A quick primer: the simplest definition of the IPA is that it’s a hoppier and a higher alcohol version of the classic pale ale. A double IPA is even higher in ABV (landing around eight to ten percent) and the brews are largely known for their extremely hoppy notes and pronounced bitterness. It’s truly a beer for IPA fans who want their beers turned up to eleven and one that might be a little too potent for IPA novices — you might have to work your way up to the bold flavor profile.
There are seemingly endless double IPAs on the market and, sadly, I don’t have time to try them all. So I decided to once again turn to a blind taste test to help me pick the best. I blindly nosed and tasted eight highly rated double IPAs (according to Beeradvocate.com) and then ranked them. It’s as simple as that.
Our lineup today includes:
- Bell’s Hopslam
- Stone Ruination 2.0
- Lawson’s Finest Double Sunshine
- Victory Dirt Wolf
- Firestone Walker Double Haze
- Cigar City Florida Man
- Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA
- Second Fiddle Double Fiddle
Let this Double IPA party commence!
Part 1: The Taste
On the nose, you’ll find aromas of caramel malts, mangos, guava, tangerines, dank pine, and slight floral hops. The palate is highlighted by notes of passion fruit, mango, orange zest, juicy pineapple, cracker-like malts, slight toffee, floral hops, and a slightly bitter, herbal finish.
The nose isn’t exceptional. There are hints of grapefruit and tangerine, but not much else. The palate is slightly more flavorful with bread-like malts, slight tropical fruit sweetness, wet grass, more citrus zest, and a fairly sweet and not-at-all bitter finish.
It’s a surprisingly sweet beer that needs more bitterness for this category.
This beer’s nose is so complex, it took a few sniffs to find all of the aromas. I noticed scents of pine tree needles, ripe melons, wet grass, resin, slight citrus zest, and herbal, floral hops. The flavors are equally memorable with hints of ripe tangerine, fresh grapefruit, juicy pineapple, toffee-like malts, and tart, slightly bitter hops that tie everything together.
This is a complex, pine-forward beer on the nose. On top of dank and piney resin, there are also aromas of grapefruit, tangerine, wet grass, and a slightly herbal quality. The palate is filled with pithy orange, ripe melon, tropical fruits, and a ton of spicy pine. The finish is dry and slightly bitter.
A lot is going on with this beer’s nose. There are notable hints of citrus zest, ripe tropical fruits, tangerine, grapefruit, and gentle, herbal, floral hoppy notes. The taste is extremely complex with hints of guava, fresh grapefruit, pineapple, caramel malts, and a memorable dry, bitter, piney finish.
On the nose, I found a whole forest of Christmas trees along with ripe pineapple, citrus zest, caramel malts, and lupulin. The sip delivered caramel, dried fruits, zesty citrus, and a ton of dank, herbaceous bitter hops. The bitterness lingers but there’s also a nice hit of malt in there.
This beer’s nose is loaded with citrus and tropical fruits. But after orange zest, mango, grapefruit, and slight floral notes, it’s fairly muted. The palate has a little more complexity with notes of juicy tangerine, ripe pineapple, caramel malts, and slightly bitter hops at the finish.
This is a decent beer, but nothing to write home about.
This beer has an intensely citrus-driven nose. There are hints of ripe melon, zesty tangerine, guava, passion fruit, and a gentle, floral hop presence. But the aromas are overall unexciting. The palate is a little too citrus-centered with flavors like grapefruit, orange pulp, and tropical fruits.
From my notes: “While this is clearly a hazy, juicy beer, it lacked the bitter hop wallop I expect.”
Part 2: The Ranking
8) Cigar City Florida Man (Taste #2)
Average Price: $10 for a six-pack
You’ve probably seen the legendary term “Florida Man” in various headlines about the weird, debaucherously odd behavior of certain men in the “Sunshine State.” To pay homage to this local legend, Tampa’s Cigar City created this double IPA brewed with Citra, El Dorado, Azacca, and Mandarina Bavarian hops. It gets added flavor from the addition of double IPA yeast, peach esters, and Canadian honey malt.
