A Taste of Heaven
Defining Craft Beer’s Most Popular Enigma, the Juicy DIPA
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“I think that the biggest factor is moving the hops from earlier in the process to later in the process,” says Jason Pellett of Orpheus Brewing.
“Yeast plays a role in it too,” says Sam Richardson, Brewer and co-founder of Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn NY.
The subject of their debate is craft beer’s enigmatic obsession, the Juicy Double IPA. The term “juicy” has been used to describe the flavors lent by certain breeds of hops for some time, but only within the past two or three years has the word been paired with a new, increasingly popular breed of double IPA.
Historically, desirable IPAs and double IPAs were known for a strong malt backbone. Then, there was the “lupulin threshold shift” (a term popularized by Russian River‘s Vinny Cilurzo and Firestone Walker‘s Matt Brynildson): a popularization of beers with more and more hop flavors. These hoppier beers became the über-popular style of the double IPA — led at the front by Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. The next evolution in the “lupulin threshold shift”, it would seem, is the advent of the juicy double IPA.
But the Juicy DIPA, as it has come to be known, is not a formal beer category. It’s not even a subcategory. Yet on BeerAdvocate‘s list of the Top 250 beers, 53 of the 80 single or double IPAs can be described as “juicy”. And the trend is trickling down throughout the entirety of the craft beer community. A quick read through the forums on BeerAdvocate yields descriptions of juiciness and tropical fruits and forums debating which juicy IPAs are best. Reviews are a dime a dozen at best, and almost none of them try to define, any further than flavor, what exactly this “juiciness” is or where it is coming from.
But if the “juicy” double IPA isn’t its own category, then what exactly is it? Brewers see it as new pattern of added value placed on certain tropical flavors and aromas like mango, pineapple, papaya, stonefruit and passion fruit. These new flavors stand in contrast to IPAs of the more “old school” tradition, which feature resin, pine, herbal and floral notes, plus some citrus. “Each brewery has their own idea of what they want their beer to taste like,” Richardson said. “By choosing yeast strains or hops, or changing their water profile, they can manipulate [the beer] so they have it come across as juicier.”
Brewers seem to have their own takes on what aspect of brewing best makes those flavors — whether it be dry hopping, water treatment to better utilize the hop flavors or different yeast strains to better compliment those flavors. But one common thread that runs through each definition is the hops. Southern Hemisphere varieties are leading the charge when it comes to the juicy tropical flavors, though German and American hops are also in the mix. Hops like Motueka, Pacifica, Nelson Sauvin, Wakatu and Galaxy all impart loads of the “juicy” characteristic. Most of these varieties are fairly new, which Steele says can be an eye-opening experience for craft beer drinkers. “When you try an IPA that has a hop variety you’ve never tried before, I think it’s an exciting thing. That’s really what’s driving a lot of [the popularity].”
And juicy IPAs aren’t just a current trend. Brewers say they’re the style of the future — specifically, the new hop varieties being created to emphasize the juicy flavor.
Private and public research companies are on the hunt for these new hop varieties to satisfy the tastes of the craft beer industry. Hopunion, based out of Yakima, Washington, recently released an experimental hop named EXP-HBC 342, which is described as having tropical characteristics; Hop Breeding is known for its recent releases including the extremely popular Mosaic, Citra and Equinox breeds; The American Dwarf Hop Association is working specifically to bring the tropical fruitiness of the Southern Hemisphere to North America with a low-trellis hop called Azacca. Colleges like Oregon State University and The University of Vermont have also gotten involved with extensive hop research. And hop creation is far from confined to America. Some new hop varieties in Germany, notably Hallertau Blanc, were developed by the German Hop Research Institute in Hüll and impart some of these tropical characteristics.
Even though the German Hop Research Institute’s series of four hop varieties was released in 2012, American brewers are still only seeing them in small blips due to limited supply. Creating new hop varieties is an arduous process that involves cross-pollinating desirable male hop plants with desirable female hop cones, and can take many years. “When you start developing crosses for new hop varieties, it takes close to 10 years to actually build that to a point where you can release it commercially,” says Steele. “I know there’s a lot in the works right now. There are going to continue to be new hop varieties every year and those are going to fuel a lot of the newer IPAs.”
Richardson shares a similar sentiment. “There will always be the new thing,” he said. “The new hop variety, the new method that someone is using to brew an IPA — it will evolve.”
