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How bitter is your ideal DIPA? Only mildly? What's the secret?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by thecheapies, Jan 26, 2013.

  1. thecheapies

    thecheapies Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I didn't want to post this in the homebrew forum, because I'm not researching information for the purpose of applying it to making these kinds of beer myself. Although, I suppose homebrewers themselves might be able to pass on the best quality of opinion.

    There's a quality in certain DIPAs (and IPAs, alike) that I think we all revere. I'll speak only for myself to say that the Imperial IPAs that I've enjoyed and rated highest all have this rich, oily hop flavor; but, with moderate to almost mild bitterness levels (relative to style). Everyone has their preference as to which hops might be used, and I think we can all agree that freshness and quality are key; but it's the intensity of the flavor, sans the crippling bitterness, that creates that perfect balance. How is this achieved?

    Is it just an art of balance? Pliny has it. Enjoy By has it. Heady Topper is the top example in the style for this very reason. But, I've had others that nail it down. A local beer (for me), Helltown Idle Hands IPA, is a great example of what I'm talking about (for any of you Western PA BAs out there). More come to mind; Three Floyds Dreadnaught, Drake's Hopocalypse, and Lagunitas Sucks is almost there. For Lagunitas, I'd say their DayTime IPA best characterizes this. What I don't entirely understand is the concept of bittering hops vs. aromatic hops in the flavor sense.

    Now, there are other DIPAs that I enjoy that have a more pronounced bitterness to them. Hopslam, for one, and it's still a great beer. Double Crooked Tree, Gandhi-Bot, Lake Erie Monster, Hoptimum, etc. Where does this extra bitterness come from? How does the hop schedule of producing, say Palate Wrecker, differ from the hop schedule of Pliny or Heady (obviously, secrets of the head brewer)? It can't just be the freshness of the hops, as even some young bottles of a quality Harvest IPA, such as the one brewed by Founders, still has a nice zap of hop bitterness that slightly exceeds the overall balance. Are these gooey, fruity hops that we taste in a fresh can of Heady of the bittering variety or the aromatic variety? How do aromatic hops translate in the flavor of a beer? Is it the ratio of aromatic vs. bittering during the boil? Does dry-hopping or hop-backing come into play? Question to the homebrewers out there, what produces the best result for you?

    Sorry for the long thread, but I'm just really curious to learn about the artful craft of some of these beers. Opine below, please. And, if you know the intense flavor/low bitterness balance that I speak of, list other examples of IPAs that fit this description.

    Thanks for reading, and cheers!
    Savearth and JxExM like this.
  2. Pahn

    Pahn Member

    Location:
    New York
    secret: balance with other flavors. pliny and heady (latter i assume, former i know) are about 90~100 IBUs, literally as bitter as beer can be. everything else in the beer balances it out.

    what you're talking about is what people call "perceived bitterness" (though questions of "perceived" vs "true" get muddled and hard to discuss pretty quickly, especially in sensory talk where it's hard to imagine how something could "seem" bitter but not be "really" bitter, since it's all perception anyway). it's achieved the same way as anything else perceived in the beer: good recipe, good execution.

    for me, bitterness should be noticeable, but not too much. i want it to do its job of taming sweetness (alcohol helps bitterness with this fight usually), and usually i want it to go a few notches further than that to give a little kick. it's hard to generalize...

    p.s. an example of a beer that doesn't get there for me is oskar blues deviant dales. delicious hop bomb, but not quite in balance (it's tipped toward sweet).
    thecheapies likes this.
  3. tewaris

    tewaris Member

    Location:
    Minnesota
    Dry hopping = all flavor.

    Late hopping = more flavor, less bitterness.

    Early hopping = all bitterness (almost).

    Of course, the AA content is a factor in deciding which hop to use for which application; then again, there are general purpose hops that fit all applications. Centennial is my favorite amongst the general purpose ones, although I admit that I am not that good of a taster.

    Also, Homebrew42.
    thecheapies likes this.
  4. BottleCaps80

    BottleCaps80 Member

    Location:
    Iowa
    I love an IPA with fresh/wet hops to give that bitter, grassy flavor. 100+ IBU. Surly Wet ftw.
    mellowmark likes this.
  5. fujindemon74

    fujindemon74 Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I like juicy, fruity, citrus up front with a nice bittering on the finish in my DIPAs.

