Aug. 22, 2011
As some of you who follow the blog already know I have just completed Project #1 - The DIPA Project. The goal of the DIPA Project was to taste and review the Top 20 Most Reviewed American Double/Imperial IPAs on Beer Advocate - in other words, the 20 most popular Double IPAs in the country.
As you might imagine, drinking 20 world-class beers was a lot of fun, but what surprised me most was how much I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt. It was a blast tracking down some of the harder to find beers and then to finally cross them off the list was very satisfying. With a sharp focus on a particular style of beer, I also had the opportunity to learn a ton about this popular beer style. Some of that I'll discuss here in this post, but what I'm sure you'll all find more interesting is how they all stack up.
Let's start with how the list looks on Beer Advocate today. The rankings here have nothing to do with quality, just quantity - more specifically, the number of times they have been reviewed on Beer Advocate's website. As you'll notice, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA holds the top spot with over 3,000 reviews.
Now, if we rank these same beers according to their quality, measured by their BA average review scores (1 is the lowest possible, 5 is the highest possible), here's what we comes up with:
1. Russian River Pliny the Elder - 4.59/A+
2. Bell's Hopslam - 4.43/A
3. Three Floyd's Dreadnaught - 4.39/A
4. Stone Ruination IPA - 4.29/A
5. AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer) - 4.29/A
6. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA - 4.25/A-
7. Great Divide Hercules Double IPA - 4.2/A-
8. Avery Maharaja - 4.18/A-
9. Lagunitas Hop Stoopid - 4.18/A-
10. Founders Double Trouble - 4.17/A-
11. Dogfish Head Burton Baton - 4.16/A-
12. Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale - 4.16/A-
13. Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA - 4.13/A-
14. Southern Tier Unearthly (Imperial IPA) - 4.13/A-
15. Oskar Blues G'Knight/Gordon Ale - 4.12/A-
16. Victory Hop Wallop - 4.06/A-
17. Founders Devil Dancer - 4.01/A-
18. Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale - 4/B+
19. Lagunitas Maximus - 3.91/B+
20. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - 3.86/B+
The average Beer Advocate score for these 20 beers is 4.1735, or an A-, which also happens to be the grade most often given by the BA community to beers on this list - 12 times. Interestingly, the three beers that were highest in Alcohol Content (Alcohol By Volume - ABV) occupied three of the bottom four spots on the list. Dogfish 120 ranked highest in ABV at 18%, but lowest in overall score. Founders Devil Dancer (12%) and Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale (11.5%) were the next highest in ABV and ended up at #17 and #18 respectively. The only beer above 10% to even crack the Top 10 in quality was Avery's Maharaja clocking in a 10.5% ABV and ranked 8th.
Conversely, the three beers with the lowest ABV - Russian River Pliny the Elder (8%), Stone Ruination (7.7%) and Lagunitas Hop Stoopid (8%) ranked #1, #4 and #9 respectively, all in the Top 10. The outlier in the ABV department was Lagunitas Maximus (8.2%) coming in at #19.
Additionally, the correlation between IBUs (International Bitterness Units) and ranking was interesting. While it was not as strong as the ABV correlation, it was interesting to note that most of the beers that were over 100 IBUs were in the bottom half of the list. Those that hovered around 100 or a little lower generally received higher scores.
Interestingly, it seems as though in the Double IPA category, Beer Advocate reviewers prefer a more reasonable alcohol content and a slightly less over-the-top hop profile.
That is not necessarily the case for me, however. It turns out the ABV did not impact my taste very much, but I love bitter beer and generally speaking the hoppier and more bitter, the better. Let's take a look at how I ranked these 20 beers:
1. AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer) - 4.85/A+
2. Bell's Hopslam - 4.75/A+
3. Stone Ruination - 4.68/A+
4. Avery Maharaja - 4.68/A+
5. Russian River Pliny the Elder - 4.53/A+
6. Founders Double Trouble - 4.4/A
7. Founders Devil Dancer - 4.33/A
8. Dogfish Head Burton Baton - 4.25/A-
9. Three Floyds Dreadnaught - 4.2/A-
10. Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA - 4.2/A-
11. Oskar Blues Gordon Ale/G'Knight Ale - 3.95/B+
12. Lagunitas Maximus - 3.93/B+
13. Great Divide Hercules Double IPA - 3.9/B+
14. Victory Hop Wallop - 3.68/B
15. Lagunitas Hop Stoopid - 3.65/B
16. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - 3.65/B
17. Southern Tier Unearthly (Imperial IPA) - 3.6/B
18. Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale - 3.55/B
19. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA - 3.48/B-
20. Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale - 2.7/C-
My average review score for the group was a little lower than the average score from other BA members - 4.048, that is still an A-, but a lower one and the grades I most often doled out were A+ and B, both being awarded to five beers apiece. As I mentioned above, ABV did not seem to influence my score at all. To my surprise, IBUs did seem to impact my scores, but not in the way I expected. The beers that hovered right around 100 IBUs ended up doing the best with me. 100 IBUs is pretty typical for a DIPA and it was the beers on the edges of the style in terms of IBUs that fared the worst with me.
The three highest IBU beers, Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe (153), Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (120) and Southern Tier Unearthly (150+) checked in on my list at #10, #16 and #17 respectively. Three of the four lowest IBU beers, Oskar Blues Gordon Ale (60), Lagunitas Maximus (72) and Victory Hop Wallop (70) ended up in the #11, #12 and #14 spots respectively. The only low-IBU beer that cracked my top 10 was the Dogfish Head Burton Baton (70) coming in at #8.
So what does this say about me? Probably not much except that I prefer a more traditional Double IPA. One that is about 100 IBUs.
On that note, I'm going to wrap this one up and coming soon I'll have my picks for the best beers in each category - look, smell, taste and feel. Cheers!