Clearly, this is a well-made beer. It’s complex, flavorful, and easy to drink. It just doesn’t have that hop bitterness I prefer in a double IPA.
7) Firestone Walker Double Haze (Taste #8)
Average Price: $12.50
This super juicy, hoppy, hazy double IPA is brewed with wheat, malts, and oats. The hops flavor is intense with Mandarina and Cascade in the kettle and Azacca, Mosiac, Chinook, El Dorado, Callista, Cashmere, Idaho 7, Idaho Gem, Sabro, and Motueka dry hops.
This is a beer for fans of higher ABV, juicy, hazy beers who don’t really have a lot of concern for hop bitterness.
6) Victory Dirt Wolf (Taste #7)
Average Price: $13 for a six-pack
I’m not sure what a dirt wolf is, but this bold, hoppy beer is certainly fierce. Touted for its “untamed, howling hop flavor,” it’s brewed with Pale and Pale Crystal malts as well as Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Chinook hops.
This beer is fairly balanced with complementary flavors of sweet malts, citrus, tropical fruits, and hop bitterness. It’s just not as exciting and memorable as some others on the market.
5) Stone Ruination 2.0 San Filtre (Taste #1)
Average Price: $8 for a 22-ounce bottle
Brewed with Magnum, Nugget, Centennial, Citra, and Azacca hops, this dry-hopped beast is unfiltered (hence the name “sans filter”). It’s known for its out-of-bounds hoppy, dank, pine tree, tropical fruit flavor. There’s a reason it’s one of the most popular takes on the double IPA style.
This is a bold, unbridled, unfiltered exceptional beer. It’s fruity, loaded with citrus flavor, and has a nice malty backbone. The only thing holding it back (for me!) is a lack of pine on the palate.
4) Second Fiddle Double Fiddle (Taste #4)
Average Price: $18 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans
One of the most popular double IPAs on the market, Second Fiddle is the amped-up, higher alcohol content, hoppier version of the brewery’s original IPA. It’s known for its mix of sweetness and bitterness with a nice combination of citrus and tropical fruit flavors that pair well with resinous hops.
This is the type of beer double IPA drinkers dream of. It’s all citrus, pine, and bitterness. It’s exactly what you hope for in an imperial IPA.
3) Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (Taste #6)
Average Price: $16 for a four-pack
While the double IPA has become more popular in the last decade, there are few as iconic and beloved as Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Available since 2001, this continuously hopped beer is well-known for its remarkable hop flavor, bitterness, and citrus zest. It literally tastes like a hop in beer form.
This is a complex, potent double IPA. The unabashed hop flavor knocks you out. You better enjoy bitter, dank hops if you crack open one of these brews.
2) Bell’s Hopslam (Taste #5)
Average Price: $17 for a six-pack
One of the most eagerly-awaited double IPAs, Bell’s Hopslam is only available in January and February. Brewed with six different hops before being dry-hopped with Simcoe hops, the addition of honey adds a needed sweetness. This is a hoppy, citrus-driven respite from the winter months that drinkers look forward to every year.
It’s hard to find a double IPA with better balance than this one. It ticks all the double IPA boxes with citrus, malts, and a nice floral, dank bitterness that leaves you wanting more.
1) Lawson’s Finest Double Sunshine (Taste #3)
Average Price: $17 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans
Lawson’s Finest Sip of Sunshine is an amazing beer. The only better beer made by the Vermont-based brewery is its Double Sunshine. This highly sought-after eight percent ABV imperial IPA is known for its dank, floral, piney, juicy flavor profile that really does taste like one would imagine a sip of sunshine might taste.
This just might be the perfect double IPA. There’s a gentle malt backbone that works in unison with the fruity, citrus, and dank pine notes. It’s just a great beer that I’ll definitely seek out again.