DRAFT PICKS: On ‘standards’ and ‘doubles’

Recently, a reader of this column asked me what the difference was between a “standard IPA” and an American Double IPA.

In very short, American Doubles have more muscle.

This may seem simplistic, but in many ways it is simplistically true.

Look, teammates, American Doubles have double the oooomph of more standard IPAs. That’s way it’s called a “double.”

They are hoppier. Often WAY more hoppy.

They are more hefty — what is called in the more formal tasting world “more robust.” If you like the real hoppy brews, than maybe you should be drifting toward the American Doubles.

IPAs are becoming more and more popular with brewers and craft brew drinkers alike. There actually has been so much of a move to IPAs and American Doubles that some brewers are kinda pushing back and actually refusing to join what they see as a stampede.

While most breweries have an IPA or two on the menu, some are a refusing to do so. Whatever. I don’t see the overwhelming philosophical argument to be made here. If folks like IPAS and hoppy brews — more power to them.

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guidelines offers this description of American Pale Ales:

“A decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale.

“An American version of the historical English style, brewed using American ingredients and attitude.”

Then the guidelines for Imperial Pale Ales are offered:

“An intensely hoppy, very strong pale ale without the big maltiness and/or deeper malt flavors of an American barleywine.

“Strongly hopped, but clean, lacking harshness, and a tribute to historical IPAs. Drinkability is an important characteristic; this should not be a heavy, sipping beer. It should also not have much residual sweetness or a heavy character grain profile.”

They are very similar, which is why many brews in this genre are actually given a double classification.

Again, in short, the doubles simply have a more beefy hops profile.

If you are a hops lover the American Double IPA may be the way you want to be exploring.

Here are a number of the best as considered by the good folks at Beer Advocate:

  • 90 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head Brewery
  • Pliny The Elder - Russian River Brewing Company - Good luck ever finding one of these, and if you do ...I’m jealous!
  • Bell’s Hopslam Ale - Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
  • Heady Topper - The Alchemist
  • Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga Substitute Ale - Lagunitas Brewing Company
  • 120 Minute IPA - Dogfish Head Brewery
  • Hop Stoopid - Lagunitas Brewing Company
  • Founders Double Trouble - Founders Brewing Company
  • Enjoy By IPA - Stone Brewing Co.
  • Double Jack - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
  • Sierra Nevada Hoptimum Imperial IPA - Sierra Nevada Brewing

Now, I hope you’ll enjoy a couple of the following.

Abrasive Ale

Surly Brewing Company

Brooklyn Center, Minn. 

Beer lovers of Michigan unite! We need to get a petition going to have Surly send their stuff to the Great Lakes State!

In the meantime, I’ll just need to tell you about it and hope you have the opportunity to pick up some of this fine brew.

This is the second Surly beer I’ve been able to sample. All I can say is: They are doing a fine job over in Minnesota.

Abrasive Ale is certainly not that ...abrasive! I found it to be a very smooth session, albeit a touch more bitter than some explorers may like.

Abrasive pours a hazy orange and appears rather thick or heavy. I poured with enthusiasm, but got very little head — almost just a wash of white lacing.

This is a very aromatic beer. The citrus and fruity scents are most prominent although there is an almost resin-like quality as well that is quite inviting.

This is a wonderfully, taste-filled brew. The selection of hops demonstrates the real thought process used by serious brewers in creating exceptional beers. Abrasive is almost fruity, but not in the sticky, cloying way. It is just packed with a wide range of flavors and aromas that simply lift this beer to a whole new level. There is just a touch of caramel sweetness, but largely this is a hop-forward brew (obviously!), with a lot of floral quality, and just enough hoppy bitterness to make a statement, but not be off-putting to those whole steer away from that genre.

Abrasive is another wonderful beer from the Surly team in Minnesota. I can only hope they end up bringing their stuff into Michigan soon.

Arcadia Loch Down Scotch Ale

Arcadia Brewing Company

Battle Creek 

Thank goodness for the folks who keep the old, hefty ales alive and on the shelves.

Loch Down is a Scotch Ale which has a bit more kick than some of the more muscular ales on the market — logging in at 8 percent ABV.

It pours a dark, mysterious brown with little light escaping the peaty colored brew. There is very little head, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect much from a brew of this style and caliber.

At first nose, there is an embracing maltiness that also offers up a strong hint of the enhanced ABV content. Loch Down is not subtle. What you smell is what you are going to taste as well.

There is a degree of dark fruit tones, and certainly a hint of spice, but the malt caramels hold center stage.

There is an introductory flash of sweetness at first sip, but the wash ends up on a rather dry note - surprising enough.

The maltiness kicks in with typical caramel tones that would be expected. What isn’t really expected is the splash of spice which is less zesty or sweet, and more peppery.

This is an exciting brew to spend some time on as a winter storm swirls outside.

It has excellent taste, exceptional balance and is just “beefy” enough to informally qualify as a winter warmer.

Loch Down is highly recommended — maybe not for an after the mowing brew, but certainly for a brooding, evening storm warm-up.