This being the last day to score a glass or two of Russian River Brewing Co.’s beloved triple IPA Pliny the Younger at the brewery’s Sonoma pub, chances are that unless you live near one of the lucky few bars in California, Oregon, Colorado or Pennsylvania that managed to get a keg or two this year, you missed out. But fear not! No doubt inspired by PtY’s unreal popularity, brewers across the country have begun producing their own triple IPAs, each more viscous, resinous and inebriating than the last. Some, like Pliny, are only available for a short time; others are around often enough that you can get your triple IPA fix all year long.
Left Coast Hop Juice
Hop Juice is dead; long live Hop Juice! The venerable double IPA got an update late last year that added trendy Mosaic hops to its recipe, bumped its ABV from 9.7% to 10% and earned it new labeling as a triple IPA. Red vines, candied and baked oranges, marshmallows and a little banana peel mingle in the beer’s revised flavor, but the finish is still all booze—this is one version of the style that lets you know you’re drinking powerful stuff. Bottles of the new Hop Juice have been out for a while now, but 16-ounce cans will hit stores this month.
Reuben’s Brews Blimey That’s Bitter
Blimey’s been released in early February every year since 2014, when the 10.5% beast was first brewed for the 2014 Washington Hop Mob, a series of events featuring triple IPAs created by Washington breweries. Despite a syrupy nose that melds sugar cookies, mango pulp, honeydew and grass, the fruits lose their sweet character on the tongue: The tangerine seems freeze-dried, the mango is more like mango skin, and funky lawn clippings lead to honeydew rind before a very bitter finish. The burn of alcohol heat isn’t terrible, but its flavor is huge. Approach at your own risk.
At 13% ABV and 130 IBU, SUPEREGOIPA is far and away the booziest triple IPA on this list—grab a can only if your tongue and brain have somehow wronged you, and you feel the need to kick their asses. The aroma pairs cooked orange with baked biscuits as fermenting grass mingles at the edges; the flavor’s sugary, with orange hard candy, apricot, candy corn, clover honey and just a hint of rotting fruit; alcohol burns away most of this at the swallow. Bitter orange peel and heartburn are all that remain.
The Unknown Vehopciraptor
October 2016 saw the third release of Vehopciraptor, but the first time The Unknown adjusted the beer enough to call it a triple IPA. The new recipe: Nine different hops delivered through nine hop additions, delivering 90 IBUs to sidekick the 9.9% ABV. That’s a lot of nines. Now, the beer smells of caramel and baguettes, topped with overripe orange, tree moss and coriander, while each sip segues from tangy orange juice, papaya and lavender to baked bread, honey and marzipan. Though sweet, the malts also sneakily camouflage the beer’s substantial alcohol. Clever girl.
Drake’s Aroma Therapy 3XIPA
NorCal brewer Drake’s releases its popular Aroma Coma IPA each summer. Last year, the beer debuted with buddies: Aroma Prieta, a version of Aroma Coma tweaked with Southern hemisphere hops, and Aroma Therapy, reformulated as a triple IPA. Several rounds of dry-hopping with Citra, Nelson Sauvin, Motueka, and Idaho #7 lend the 10.5% ABV bruiser a nose like orange marmalade slathered over pizza dough. Mint and honey merge with pineapple as the beer warms, while booze, tree bark and orange peel bitterness wash the tongue at the surprisingly smooth finish. It’s easily the chewiest of all the IPAs listed here, but avoids the overpowering sweetness you might expect from a beer with so much malt; we’d even call it drinkable, as these things go.
Finback Stellar Wind
A “stellar” example of the style (sorry), Stellar Wind was released at Finback’s Queens taproom on February 4, just a day after Pliny the Younger went on draft in Santa Rosa. Coincidence? Probably. Stellar Wind is a very different beer, exuding Northeast IPA aromas like honeydew, fuzzy peach, mown grass, warm orange blossom honey and sweet glazed pastries. All of those notes appear on the tongue before the swallow, which brings forward soothing vanilla, wheat and creamsicles that linger through the warming alcohol of the finish. The bitterness, like the body, is pillow-soft, while the heat of the 10% ABV is about three notches below what you’d expect.
Unlike most examples of this style, Endpoint is bittered and flavored with just one hop variety—Summit—and is available from Denver-based Renegade all year long. The solo-hopping results in a straightforward flavor, with grapefruit zest accenting sugary passion fruit and grass up front, though it dries out dramatically toward an impressively even, bready finish. Bitterness is very low—enough to balance the malt sugars but not much more. While thick as heavy cream, it lacks the burn you’d expect from 11% ABV. The grace with which the flavors and alcohol are delivered is astounding; this one drinks as easily as a regular-old East Coast IPA.