The Brewer’s Association doesn’t acknowledge triple IPA as a style, but if you look around in the craft beer scene anywhere in the U.S. these days, it quickly becomes clear that perhaps it is time. In fact, HopCulture speculated on the validity of the style in 2017 before ultimately chalking it up to marketing. The most famous example of the triple IPA may be Russian River’s much sought-after Pliny the Younger – a beer that, while delicious, proves the theory that marketing is everything. Every February – March these heavily hopped beasts make their presence known during the unofficial Triple IPA season. The recent surge in canning is leading to the increasing availability of these IIIPA’s available locally and nationally.
The New School contributors decided to prove this by highlighting eight examples of triple IPAs currently being offered from breweries across the Pacific Northwest and California. For the sake of this article, we classify a triple IPA as anything over 9% ABV. Whether you are looking for an alternative to big stouts during the colder seasons and want to give your palate a hoppy overload, or maybe you just want to sip on something a little more decadent, these triple IPAs are worth a try.
Blimey That’s Bitter!
As someone who doesn’t usually go gung ho for triple IPAs, I have been impressed with the offerings from Reuben’s Brews. Gobsmacked is world class and absolutely worth seeking out, with a 93 rating on BeerAdvocate. Their latest TIPA – Blimey That’s Bitter! – may actually be better. Loaded with heaping portions of Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo and Chinook hops – 90% of which are added in the last 10 minutes of the boil, this beer is bursting with tropical hop flavor that lands it in the West Coast category of IPA…or so you think? Where it differs is in the way the brewers ratchet up the bitterness for a whopping 80 IBUs that gracefully manage not to overwhelm your palate. They round it all out with a subtle but comfortably present malt backbone that lingers nicely in the background. Next time you hear someone expressing regret in not scoring any Pliny the Younger, point them towards this beer and they will not be disappointed, because this is the kind of beer that will have you embracing TIPAs with a similar level of admiration. -Neil Ferguson
El Segundo Brewing
Power Plant TIPA
Coming in at more than 11% ABV, this hoppy beast is about as charged up as you can get. It’s stuffed with massive doses of Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe and Amarillo, all of which coalesce to make for a beer that is definitely bitter but is also deceptively drinkable. In terms of style, it might not be entirely accurate to classify this as a West Coast considering the bitterness as well as the touch of malt that rounds it out. Sometimes TIPAs can be so boozed up as to impart a sweetness, and Power Plant is no exception. Luckily, the huge presence of hoppy bitterness gives it a balance that makes it thoroughly enjoyable. The bitterness tends to soften as this beer warms up, letting the malt take the stage for the second half of your pint. As far as TIPAs go, this beer generally retails for around $4-6 per can, giving you plenty of bang for your buck if you are chasing a buzz. – Neil Ferguson
Grains of Wrath Brewing
Spoils of War
An acquaintance of mine in the beer industry recently described triple IPAs as “fruity barley wine,” following it up with “…if you like that sort of thing.” Then I got to thinking, maybe that isn’t so bad? Isn’t barley wine supposed to be life after all? With their triple IPA Spoils of War – brewed for their third anniversary – Grains of Wrath may have been going for something like this, and the result is quite enjoyable. Hitting you right up front of a wave of robust hop bitterness, heavy dankness, and a sweetness that morphs into boozy warmth, this 10.5% behemoth is actually quite smooth. There is a fruitiness to it with notes of mango and citrus that make it refreshing in a weird way. Grains of Wrath may be best known for their exceptional West Coast IPAs, but anyone paying attention knows this brewery can nail pretty much any style. Spoils of War may be one of the best examples you can find of a TIPA, so give it a try if you want to dial up the dankness. – Neil Ferguson
Gobsmacked! Triple India Pale Ale
Gobsmacked! warms you up during the coldest months. A peach pit aroma is the first thing that hits your nose, followed by a booziness that doesn’t knock you back, but is prevalent. It’s full bodied, without being overly sweet. Often Triple IPA’s have a slick, sweet feel, but Reuben’s Brews seemed to nail the balance of the standard, “hoppy beer flavor,” and high ABV. The Quality Control is outstanding as expected from Reuben’s Brews. The beer is clean, clear and keeps its fresh taste. The carbonation stays around and feels good in your mouth.
The label provides an approachable description and is easily understandable. No esoteric overkill here! The flavor has the promised tangerine in the mid palate*, backed up by a bitter pithiness that leads to a softer finish than most Triple IPA’s. If your preference is value, Gobsmacked! pulls a 10% ABV, so it’s a good bang for your buck. The extra bonus is the overall drinkability. Reuben’s Brews puts out consistently clean beer, so anything from them is a safe bet, but if you want to enjoy a Triple IPA during the short season go with Gobsmacked!
