All Hopped Up – American Double IPAs
Don’t get us wrong, there are plenty of fantastic American double IPAs out there; but if we had our way, we’d always have a bottle of Pliny the Elder and a can of Heady Topper at the ready.
We’ll start out on the West Coast, where Vinnie Cilurzo, the Russian River Brewing Company’s brewmaster, first conceived of Pliny the Elder in 2000 as a way of participating in a double-IPA festival (at the time, the brewery didn’t produce a double IPA). According to Mesirow, it was Cilurzo who invented the style, so it should come as no surprise that his ale is often considered the yardstick by which all others are judged. “It’s the platonic ideal of a double IPA,” Mesirow says. “It’s not sweet at all, but it’s not crushingly bitter, which some double IPAs can be. It has a ton of those pine-tree notes that I love so much, and just a little grapefruit citrus peel underneath.”
As for Heady Topper, the flagship—and for a time, the only—beer brewed by John Kimmich at the Alchemist in Waterbury, Vt., is an ode to hops (six of them, to be precise). “Tremendous amounts of American hops will creep up on you and leave you with a dense, hoppy finish in your mouth,” Kimmich says. “Sometimes I wish I could crawl right into the can.”
The beer pours a wonderful golden amber and releases a citrusy floral bouquet (Kimmich urges drinkers to enjoy it from the can, but we just couldn’t help ourselves). “East Coast IPAs tend to be maltier and sweet, but this was really dry,” Mesirow says. “The beer has such a great reputation, but I expected it to be a typical East Coast IPA. It wasn’t at all.”