By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sometimes, just to engage the thirsty crowds that show up for the monthly Oregon Beer Growler tastings, I quiz them like a beer-serving schoolmarm. “What is a double IPA?” I asked. The answers included: “More hops, more alcohol!”
That response does prompt the question, though: more hops and alcohol than what? Certainly in Oregon, an IPA 7 percent and higher — even without the “double” designation — is not unusual. International Bittering Units above 80 in a pale ale are also common in hop country.
Double IPAs, sometimes called imperial IPAs, are in the category foremost for their palate-jacking hop characteristics. And, despite its official designation as an “American” style, the double probably originated in the hop-centric West, especially in Oregon and Washington, where most American hops are grown. Because we’re hopheads, many Oregon brewers don’t even bother to designate their high-alcohol, high-hopped beers as “doubles,” preferring instead to list the hoppiness on the label and let the drinker beware. I had no idea until recently, for example, that one of the first hoppy beers I ever loved — Lompoc’s C-Note, featuring seven hops that start with “C” — is considered a double.
Oregon hopheads also know that “hoppiness” does not always mean “bitterness.” The hops in doubles are sometimes floral and fragrant, complementing the extra and often sweet malts required to push up alcohol content, and sometimes tricking your tongue into thinking this beer is less alcoholic than it seems. Don’t be fooled! Read the label. Pour wisely.
Our tasters chose the following Oregon double IPAs as their favorites. All are available now on tap, at the breweries, or in stores:
Rogue: 8 Hop IPA, Newport 8.88% ABV, 80 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: These aroma hops are grown at Rogue Farms in Independence. Then brewmaster John Maier selects and blends eight varieties to create the brash and burly flavors of this IPA, the boss of Rogue’s IPA family.
Consumer Comments: Bubblegum yeastiness! Well balanced and not overwhelming. A true IIPA, yum! McDreamy in a glass. Multiple hop flavors blend together. Floral, like a field full of flowers. Sage and pine. A bratwurst kind of beer. Woodsy and yummy … a lumberjack beer. Tongue-tingly goodness.
Gigantic: Ginormous Imperial IPA, Portland 8.8% ABV, 100+ IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Developed in a secret testing facility deep in Southeast Portland, Ginormous is powered by seven mighty hops. His mission is simple; to deliver a massive hop punch to those in need.
Consumer Comments: Refreshing, apricot and peach. I want a pint! Smooth — I’d bathe in this. Interesting flavors. Nice malt and nice balance. The best so far! Spicy! Great river beer, when you are looking to get lost on a beach. Deep flavor, fairly smooth with light bitterness. A good starter beer. Lingering pleasant aftertaste.
Silver Moon: Maui Wowie Double IPA, Bend 8.2% ABV, 100+ IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This small-batch beer, brewed only a few times a year, is not your average hop bomb. The “Big Three C’s” — Chinook, Centennial and Citra hops — create a high-gravity, hazy copper ale with an intense pine, pineapple and citrus flavor.
Consumer Comments: Killer beer! It’s my favorite so far. A hot beer for a cold day. A delicious amount of hoppiness. One taste is not enough. I’ll have a pint, please. Juicy and tropical. Are we on the islands? Super easy to drink.
Two-Shy: Ignition Double IPA, Roseburg 9.5% ABV, 115 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This has a balanced, but mildly sweet malt profile with Nugget, Simcoe and Cascade and dry-hopped with Citra and Cascade.
Consumer Comments: Peaches! I could drink this with a meal, especially with pork. Light, fluffy — something to drink on a patio in the sun. Not overly bitter. Nice and fruity. Bubbly and refreshing with a light kick. A poolside beer for sure. A good winter solstice, curl up by the fire during a blizzard beer. Strong, but smooth. Drink by a roaring fire in a cabin in the snowy woods.
StormBreaker: Triple Double IPA, Portland 8.5% ABV, 90 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Achieving a triple double in hoops is impressive, but achieving it in your beer is even better. Ten hop additions of three hop varietals — Mosaic, Citra, and Amarillo — scores on your palate, rebounds with big aromas of grapefruit citrus and pineapple, and is assisted by citrus flavors to balance the slight upfront bitterness and big ABV.
Consumer Comments: Roasty with a nice finish. Nice, light and malty. Yummy perfume for the tongue! Semi-sweet finish. Mellow taste with great finish. No strong bitterness, something you can drink in a relaxed setting. Nice mixture of citrus and tea. Anytime! Citrus upfront, good flavor, I dig it!
Barley Brown’s: Tank Slapper Double IPA, Baker City 9.2% ABV, N/A IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Intense pine and citrus notes in this double IPA come from massive amounts of Simcoe and Chinook hops. At more than a half ounce of hops per pint, this is not for the faint of heart.
Consumer Comments: Good smell with bitter hops. Well-rounded flavor. Malty flavor that has a nice bitter front taste that goes away nicely. Honey-like. Yogi and Boo-Boo climb a cedar tree on a hot day to get to the honey. Wahoo! Cantaloupe melons and butterscotch. Solid gold grapefruits.
McMenamins: Major Threat DIPA, Portland 8.39% ABV, 62 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A true West Coast DIPA in which hops were incorporated at every step of the brewing process from mash to keg. Nugget hops were used for bittering while Chinook and Simcoe were used for the main hoppy flavor. Simcoe and Mosaic were then overloaded in the back end of the boil for a great tropical aroma. Finally, Mosaic was used again to dry hop each keg for a huge burst of hoppy dankness.
Consumer Comments: Bitterly delicious. Not overly hoppy. Very good, some sweetness, pleasant bitterness, drink in winter and early spring. Delicious and refreshing beer. Hoppy, earthy hops. Caramel and pomegranate. Mango! Nice and fruity, slightly sweet.
Ninkasi: Tricerahops, Eugene 8% ABV, 100 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Double IPAs are noted for their hop profiles. Earthy, floral hop aroma and flavor are abundant in Tricerahops. The bigger body and higher alcohol balance the large volume of hops to create a beer that is very flavorful while still being balanced and drinkable. The beer can be deceiving, as it is very smooth.
Consumer Comments: I really like this one! I could drink some more of this! This feels like a day of cutting pine trees. The pine flavor resonates in the mouth. Basically good. A bubbly tongue blaster. Nice hops, lightly malted, but still balanced. Nice malt. Oddly delicious.
Plank Town: UnObtainium, Springfield 8.6% ABV, 100+ IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Our mad scientists added eight varieties of hops combined with U.K. Maris Otter and Crystal malts to make this an unforgettable third version of our annual double IPA brew.
Consumer Comments: Really nice. Magical brew made of fairy dust! Hooray! I’d pair this with a spicy meal. Hands down favorite. Good anytime. Strong beginning and great finish. It’s weird, but awesome.
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.