Brew Review

Brewed For Battle: Double IPA

At what point does one elevate from merely drinking beer to being a full-on beer snob? Answer: when you feel compelled to tell other people what to drink. And the inevitable result of this peculiar ailment is the beer argument.

In the spirit of all great beer-related discussions, we present Brewed For Battle; a new series of Chow Bella blog posts that pits a selection of brews from a given style up against each other and lets the taste buds of one layman battle them out. Multiple beers go in. One beer comes out the victor.

This week's battle: Imperial IPA

The Situation of the beer world, the Imperial IPA is the 'roided-out, guido version of the India Pale Ale.

Embracing the recent trend toward increasingly intense and flavorful beers, American craft brewers push the envelope here by adding irresponsible amounts of hops to their brews. The resulting beers are bigger than either English or American IPAs in hop flavor, bitterness and alcohol content.

The use of the word "imperial" in the name is arbitrary -- stemming from the Russian Imperial Stout, a style that's naturally stronger and bigger in character than other stouts, it simply denotes a stronger version of an IPA. You could also go with "double IPA," "extra IPA," or "EXTREME!!!!!!"

Zach's Pick: Bell's Hopslam Being a big believer in the phrase "variety is the spice of life," there aren't many beers that I'll buy more than one or two bottles of. But every January, when Hopslam makes its trip from Kalamazoo, Mich. to local shelves, I turn into a greedy Hopslam hobbit, making trip after trip to pick up more of my precious.

It's made with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle along with a big dollop of honey, then dry-hopped with ass-ton of Simcoe hops -- all of which give it floral, grassy aromas and flavors of grapefruit, stone fruit and raw sugar that make it much, much more drinkable than its 10 percent ABV would imply.

Jonathan's Pick: Left Hand Twin Sisters I like my IPAs to taste like freshly-mowed grass. If drinking it doesn't remind you at least a bit of chomping on green tea bags, there's something off. As such, I was mildly disappointed by Left Hand Brewing's Twin Sisters. Maybe the twin sisters are actually bitter and sweet. In this family, sweetness got a sweet-sixteen pony. Bitter got to clean up its smelly leavings. In other words, the sweetness here is overwhelming; something you don't want in an IPA of any variety. It's not bad, just not as bitter as I would like. If you need a gateway to IPA glory (you poor, poor person), you might give Twin Sisters a try.

Shannon's Pick: Breckenridge 471 IPA Breckenridge Small Batch 471 Double IPA - I love hops. The more perfume the better. Double IPA's are right up my ally. Which is why when you hand me a beer that is referred to as an "aggressive" IPA with "more hoppiness then you've ever had at one time" it better deliver. The 471 falls a little short of the overwhelming hops experience I was expecting. Don'g get me wrong it's a great beer that is surprisingly drinkable for a double IPA(it's 9.2% ABV, you probably wouldn't notice until you were three deep and on the floor), but when if i'm looking to have my mind blow by hops, this is not going to be the beer to do.

The Layman's Choice: This week's layman was Chow Bella contributor Theresa Cano. She digs on the Hopslam.

"I'm not a huge IPA fan, but I could definitely drink a 471. The bitterness gets you at the end, though. The Twin Sisters tastes like hop soda pop. It's sweet, sugary and not aggressively bitter -- more sneaky bitter. Hopslam hits the happy medium between the two. It's got a smoother finish, pleasant bitterness and doesn't jump all over back of your throat."

Next week: Fruit beers -- just in time for V-day.

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Jonathan McNamara