With the excited fervor surrounding the February release of Russian RIver’s famous Pliny the Younger, double and imperial IPAs are the hop-laden songs on everyone’s lips. And while the Younger (and the Elder) are magical and some of the best IPAs on the planet, we have our own show-stopping versions in our little corner of the earth. Here are 10 of San Diego’s top double and imperial IPAs for your drinking pleasure:
Alesmith Yulesmith Summer, 8.5 percent ABV: Rated a perfect 100 on ratebeer, Alesmith’s Summer version is wonderfully refreshing with citrus notes of orange and grapefruit. Balanced with spicy and piney hops, you have a perfect Southern California IPA that you will want to take to all of your summer picnics and BBQs.
Alpine Exponential Hoppiness, 11 percent ABV: Arguably the finest producer of IPAs in the country, Alpine excels at all things hops. Utilizing numerous kettle hop additions and each time doubling the quantity, the hop numbers go into oblivion, hence the “exponential.” Add to that continual dry hopping and finishing off the onslaught with a bag of hop cones and oak chips.
Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA, 10 percent ABV: This World Beer Cup 2006 Bronze Award winner delivers hops in mega doses with huge aromatics and flavors. Using Crystal and Mount Hood hops, Dorado is grapefruity, woody and funky, and begs to be had at the end of a beach day by a fire.
Coronado Idiot IPA, 8.5 percent ABV: One of San Diego’s most popular double IPAs, the Idiot gets interested orders on the name alone. Brewed with eight hop varieties and dry hopped with whole cone Cascade, Coronado achieves a wonderful hop delight that’s been pleasing San Diegans for years.
Green Flash Imperial IPA, 9.4 percent ABV: Combining a blend of Summit and Nugget hops and registering at 101 IBUs, this craft favorite is for the IPA fan ready to take it to the next level. While cranking out the bitterness units, Brewmaster Chuck Silva creates a balance that doesn’t overwhelm the palate. Focused and delicious, “It’s all about the hops!”
Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA, 9 percent ABV: Take yourself to the tropics with this delicious hop monster, made with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops alongside Warrior and Ahtanum. Refreshing tropical aromas pair perfectly with the malty backbone and a balanced bitterness. Don’t forget to try their limited release Tower 20 IIPA, another fantastic offering with Centennial, Chinook and Crystal hops.
Port Brewing Hop 15, 10 percent ABV: Also scoring a perfect 100 on ratebeer, this San Diego classic dates to 2002 and was created in homage to the 15th anniversary of the original Pizza Port location in Solana Beach. Containing 15 hops, added every 15 minutes to the boil, this high-octane hop bomb is for those who love the resin-y side of IPAs. Piney with a burst of fresh citrus and spice, Hop 15 remains a favorite for craft beer lovers.
Societe The Roustabout, 9.2 percent ABV: Using an aromatic and flavor-packing combination of Citra, Simcoe, Columbus and Cascade hops, Societe nails it with its double IPA. In the words of a French San Diegan, “Le jus et la résine en parfait équilibre dans une concoction musclée mais aérienne. Agrumes sucrées, fruits oranges mûrs, des tons floraux expressifs...” Doesn’t that just sound wonderful, even if you can’t understand it? Trust me, it’s a good review.
Stone Ruination IPA, 8.2 percent ABV: This “liquid poem to the glory of the hop” is a true San Diego staple made with Chinook, Centennial and Magnum hops. First released in 2002, this craft beer has defined for many the double IPA style in Southern California. Also check out the RuinTen IPA at 10.8 percent ABV, “a stage dive into a mosh pit of hops,” which sits at 110 IBUs and contains five pounds of hops per barrel.
Beer expert “Dr. Bill” Sysak’s pick: Monkey Paw Muriqui, 10 percent ABV: Deceptively drinkable, this tribute to hops contains nine varieties and is balanced with citrus and bitterness. A must try.
Here’s to the hop! Cheers.
With 15 years in the restaurant and beverage industry and more than 700 reviews under her belt, Laurie Delk is a one-stop guide to all things craft beer, wine and spirits. You can follow Delk on Twitter @100beers30days or Instagram @sandiegobeer. Send ideas for featured drinks to firstname.lastname@example.org.