Official label description: Peach aromas in the nose, with a cane sugar sweetness in support. Tangerine notes come through in the mid palette*, with notes of grapefruit on the back end. A smooth, soft and juicy body provides balance in the finish.
*Palate refers to your mouth. Palette refers to color. Pretty creative, deep meaning when Palette is used.
– Nicole Kasten
Abstract Places TIPA
Ruse Brewing took the malt-forward route with its Abstract Places triple IPA. Galaxy, Mosaic, and Citra hops lend fruity aromas, but bitterness is relatively modest, so this 10% ale shows plenty of malt, giving it a rich mouthfeel (go dextrins) and a relatively sweet but not cloying character. As with many of Ruse’s IPAs, it pours hazy, in this case with an orange-amber hue. There’s a touch of alcohol as expected, but for such a big beer, it sips more easily than one might expect, and that full malt body carries all the way through to a pleasant, refreshing finish. Ruse is already well-known for a wide range of IPAs, both hazy and not-so-hazy, and this triple version fits right in. It’s most likely to be found on sale at the brewery, just south of SE Holgate on SE 17th Avenue, and maybe in better beer shops in the region. Bonus: look for Ruse’s taproom to be reopening during the first week of March 2021. If you decide to consume an entire 16-ounce serving of Abstract Places there and don’t have an easy walk or public transport route home (hint: it’s on the MAX line), you’ll want to have a designated driver handy. It’s the responsible thing to do. – Don Scheidt
Ex Novo Brewing
Triple Down Economics TIPA
At 10% alcohol by volume and 100 IBUs of bitterness, Ex Novo’s Triple Down Economics isn’t an ordinary IPA. It’s unsurprisingly boozy, with huge hints of citrus and tropical fruit aromas courtesy of Sabro, Nelson, and Motueka hops. This is not a casual beer to knock back in a hurry, but a warming sipper that has you leaning back and mellow after finishing a sixteen-ounce can. It’s billed as a triple IPA, but unlike Russian River’s classic Pliny the Younger, this one pours rather cloudy, and finishes dryer than California’s legendary (or notorious) original. Beers like this aren’t meant for session drinkers, and this one is no exception. It’s strongly aromatic, and yes, there is plenty of hop bitterness as it goes in, pushing back against a huge malt backbone all the way to that dry, lingering finish. Can this be enjoyed with food? Sure, have it with some good spicy curry and rice, but a beer like this is easily something drunk on its own too. Triple Down Economics is one to savor responsibly; if you choose to knock one back at an Ex Novo pub and you don’t live within walking distance, have a designated driver on hand. It’s that potent. – Don Scheidt
A Life Beyond The Dream
Rosy gold with a rusty pink peachy hue, Oakshire’s new West Coast IIIPA serves up an effervescent nose of dried mangos and southern hemisphere citrus. Deceivingly light body for a 10.5% ABV beer with an initially balanced bitterness that creeps upwards with each sip leaving a dank piney pithiness at the back of the tongue. A citrusy candied orange marmalade sweetness serves to balance the lingering bitter orange peel flavors of 100+ IBU’s of hop bitterness that loads up on the palate. A Life Beyond goes above and beyond with modern cryo hop flavors from the 2020 harvest, at nearly 50# lbs per barrel they are loaded on so thick they approach the old school San Diego-style west coast hop grenades of yore. For anyone that likes their IPA’s big, bold, bitter and clear this is the beer for you. – Ezra Johnson-Greenough.
Pure Project Brewing
Shadow of the Moon
There is no clear delineation between when a Double IPA becomes a Triple IPA but we can all extrapolate that it means more hops and alcohol, but Pure Project Brewing’s Shadow of the Moon asks at what point does it become a Quintuple IPA? At 15% ABV and a nearly uncalcalcuable number of IBU’s, it certainly makes a case for it while never actually approaching quadrupling up on an India Pale Ale.
Pours like a frothy can of pineapple juice, and smells like it as well. White grape skins, grapefruit juice, and sweet pineapple spill out of the glass with aromatics that are surprisingly unbitter. The first sip is pure pleasure, like a dank pina colada, all the best components of a NE-style IPA without being cloying. For a beer this big you’d expect it to be borderline syrupy, tongue scrapingly bitter and boozy but this is none of those things. Sure there is the sugary juice of pineapple and the green veggies and weedy flavor of hops but this beer refuses to submerge itself into those extremes though it does pleasingly warm your insides like an electric blanket with each sip. – Ezra Johnson-Greenough.
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