Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The DIPA Project Awards and Final Rankings (Part 2)

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Aug. 30, 2011

In case you missed Part 1 of this here it is.  Yesterday we covered the rankings, but how about the awards?  Yes, the DIPA Awards!  If you don't know what we're talking about yet, click that link in the line above and get up to speed.  If you do know what we're doing here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights then let's dive right in.

Best Overall Beer: AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer) - 8.5% ABV, 100 IBUs, San Diego, California 

This was maybe the biggest surprise of the entire project for me.  It was the last beer I reviewed and also the least reviewed beer on Beer Advocate out of the Top 20.  I was expecting to like it, but not as much as I did.  The taste was astounding, but the whole package was really great - particularly the appearance, which I will discuss in greater depth below.  Congrats to AleSmith on this beer - going into this project I expected Bell's Hopslam, Avery Maharaja or Pliny the Elder to take the cake, but AleSmith managed to top all of those outstanding breweries and beers with their annual 4th of July celebration beer.

Worst Overall Beer: Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale - 9.2%, 100+ IBUs, Novato, CA

I have nothing against Moylan's and, in fact, I loved their Barleywine and every other beer I've had of theirs.  The Imperial India Pale Ale just missed the mark in my opinion.  The beer lacked any balance, which is necessary with a beer that is as hopped up as a DIPA.  It also seemed as though there was no consideration for how this beer would feel.  It could have been saved if the mouthfeel weren't so abrasive.  I needed a glass of water to help wash it down - that is not a good sign.

Best Tasting Beer: Bell's Hopslam - 10%, 69-136 IBUs, Kalamazoo, Michigan

This was an extremely difficult decision, I gave the 5 out of 5 rating (in the taste category) to four beers on the list, YuleSmith, Ruination, Maharaja and the Hopslam.  Any one of them at any given time with any given batch of beer could probably take the cake in this category, but after having my fair share of Hopslam both on tap and in the bottle I have to say that Bell's wins this category by a hair with the consistency shown in this savior from early winter.  It may be the best tasting beer on the planet.

Best Looking Beer - AleSmith YuleSmith (Summer) - 8.5% ABV, 100 IBUs, San Diego, California

This is one of the few categories that was a no-brainer.  The color was absolutely gorgeous, the packaging is very appetizing and good looking and the head never fully dissipated throughout the entire pint.  This was the most amazing feat in head retention I have ever seen.  The only other times I have still had a solid layer of head at the bottom of the glass were the times that I had a beer completely foam up on me during the pour.  This was not the case with the YuleSmith, the head was thick after the pour, but not abnormally so.  It was just an all around pretty beer.

Most Overpriced Beer: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - 18% ABV, 120 IBUs, Milton, Delaware

Was I happy that I was one of the lucky few who got my hands on a couple of bottles of this year's 120 minute IPA?  Yes.  Was I happy to pay $19 for the bottle at a bar?  No.  Of course with an ABV as high as this and with the time and effort that went into creating this beer I understand the cost.  That said, I do not think the quality of the beer matched the cost.

Best Smelling Beer: Russian River Pliny the Elder - 8% ABV, 100 IBUs, Santa Rosa, California

The only other beer that came close to this one on the list was Founders Devil Dancer.  Otherwise, this was a runaway winner in the category.  As I mentioned in my review, when I first tried this beer I kept my nose in the glass for five minutes before taking my first sip because it smelled like "delicious, hoppy, magical flowers."  While overall, Pliny didn't come through as the experience it was hyped up to be, the smell alone was worth the hunt.  And now that I am living in Colorado, with just a little effort I can track this smell down again.

Best Feeling Beer: Founders Double Trouble - 9.4% ABV, 86 IBUs, Grand Rapids, Michigan

This was another runaway winner.  The Double Trouble was the only beer on The List that I gave a 5 out of 5 to in the mouthfeel department.  The light, flirty carbonation added so much to this already remarkably tasting beer that I no choice other than to dole out a perfect score in the category.  It does not get any better.  On a separate note, I didn't explicitly mention this in the review, but had the color and the lacing been just a shade stronger I would have ranked this one right up there with my favorites and given it an A+.  It's only real drawback is that it sort of looks like a light lager and the head/lacing isn't too impressive.

Best Beer/Music Pairing - Avery Maharaja - 10.54% ABV, 102 IBUs, Boulder, Colorado

You will probably not find this type of award anywhere else, however, throughout the process of reviewing the Top 20 most popular DIPAs on Beer Advocate I tried to match each beer up to a complimentary piece of music.  Some didn't really have a good pairing, while others were obvious right away.  The Founders Devil Dancer was, again, a close second in this category with a fairly obvious "Friend of the Devil" pairing, but Avery came out on top.  The obscure Donald Byrd track that happened upon my ears while I was writing the Maharaja review was called "Cristo Redento" and served to add greatly to my experience.  Oddly enough, although I was surprised by YuleSmith's last minute, come from behind victory to take the best overall and best taste categories, as I went back and reread my Maharaja review I noticed that I predicted that it was the only beer that could possibly knock off Maharaja for the best tasting.  Funny.

And with that, I believe the DIPA Project is officially over.  I intend to begin a new one very soon, but I am currently having a difficult time deciding on another set of 20 beers to write about.  If you have suggestions feel free to make them.  I also may take on more than one project at a time, depending on how much time I have, so feel free to make any suggestions even after I begin the next one.

A big thank you to everyone who has read and helped out with this project in any way.  To the readers, thanks a ton for stopping by and motivating me to keep writing.  To r/beer and Beer Advocate, thank you so much for providing me insight, thoughts, help and a good argument or two - a particular thanks to BAers ren and nevins for working out trades with me for YuleSmith and Double Simcoe respectively.  Thanks to my brother-in-law Dan (And Happy Birthday Buddy!) for talking DIPAs with me on a regular basis and helping me track down Devil Dancer.  Thanks to Kyle and Phil at Prairie Moon in Evanston who served me many of the beers on this list over the past year.  Thanks to Carlos at Fischman's in Chicago for holding onto that 4-pack of Devil Dancer for me.  Finally, thanks to Emily, my wonderful girlfriend for traveling all over the country with me this past year as we searched for schools and great beer.  It would not have been anywhere near as fun without you.  I'm probably missing someone, and if I am, I'll update this post.  Until next time, stay tuned and Cheers!


  1. Interesting post, as I'm a huge fan of Alesmith IPA though haven't had the Yulesmith. My favorite Double is Speakeasy Double Daddy from San Fran and Ballast Point Scalpin.

    Why not a 'under 7% beer project?' as everyone goes on about Session beers, but I know my favorites tend to be over the 7% threshold.

  2. Not a bad idea, although there are a ton of under 7%ers, but maybe an under 7% IPA list? A focus on some more sessionable stuff could be fun.