Talking Head - Style sheet: Double India Pale Ale

Wednesday October 29, 2008 12:04 am EDT

Hand it to Americans to take an extreme style and make it more extreme. If more hops and higher alcohol content made India Pale Ales so good, wouldn’t even more of both be even better? Most DIPAs have an alcohol content by volume of 7 percent to 10 percent, with some ranging higher than that. Hops are typically measured by the bushel rather than the handful, and are used throughout the brewing process, including dry-hopping during fermentation. International Bittering Units, or IBU, can be as high as 100 (Budweiser has about 10 IBU).

Vinnie Cilurzo of Blind Pig Brewing Company in Temecula, Calif., is credited with serving the first commercial example of a Double IPA in 1995 at the first anniversary of the pub. He continued to produce mercilessly hoppy beers for subsequent anniversaries and when he moved to Russian River Brewing Company in 1999, he made a DIPA available year-round as Pliny the Elder, one of the top 10 rated beers in the world. Stone Brewing Company’s Greg Koch got the last growler of the Blind Pig Second Anniversary Ale in 1996 and went on to produce his own DIPA anniversary ales from 1998 to 2001. Stone’s Ruination DIPA is now a regular part of the lineup.

These West Coast DIPAs are unabashedly bitter and deliberately unbalanced to showcase hop aromas and flavors. They are intended for those who find beer nirvana in Pine Sol-like resins and grapefruit rind bitterness. East of the Mississippi, the style has taken on a more balanced character, with a sturdy, caramel malt backbone to back up the waves of hops. Bitterness is toned down somewhat to open up the floral, herbal, and citrusy notes of the hop profile.

If you want to start off with a training-wheels version, check out Clipper City’s Loose Cannon, a borderline IPA/Double IPA at 7.25 percent ABV. Citrusy, fruity notes of orange and apple dominate the flavor profile, with some floral hop aroma and a graham cracker-like sweetness in the background.

If you are looking for something more aggressive than the Loose Cannon, consider Victory’s Hop Wallop. Tons of citrusy hops here, with bracing piney oils and tart green apple. The candylike malts bring some tropical fruit esters to the fore, taking some of the sting out of the wallop. Super smooth and creamy, the beer hides its 8.5 percent ABV well, so watch out!

The best example of a true West Coast Double IPA hop bomb available in Georgia is the recently arrived Stone Ruination. Huge pine and grapefruit characterize the aroma and flavor, with some fruity malts in the background. The bitterness is not astringent, but it is powerful enough, and lingers long. The mouthfeel is a bit thin and the finish is bone dry. There is some great hop flavor in the Ruination, but not enough malt to hang it on. I found it to be too one-sided for my tastes, and I am crazy for hops. It’s definitely worth a try if you enjoy hops, though.

Halloween Beer and Cheese Tasting at the 5th Earl Market

The 5th Earl Market will be pairing five fall beers with appropriate cheeses on Halloween eve, Thurs., Oct 30. The beers featured will be Ayinger Octoberfest, Lakefront Pumpkin Lager, Wychwood Hob Goblin, Coney Island Freaktoberfest, and Avery Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest. The cost is $25 per person and seating is limited to the first 25 people to sign up. Send an e-mail to brian@5thearlmarket.com or call the store at 404-377-5477 for reservations.

Belgian-Themed Beer Dinner at 5 Seasons

5 Seasons North in Alpharetta is putting on another beer dinner on Wed., Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. This one features vintage and aged ales from Crawford’s laboratory, along with Cornish hen, grilled marlin, and wild boar. The beers include such beauties as a nearly 2-year-old trippel, a saison aged in red wine barrels, and a 2007 vintage Quinte55ence, a remarkable Belgian-style “quintuple.” The night finishes with the Answer, a whiskey barrel-aged Quinte55ence that I thought was one of the most remarkable beers I have ever tasted. It is paired with a Belgian chocolate mousse tart and Quinte55ence-whiskey ice cream. That alone is probably worth the $65 cost. Call 5 Seasons North at 770-521-5551 to make a reservation.