In other words, the juicy double IPA is simply one evolution of the style, the new standard for flavor profile that most new double IPAs, and some single IPAs, are striving for. “The juicy stuff is the goal of the Double IPA,” Pellet said.
Avery Brewing The Maharaja
ABV: 10.2% | Colorado
Avery’s The Maharaja in many ways set the tone for what a double IPA could be. Brewed with “a deranged amount of hops”, Avery claims that they attempted to brew a beer with the biggest amount of hop flavor physically possible. Full of juicy, resinous hop flavors and aromas, and weighing in at 102 IBUs and 10.2% ABV, The Maharaja is dangerous beer that you will likely want more than one serving of. That may not be a good idea.
Tasting Notes: This beer and its dark amber hue was the most visibly recognizable to our tasting panel. It has a very distinct flavor leaning more on old-school IPA bitterness with undertones of fruitiness. It also contains hints of raisin and dark fruits with a caramel sweetness.
The Alchemist Heady Topper
ABV: 8% | Vermont
The myth, the beast, the legend. John Kimmich’s infamous Heady Topper was only recently dethroned from BeerAdvocate‘s #1 Beer slot by its rarer arch nemesis, Pliny the Younger. A secret blend of hops known only by The Alchemist employees is put on full display here, but is backed up by a sticky mouthfeel and fruity undertones from the yeast, a proprietary strain originally brought back from England by the famous Greg Noonan. Noonan gifted the yeast to Kimmich when he left Burlington’s Vermont Pub and Brewery to start his own brewpub, The Alchemist Pub and Brewery. Kimmich has been using the yeast, affectionately named Conan, ever since.
Tasting Notes: Flavor profiles from our tasters were all over the board. While the citrusy hop botanicals and yeast profiles were the strongest, tasters also picked out hints of chocolate, raisin, spice, a funky saison-esque character.
Great Lakes Brewing Lake Erie Monster
ABV: 9.1% | Ohio
Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Great Lakes Brewing’s Lake Erie Monster is a relative sleeper amongst our list of giants. Lake Erie Monster is the predecessor to their highly acclaimed Chillwave (see below). Packing some serious passion-fruit flavors, Lake Erie Monster uses copious amounts of the original juicy hop, Simcoe. The beer is available starting in July of each year and has a shelf life of 90 days.
Tasting Notes: Strong fruity hops back up a “corn-mash distillery flavor” as described by one taster. A thick mouthfeel and hints of banana and clove also hit the palate towards the finish.
Stone Enjoy By 09.02.15
ABV: 9.4% | California
Stone’s Enjoy By has been one of the top juicy double IPAs since it was first brewed almost three years ago. The beer uses an addition of Ahtanum during the mash, Super Galena hop extract during the boil, and late additions of Simcoe, Amarillo, Calypso and Cascade in the whirlpool and Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Motueka and Helga for dry hopping. This witch’s brew of hoppiness has made the beer a comparative standard for the juicy DIPA.
Tasting Notes: One taster described it as having a distinctly old-school hop vibe. Caramel sweetness and fruity hops are accompanied by a grainy character at the middle of the palate. A grassy bitterness also makes an appearance in the finish. Although delicious, the beer had a lower factor of drinkability compared to other beers on our list.
Due to availability restrictions, there were some beers that we just couldn’t get in time for this article. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be here as much as the others. Here is our list of beers that we wish we could have included.
Foundation Epiphany, 8% ABV
Described as a “Maine IPA” and weighing in at 8% ABV, this tropical fruit hop bomb leans much more towards double territory. Brewed with Columbus, Cascade, Citra, Ella and Mosaic hops and fermented by Foundation’s house British Ale Yeast.
Hill Farmstead Double Galaxy, 8% ABV
No list of juicy double IPAs would be complete without the mention of Double Galaxy. Brewed exclusively with Galaxy hops and well water from Shaun Hill’s ancestral farmland, the mouthfeel and simplicity of this beer are top notch.
Societe Brewing The Roustabout, 9.4% ABV
Brewed with Simcoe, Citra and CTZ hops, this San Diego DIPA delivers waves of mango, guava and passion fruit across the palate. The Roustabout is brewed once a year for The Bistro Restaurant’s Double IPA Festival competition in Hayward, California, which it won in 2013.