    ISO recommendations.
    kirbmeist likes this.
  6. thecheapies

    thecheapies Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    This could be a big part of the answer I was looking for. What's a good example of a quality IIPA that's dry-hopped to all hell, in a really good way?
  7. fujindemon74

    fujindemon74 Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    DFH 90min
    hctap00 and thecheapies like this.
  8. checktherhyme

    checktherhyme Member

    Location:
    Washington
    I think that DIPA's like Pliny or Hop Stoopid do it perfectly. They have a ton of hops (over 100 IBU), but neither of them are bitter by any means. There is some reidual sweetness that help bring out the hops, hide the ABV, and make them easy to drink. Almost too easy...
    thecheapies and kpacedo like this.
  9. thecheapies

    thecheapies Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Good call. Still, I'd exclude 90 Minute from the class I'm trying to speak of because I think it leans too much toward malty sweet. However, it's definitely a high-rated DIPA in my book.
    fujindemon74 likes this.
  10. thecheapies

    thecheapies Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Exactly. Hop Stoopid is another very good example. The residual sweetness is something that fits my description, as well (although, I do find Pliny pleasingly drier), but specifically when it comes from very pale malts. I'm not the biggest fan of that caramel/toasted grain kind of malt sweetness that shows up. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy Maharaja, but that's one I'd like to single out as an example.
  11. fujindemon74

    fujindemon74 Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Understood.
    At least you don't hate it.
    The hate that 90min can get just has me smh.
    thecheapies likes this.
  12. kpacedo

    kpacedo Member

    Location:
    California
    Sorry to say it, but besides the above mentioned IPAs, I would add Younger and to a lesser degree Simtra. I feel like there is so much late boil and dry hopping going on, the alcohol and sweetness and bitterness is very well balanced. You can easily trade for Simtra, Younger not so much. You mentioned Sucks, which I think is a great value and another tropical IPA without much bitterness on the back end. For my tastes, the higher abv IPAs which come across as "tropical" seem more balanced because the tropical hop flavors seem to temper the malty sweetness. JMHO
    thecheapies likes this.
  13. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Member

    Location:
    Wyoming
    For me, the ideal DIPA is what Odell does with Myrcenary.
    djsmith1174 and gatornation like this.
  14. fujindemon74

    fujindemon74 Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Haven't had it in awhile, but something tells me CW Illumination might fit the bill.
    I could be wrong though.
    I seem to remember my 4pk was there & gone in a minute.
    nickapalooza86 likes this.
  15. thecheapies

    thecheapies Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think we can agree to write-off any mass hatred toward beers like 90 Minute that we know are genuine classics and premium brews. I most certainly love that beer. And, it's not entirely in that residual caramel malt sweetness category. There is a toasty dark bread character, and the sugars almost remind me of buckwheat honey. Malty, yes. But, also unique and pretty damn tasty.
  16. thecheapies

    thecheapies Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    And, so it is...

    ISO: Simtra

    Thanks!
  17. thecheapies

    thecheapies Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Another one I'd absolutely love to try.
  18. Mohican88

    Mohican88 Member

    Location:
    Ohio
    When the read the mention of a certain quality in the OP I immediately knew what he was referring to. Columbus IPA and Bodhi are fantastic IPAs that attain this quality and brought me back into the world of IPAs after having too many that simply beat me over the head and drove me away by relying on bitterness.
    thecheapies likes this.
  19. Savearth

    Savearth Member

    Location:
    Michigan
    Nice post OP. I've been pondering that same issue and trying to find brews that fit the bill for my palate. Love the hoppy flavor, but HATE the lingering, bitter aftertaste of some IPAs/DIPAs. My DIPA standard brew is Heady. Love the funky smell as well as the taste. Another one I had recently that I thought was almost on par with Heady was Surly Abrasive. It was scary easy to drink!

    Just my humble opinion...

    Since Heady isn't a local option, I'm keeping an eye on this thread to hopefully get a few recommendations of other beers to try. Thanks!
    thecheapies likes this.
  20. RockAZ

    RockAZ Member

    Location:
    Arizona
    I like the fresh fruity citrus hop smell and taste up front battling it out all the way into and around my mouth with the sweet high alcohol and bitterness competing with each other. Competing with each other to leave the final taste in my mouth so much that it takes five or six gulps to finally determine which has the last say on the finishing taste. The more sips it takes to determine the last flavor, the better I like that (D)IPA.

