With fall in full swing, drinking preferences often trend toward more robust and full-flavored selections than those we typically enjoy during the summer. The holidays are also just around the corner, and family and friends will be gathering, so it’s best to be prepared with a fridge stocked full of chilly weather’s best friend: imperial IPAs.
Imperial IPAs are basically India pale ales kicked up to 11—more malts, more alcohol and most importantly, more hops. The result is a complex, strong sipping beer with IBUs, or international bittering units, climbing above 60 and, in some cases, well beyond at upward of 100.
Imperial IPAs are perfect for the season. They lend themselves wonderfully to Thanksgiving fare, especially sweet potatoes, savory stuffing and even turkey—they offer assertive earthy flavors of rich hops and resiny or piny spice, all of which boost the often one-dimensional or bland flavors of the bird. Compared to regular IPAs, the higher alcohol content, richer mouthfeel and amped-up flavor profiles found in imperial or double IPAs all complement the traditional American Thanksgiving fare, as well as promising a lively dinner table conversation.
Today’s selections—and there are many—are wonderfully varied. In these brews, perhaps more than any other style, the hops are the stars, taking center stage on the nose and palate. Brewers are playing with new hop varieties and ingredient bills to produce the exact final profile they want to achieve, and often list the hops they’ve used for those who look for selections made with their personal favorites.
For those who might not be pronounced hopheads, non-imperial IPAs offer the same, albeit dialed-down, earthy spice and moderate astringency, so be sure to have both on hand to satisfy all of your guest’s lupulin preferences.
Reuben’s Brews Blimey That’s Bitter Triple India Pale Ale; $NA/22 oz, 92 points. This “triple” IPA pours a honey-gold color, with a dense head that leaves good lacing behind. With about 6 pounds of hops added per barrel, it offers intense aromas of citrus, pine and tropical fruits, all of which transition into the smooth, creamy palate. There’s ample caramel malt at the core, grounding the hop flavors and appropriately bitter texture. Though slightly warm and round in body, it’s not out of balance, and offers a pleasant hit of pine-resin flavor on the finish. abv: 10.5%
Harpoon Hoppy Adventure Double IPA; $13/16 oz 4 pack, 91 points. This pours a clean golden-orange color, with a frothy off-white head that leaves nice lacing behind with each sip. Scents of cut grass, orange supreme, freshly baked bread, floral hops and just a touch of pine needle all dance in the bouquet. Those notes all continue through to the malty, robust palate, which showcases superb overall balance and surprising drinkability for a DIPA. The finish is dry and lightly spiced with notes of mossy earth and peach pit. abv: 7.8%
Lord Hobo Boomsauce IPA; $13/16 oz 4 pack, 91 points. This is such a fun product, from the dark can to the clever name and the contents within. It’s not for the faint of heart, leading with pronounced aromas of dank hops, candied orange rind, grapefruit pith and soft pine resin. The palate is fairly malty and rich, supporting the assertive hop profile, though ample carbonation keeps the slick mouthfeel from feeling too weighty. A pleasant warmth unfolds on the dry, astringent finish. abv: 7.8%
Coronado Brewing Co. Stingray IPA Imperial India Pale Ale; $14/12 oz 6 pack, 90 points. Brewed with Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe and Southern Cross hops, this canned DIPA pours a gorgeous golden color and shines with intense aromas of fresh citrus, pineapple, tropical fruit and cut grass. Herbal and floral hop tones override the nose, while the palate offers a rich caramel-malt spine to ground the hoppy bitterness through the slightly sticky finish. It’s smooth and creamy in texture, though ample carbonation keeps the mouthfeel balanced and drinkable, with final hits of grapefruit feel and hop resin on the close. abv: 7.9%
Lord Hobo Consolation Prize Double India Pale Ale; $15/ 16 oz 4 pack, 90 points. There’s loads to behold in this forward, flavorful brew. Intense aromas of orange and grapefruit peel as well as earthy, pressed hop flowers dominate the bouquet, with hints of peach skin and pineapple core in the background. The palate is bitter and chewy, with flavors of pine resin and citrus rind that carry through to the long, dry finish. Ample carbonation and notes of biscuit malt and caramel help to keep the hop profile in check, balancing out the sip. abv: 9.5%
Coronado Brewing Co. Idiot IPA Imperial India Pale Ale; $14/12 oz 6 pack, 89 points. Brewed with Nugget, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus hops, this pours a burnt orange color with a foamy white head that shows good retention. The nose is all hop character, with scents of citrus pith, dried grass, peach pit and light pine resin. The palate starts off bitter, but then transitions to sweeter, malt-driven flavors of caramel and browned biscuit before veering back to the astringent hop characteristics that hang on through the dry finish. abv: 8.5%
Coronado Brewing Co. 21 Imperial IPA; $14/12 oz 6 pack, 88 points. This beer, which celebrates the brewery’s 21st anniversary, was brewed with a blend of Azacca, Citra and Centennial hops. It’s surprisingly fruity in character, with forward notes of stone fruit, tangerine and red apple that mingle with the hoppy notes of grapefruit, green grape and pine resin. The medium-bodied mouthfeel is round and filling, with an oily slickness that lingers through the finish. Final hints of dried grass, citrus pith and pine needle unfold on the bitter finish. abv: 8%
Tumwater White Water Double IPA; $8/ 12 oz 6 pack, 87 points. This is a quite straightforward and malty IPA, with assertive notes of caramel, toasted grain and brown bread that dominate the nose and mouth. The hop profile is quite subdued for a DIPA, with faint notes of earth and grass that finish bitter and tangy. A faint hint of citrus peel unfolds in the medium-weight mouth. abv: 7.5%