Great Lakes Brewing Chillwave, 9.4% ABV
A blend of old-school and new-school hops including Mosaic, Nugget and Cascade make this beer a shoe-in for any list of double IPAs. Be sure to catch this seasonal release in March before it disappears from the shelves.
Boneyard Beer Hop Venom, 8.9% ABV
Hop Venom is Boneyard’s flagship double IPA that packs a juicy hop punch falling somewhere in between their RPM single IPA and their Notorious triple IPA. Available for draft-only consumption on a rotating basis.
3 Floyds Permanent Funeral, 10.5% ABV
Munster, Indiana’s 3 Floyds is known for their alpha-acid-forward new-school pale ale, Zombie Dust. But they also make some great doubles — a prime example being Permanent Funeral. Available from their brewpub on a rotating basis.
Other Half Green Diamonds
ABV: 9.1% | New York
Although Other Half Head Brewer and co-owner Sam Richardson doesn’t refer to Green Diamonds as the brewery’s flagship beer, it is certainly one of the beers that put them on the map. (At just a year and a half old, Other Half is one of the most hyped breweries among online beer forums.) Green Diamonds is brewed with Galaxy and Amarillo hops, an interesting combination of old-school juiciness in the Amarillo versus a more new-school tropical flavor lent by the Galaxy. The beer is also brewed to finish very dry, which keeps drinkers coming back for sip after sip.
Tasting Notes: Picked in the top four of each of our tasters, Green Diamonds has next to no bitterness. The fruity hop characters are put on full display with aromas of orange, papaya and mango. These aromas are backed up in the taste with a velvety mouthfeel. Despite being 9.1% ABV, most tasters picked Green Diamonds as being one of the most drinkable beers on our list.
Orpheus Brewing Transmigration of Souls
ABV: 10% | Georgia
Located in Piedmont Park, Atlanta’s Orpheus Brewing is dedicated to brewing styles with their own unique flair that are not widely available in most parts of the Southeast. One of their best examples is the massive 10% ABV double IPA, Transmigration of Souls. Referred to by the brewers as a “session double IPA”, it features new hop varieties like Azacca, Apollo, Wakatu, Galaxy and Mosaic that will likely be new flavors for many palates.
Tasting Notes: Despite not having the highest ABV of the lineup, Transmigration of Souls drinks like a big beer. A thick mouthfeel and caramel sweetness play in concert with ripe or slightly overripe fruit. One taster also described it as having a “vermouthy” character, while another simply said “it’s like two bitch slaps to the face,” in a good way.
ABV: 9.5% | New York
Head Brewer Greg Doroski is the mastermind turning the knobs and pushing the buttons on Threes Brewing’s small 15-barrel system in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. His genius and experimentation led to the creation of Superf*ckingyawn, an ale that is simply described on their website as “Imperial Pale Ale – Juicy. Tropical Fruit. Moderate Pine. Sticky. Warming. Dangerous.” SFY is available on a rotating basis at the brewery and to go in growler fills. For a brewery that only opened in October 2014, they are giving Other Half a run for their money for best beer in Brooklyn.
Tasting Notes: One of, if not the, best beer on our list. Each taster picked Superf*ckingyawn in their top three beers of the test. The beer is a perfect example of what the juicy double IPA can be. Dank fruity undertones are put on display. Unadulterated hop flavors are smooth and balanced throughout the entire palate. One taster also added that it had a gin and “junipery” botanical character.
Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine
ABV: 8% | Vermont/Connecticut
Beer nerds may be up in arms at the fact that we included what is described on the can as an “India Pale Ale”. But the truth is, at 8% ABV, Sip of Sunshine is more in the realm of the double IPA than the single. Sean Lawson brews world-class beer in his small red wooden barn in the hills of Warren, Vermont. To get most of his beer, you have to travel to Vermont to either Beverage Warehouse of Winooski, the Warren Store, or a number of other small town stores. Sip of Sunshine was first brewed in Lawson’s small, red barn, but now he travels to Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, Connecticut once a month to brew it.
Tasting Notes: Despite being labeled as a single IPA, SOS fit into our taste test perfectly. Not a single taster called out that the beer was lighter or had less hop character. A nutty and woody character on the nose made way to pear and fruity notes at the front of the palate. The taste is distinctly hoppy with dank, oniony characteristics. While the hops used in SOS aren’t publicly advertised, a good bet is that Columbus is imparting those oniony characteristics. The fruits are there, but you have to fight just a little bit harder for them.