    Having said this, bottled beer just doesn't seem to engage in that battle royal as well as draft for me. Fresh keg, newly tapped and any of the beers mentioned upthread will do it for me. A couple of rare times I have even had DFH 120 on draft that poured with a generous woody tasting carbonation with soft mouthfeel and highly fresh hop scented nose where it usually it is a sweet oil slick that burns with bitterness all the way to heartburn.

    While greater palates than mine describe IPA perfection as "hop-balance", I prefer to experience a war in my mouth, with the slight edge towards bitterness at the end after a really good fight with the sweet malts/alcohol level.
  21. dpjosuns

    dpjosuns Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    Yeah, you nailed it: balance is a HUGE part. A lot of the beers you mentioned (Hopslam, etc) are quite bitter, but it's balanced with the big ol' malt bill to take the edge off the bittering charge(s). In the case of Hopslam, the local honey also helps.

    The other thing is late addition hopping, which can give that "fresh squeezed" flavor that isn't really bitterness. I know you were trying to avoid the "homebrew" bit, but you can make a fantastic IPA by adding hardly any hops a the beginning of the boil but move a high percentage of your additions back toward the end of the boil. There are a bunch of examples of this, but Heretic Evil Twin/Cousin immediately comes to mind. IMO, the late addition hopping doesn't "sting" your tongue as much.
  22. kirbmeist

    kirbmeist Member

    Location:
    Florida
    Sixpoint Resin and Fat Head's Had Hunter
    fujindemon74 likes this.
  23. fujindemon74

    fujindemon74 Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Totally forgot about Resin, very tasty stuff imo, haven't had in awhile.

    Never had FH Head Hunter, but I've heard good things.
    Just haven't seen it around my neck of the woods.
  24. nc41

    nc41 Member

    Location:
    North Carolina
    I never thought anything could be as good and consistent as Heady Topper but I was wrong. Abrasive is just as good if not a little different, and has perhaps the best nose on any DIPA I've ever had. A real grapefruit bomb, and a little more bitter than HT, it smells like someone crushed a fresh grapefruit into the can. HT is more balanced, a little less bitter, but incredible. Doubly Daisy Cutter is a complete bitter bomb, wish it was more easily available, loved what little I've had.
  25. kirbmeist

    kirbmeist Member

    Location:
    Florida
    No head hunter where i live either. You shouldn't have a hard time finding it i did an IP trade in pittsburgh when i went to WV for christmas break and a BA traded me a 4 pack of head hunter. prob my fav IPA
  26. nc41

    nc41 Member

    Location:
    North Carolina
    Head Hunter is outstanding.
  27. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Member

    Location:
    California
    Resinous, dank, citrusy and fruity hops with a firm, clean bitterness. Minimal malt, just enough to balance the bitterness, but no caramel or dark fruit flavors. Abrasive, Enjoy By, Heady, Head Hunter, Double Sunshine are some of my faves.

    Lots of late additions, massive dry hopping and the use of hop extract (or some of the low cohumulone hop varieties for bittering) to minimize stemmy, grassy flavors from too much plant matter in the kettle.
    fmccormi and DrtyBvrJuce like this.
  28. DrtyBvrJuce

    DrtyBvrJuce Member

    Location:
    California
    DFH 90m is an americn barelywine. The malt body is huge and obscures the hops.

    This just brings up the never ending conversation of how much malt you want in your IPA. The West Coast Style really took off with PtE that uses sugar to lighten the body. It is an adjunct IPA and its no secret. The use of crystal malts or any honey like flavor is absent. This is why the beer must be consumed fresh, once the hops fade there isn't much left. That style is about delivering hops and is a quickly growing trend.

    The bittering charge is sufficient to handle the residual sugars but being so clean you don't have to fight crystal mats et all... the balance of bittering comes from the late additions. Which due to reduced boil time require more to up the bitterness. Side effect is massive hop flavor. This is also wasteful in a sense and while there is a hop shortage the super choppy ipas tend to dissapprear or change.
  29. TongoRad

    TongoRad Member

    Location:
    New Jersey
    Lagunitas Maximus is huge on the orange/pineapple quality, with a solid whack of bitterness on the finish. (standard freshness disclaimers apply)
    checktherhyme likes this.
  30. nc41

    nc41 Member

    Location:
    North Carolina

    I wouldn't say DFH90 is a Barleywine, but I do tend to think it's a little too viscous and too sweet. Most DFH is either a love em or hate em, a little too quirky for me. Same with Maharaja it's way too sweet.

