma, the subtle malty sweetness, and the floral, citrusy flavor of this robust, gold-colored ale. This brew began life as a seasonal beer during our first year and was so popular while we had it, and so frequently requested when it was gone, that we turned it into our fifth regular beer style our second year.
Consumer Comments: Summer here in Portland. Really pleasant ride. Love the hops. The hops never stop, brings the flavor to the top. Lots of floral and not too bitter. I’d order another. Light and refreshing, second favorite.
Laurelwood: Megafauna, Portland 9.5% ABV, 140 IBUs
Brewery Description: This beer takes its name from the oversized animals of the Pleistocene Epoch or Ice Age. Large saber-toothed cats, hairy elephants and sloths the size of buses roamed the frozen tundras. Everything was big and/or hairy, with extra horns, tusks, teeth, etc. Like those massive animals, this beer is huge with hop aroma and flavor. We used several new aromatic hop varieties to get a layered and hop oil-soaked beer which, unlike the frozen tundra, isn’t bitter and finishes dry. The aroma and flavor are layers of pine, citrus and tropical fruit and the beer is a pale gold. We hope you drink it in good health and keep warm. **2013 National IIPA Champion**
Consumer Comments: Was my favorite by far. Interesting pine flavors. Not gulpable, but fun to drink. Great flavor, great aroma, would drink this all day. Put on your spacesuit and prepare to blast off with flavor. Excellent flavor hops. Finally, a nice piney sticky (in a good way) IIPA. After a 60-hour week, this is perfect to start the weekend with.
Burnside: Project Ale, Portland 8% ABV, 99.5 IBUs
Brewery Description: An Imperial IPA with a clean, silky malt presence that is loaded with hop flavor and aroma. It’s extremely well balanced, thus maintains its ability to pair with food. Project Ale is not your average hop bomb!
Consumer Comments: Great color. Great aroma. Loved the fruit notes. Crisp and peppy. Want to pair this with chiles. You’ve got to be hopping me.
Coalition: Double Dog Dare Double IPA, Portland 8.2% ABV, 80 IBUs
Brewery Description: The imperial version of our popular IPA, Double Dog Dare, comes in at a very drinkable 8.2 percent ABV. Notes of caramel and biscuit make up the malt profile, while a distinctive Northwest hop profile round out this beer. Bittered with Nugget hops; Sterling, Cascade, and Simcoe provide flavors of citrus, flowers and tropical fruit. A dry hop of Chinook brings the aromatics together in this deliciously big, but balanced IPA. Try some. We dare you. We Double Dog Dare you.
Consumer Comments: Lots of floral which I like, but a bit too bitter. Don’t know if I’d order more than one, very drinkable. I’d have six on a summer day, nice smooth bitterness, great rich flavor. Nondescript, decent.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.