Despite the increasing popularity of canned craft beer, some local brewers have opted for a larger approach via the 22-ounce bottle, often called a bomber. The format is used mostly for limited release beers or “bigger” beers — those with higher alcohol content. These brews feel special in part because the bottle is reminiscent of a good bottle of wine. The beer costs more, but you’re likely to drink less because it’s more boozy than average.
Taking a peek around the liquor store, we found a variety of big brews from some of the Twin Cities’ popular breweries — particularly ubiquitous were IPAs or double IPAs in the $7 to $10 range. We were hoping to find competitors to some of the industry’s gold standards for double IPAs, like Russian River’s Pliny the Elder or Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA.
A double IPA (sometimes called an Imperial IPA or an American Double) is an amped-up version of the standard India Pale Ale, a pale ale that has been dry hopped. It has a higher alcohol content, usually between 7 and 14 percent ABV. It should not be astringent to the point of being unpleasant — even if some hop-heads enjoy the challenge of the alcohol burn or the taste of absurdly hopped beers.
Minion IPA by Rush River Brewing Company
Rush River’s “newest IPA” (according to their website) is the only one of the three we tasted that is not really a double IPA. With its higher alcohol content (7 percent ABV), however, and higher IBUs (70), it fits within the range. Lighter in color, with a strong frothy head that lasts through the entirety of the glass, it is light, crisp, and the brightest of the three we tasted. The mango-orange hop notes are reminiscent of Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed IPA, but less juicy and more malty, with a slight alcohol burn.
Angry Pirate Aye Aye PA by Third Street Brewhouse
At 9.1 percent ABV and 70 IBU, this double IPA is more syrupy than some. It has sweeter notes throughout, without being fruity like the Minion. The lightest in color of the three, and with the cutest name, this double IPA is part of Third Street’s limited-release specialty beer series. More carbonated, with lower head retention, the beer becomes less fresh tasting as it warms, bringing the alcohol burn to the forefront, but keeping it in balance with the citrus notes.
Double Crossing IPA by Castle Danger Brewery
Slightly darker than the other two, this tawny beer is well balanced, but in a strong-in-both-directions way. It’s hoppy but not aggressive, and sweet but not sickeningly so, with the sweetness offset by marmalade notes. Starting with a bready nose, with low head retention and low carbonation, this beer has a strong malt backbone to hold it all together, making it our favorite of the three. The 9.1 percent ABV beer was first released in 2013 as the brewery’s anniversary beer and is now available annually as a seasonal offering.