Last week, after realizing that I had a single bottle each of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, Bell’s HopSlam and The Alchemist’s Heady Topper (well…the latter was a can, but whatever), I decided that a blind taste-test was in order. Cask Beerouac, Red Flanders, and Joey Joe Joe Jr. Shabadoo stopped by for a quick tasting to determine which DIPA was the true king of the hop-bombs.
A few HUGE caveats are in order. First, I’m not actually claiming that any of these beers are the best DIPAs in the world. However, all three are generally in that discussion. BeerAdvocate’s Best DIPA list is actually topped by Pliny the Younger which is draft-only and a limited-release brew so it couldn’t be included in this tasting. The Younger is followed by the Heady Topper, then the Elder, then Kern River’s Citra DIPA (which I actually prefer to any beer on BA’s list), then Lawson’s Double Sunshine (I’ll get you some day, Lawson…some day), then the HopSlam. So, even based on BA’s rankings, only 3 of the Top 6 DIPAs were represented in this tasting.
Second, DIPAs, due to their hop-forward nature, need to be consumed VERY fresh in order to enjoy them at their peak. Since HopSlam is released in March, it was well past its prime. The Pliny was fresher than that, but still too old for this to really be a fair competition. Hop oils break down rapidly so if a beer is brewed to showcase hops in all their glory, it’s sort of pointless to drink it after its most important characteristic has faded. But Aleheads has never been a blog focused on logic or reason. So we did the tasting anyway.
Oh, also, we added a Lagunitas Hop Stoopid to the mix just to see how well a pure hop extract-brewed DIPA stood up to the legends. It held its own to say the least.
We poured the four delicious elixirs (delixirs?) into opaque cups so the beer color wouldn’t sway us. I poured for the other three participants and Cask poured mine so we wouldn’t know which beer was in which cup. Then we sipped, compared, sipped again, compared again, ate some chips to cleanse our palate, sipped again, rated the beers, guessed which was which, and finally, after much waffling, tallied up the results.
I wish there were some surprises in the totals, but alas, it was pretty predictable. The Heady Topper, which was the freshest beer on the table, dominated with three #1 votes and one #2. Hop Stoopid, second freshest, came in second with one #1 vote and three #2′s. Pliny came in third with HopSlam bringing up the rear. In other words, the only thing we really learned was that fresh DIPAs taste better than old ones. Shocking, I know. Stop the presses.
Still, it was fun having four of the world’s best DIPAs at the same time and comparing the various aromas (some leaning heavily towards citrus and grapefruit, the other towards pine and weed) was enjoyable. We all cracked into some Oskar Blue’s Deviant Dale’s after and wondered how it would have fared in the blind taste test (likely third…ahead of the faded Pliny and HopSlam). When I had a few Plinys on draft in Colorado over the weekend, I remembered exactly why it’s considered one of the world’s best. It had so much more bite and brilliance than the months-old bottle we drank during the tasting.
So to recap…here’s what I learned:
1. Leave the blind taste-tests to actual beer judges.
2. Drink your DIPAs immediately. Like, right now. Leave work and go home and drink them. They’re getting worse as you read this.
3. Heady Topper is ridiculously good.
4. Draft DIPAs are better than bottles.
5. Even past-their-prime Plinys and HopSlams are pretty damn tasty.
6. Seriously…go drink your DIPAs. Call me, I’ll come help you.