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Monday, March 21, 2011

The great American double IPA showdown

By Kati Spayde

On a quiet March afternoon, four self-proclaimed beer geeks sat down to answer three of life’s most persistent questions. (1) How do Michigan double IPA’s stack up against the rest? (2) Is Pliny the Elder really the best American-brewed beer? (3) Do citrus hops rule the day? For answers to these and other mysteries, please keep reading.

The beers

  • Founders Double Trouble
  • Bell’s Hopslam
  • Breckenridge 471 IPA
  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
  • Southern Tier 2X IPA
  • Pliny the Elder

Of course we could have tasted dozens more, but both time and palates would have been exhausted. All samples were poured into clean glass but appearance was pretty much ignored.* We were here for flavor.

The tasters

  • Kati - Siciliano’s staffer, certified cicerone
  • Sarah ‘Cheetah’ Derylo - Siciliano’s staffer
  • Greg ‘Swig’ Johnson – Siciliano’s staffer
  • Agent X – industry insider who would prefer to remain anonymous

The results (ranked in order of preference)

  1. Hop Stoopid – wonderful, lush hops, citrus and beyond balanced by malt.
  2. Hopslam – citrus bomb with crisp dry malts. 
  3. 471 – more of a West coast beer with its piney, earthy hops
  4. Pliny – so-so in the nose, very floral aroma
  5. 2X – delicious and sessionable; almost too soft for an DIPA. 
  6. Double Trouble – big citrus hops, too much malt sweetness for my taste.
  1. Hopslam
  2. Hop Stoopid
  3. Pliny
  4. 471
  5. Double Trouble
  6. 2X IPA
  1. Hopslam
  2. Hop Stoopid 
  3. Double Trouble
  4. 2X IPA
  5. 471
  6. Pliny
Agent X
  1. Hop Stoopid
  2. Hopslam
  3. 471
  4. Double Trouble
  5. 2X IPA
  6. Pliny

What do these results show? Not much. All picks were a tough call. And all of us have different tastes and preferences. I love Double Trouble on tap, not because it tastes any different, but because of where I am and what I’m doing. Like all things, beer tasting is subjective.

That said, (1) Michigan DIPA’s hold their own; (2) citrusy hopped beers are the reigning champion; and (3) Pliny, while not my favorite, is a damn good beer.

*Not a blind tasting

Certified Cicerone and Siciliano's staffer Kati Spayde lives in Grand Rapids, MI, where, like yin and yang, hops and malt are always in perfect balance.


  1. Hummm, no Double Crooked Tree? Somewhat surprised. And is it fair to include Pliny, which isn't available in Michigan?

  2. Why wasn't it a blind tasting?

  3. @Hungry: We would have loved to try Double Crooked Tree but it was not available when we did the tasting. As for the Pliney; our whole desire to do this tasting sprang up around the hype surrounding Pliney. Was it really that awesome of a beer or did we covet it because we couldn't lay our hands on it? We had to see how it stacked up to the others.

    @Brian: sadly we just wern't prepared for a blind tasting. A certain ammount of supplies are required and we were lacking. We tried to be as un biased as possible.