    Abrasive is really an awesome DIPA, huge grapefruit up front, stunningly bitter, but still easily drinkable. Love to have this one on tap. Really after Abrasive and HT the next DIPA rung is Pliny/ Kern Citra/Lawsons Hopzilla etc. Add too much malt and you get a sugary sweet boozy mess, especially when the hops fade with age.

    IPA's are a completely different animal and another topic..
  31. Stevedore

    Stevedore Member

    Location:
    Wisconsin
    You definitely need the proper malt backbone to balance out the hops' bitterness and aroma.
  32. luwak

    luwak Member

    Location:
    Arizona
    Alphas baby, alphas....everything is about the alphas!
    The more of those high alpha acids hops the better.


    Malty and sweet i prefer, but if the hop profile is good (and i don't care how they achieve it) im sure i'll enjoy a few ounces of the beer regardless of the mouth-feel or sweetness.
  33. NHbeerfishing

    NHbeerfishing Member

    Location:
    New Hampshire
    The entire lineup of ipa/double ipa's from Hill Farmstead, Lawsons Finest and the Heady toppers capture the spectrum of deep non bitter hoppiness. I'm from nh and have to drive 2 hours to Waterbury/Stowe, so we do drink the Firestone, Hop Stoopid and others when we run out of the "good stuff". They don't even begin to compare to the "Big Three" of VT beer as we call them. They are nice passable beers, but can't stand up at all to the top quality offerings. People chalk opinion up to regional bias, the VT brews are really that good. "If you can see your hand through a glass of double IPA, its probably not going to give you what you want." That's the prevailing northern New England school of thought regarding double ipas.
  34. DocJitsu

    DocJitsu Member

    Location:
    California
    First, allow me to say that you and I are twins separated at birth. Second, the best examples I know that fit your description are Lagunitas Sucks and Bell's Hopslam.
    Bitterbill and fujindemon74 like this.
  35. fmccormi

    fmccormi Member

    Location:
    New York
    What this guy said. Hop "flavor" (as opposed to just bitterness by itself) comes more from the late kettle and post boil additions, where the hops aren't exposed to as high heat for as long. From what I understand, anyway.

    If you poke around on the 'webs, you should be able to find the hopping schedules of a lot of popular (D)IPAs, and you'll notice that the ones you associate with the flavor profile you're looking for have a lot of late-addition hops sometimes very, very little early-addition.

    As for other suggestions, try Firestone Walker Double Jack as fresh as possible (because in my opinion it falls off a bit faster than some others).
  36. fujindemon74

    fujindemon74 Member

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I always felt someone was missing in my life :eek:
    DocJitsu likes this.
  37. BigCheese

    BigCheese Member

    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Any highly rated DIPA is dry hopped to hell.
  38. DrtyBvrJuce

    DrtyBvrJuce Member

    Location:
    California
    No you don't. IPA's are about hops, not malt. American Barely wines have the malts to match the hops and be 'in balance'.
    TravisR and highdesertdrinker like this.
  39. devlishdamsel

    devlishdamsel Member

    Location:
    Washington
    its about the fruitiness that comes through with the flavor of the hops for me, not so much as the bitterness. I want to taste passion fruit or grapefruit with a nice floral bouquet. If the beer isn't attenuated enough i feel like the sweetness can mask this and completely ruin the delicate flavor.
  40. Stevedore

    Stevedore Member

    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Perhaps I didn't express myself properly. I do not mean to say that DIPAs require the particular balance that barleywines have- they are different categories for a reason.

    My general point was that you can't just throw in double the hops on the same or mildly increased malt backbone for an IPA (which is already hop-forward) and call it a DIPA. My belief is that the malt backbone needs to be increased at least 25-35% or so to be able to stand its own while letting the increased hop character extend itself and to shine in the framework of the entire beer- which I'm sure you know is made from malt, yeast, water and hops, and not hops alone. That is what I think of when I think of balancing brews such as IPAs, DIPAs. Otherwise, you might as well steep a hop cone in a cup of boiling water and drink that. If you don't believe me, just ask Vinnie Cilurzo.

    In any event, that's purely related to my opinion regarding DIPAs- Pliny being one that is balanced compared to Hopslam, which is also quite enjoyable. But from the perspectives of both my palate and my homebrewing experience, I am very much a fan of the balanced types, Pliny being one of these. The hop additions matter, but lets not forget that the grain bill matters just as much if not more.

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