Posted on 26/09/20
In craft beer circles, every year that unfolds eventually becomes the year of something or other. Certain yeasts, for example. Or certain varieties of hops. More often than not, certain beer styles take the annual ‘year of’ crown – like back in 2018, when everyone seemed excited about brut IPA. I’ve reported before that every year seems poised to become ‘lager year’ (and every year, it never is). This year, there’s a clear title winner already: 2020 is the year of the triple IPA (TIPA), a beer style characterised by an intense hop profile and an ABV that regularly climbs beyond 10%. This year, everyone’s been brewing them. Who wore it best, you ask? Here are three of my personal favourites.
It’s hard to not start with the easiest drinker in the category. Let’s be honest, when you’re dealing with beers that regularly come with double-digit ABVs – especially when they aren’t fireside sippers like imperial stouts – then ‘easy-drinking’ is quite a sought-after quality. Brew by Numbers have always delivered great beers with higher ABVs than the corresponding flavour profiles suggest. Anyone that’s ever tried one of their 55 Double IPA series will almost certainly agree. Would their new 85 Triple IPA follow suit? And what particular nectar variety might it bring us?
Sweet fruit juice is the answer! The current version in the BBNo’s 85 series is a beer that pours very hazy and delivers wave upon wave of ripe (and overripe) stone fruit like peach and mango from the trio of hops BBNo’s brewers use. What really sets the beer apart is the smoothness from the oats the BBNo team add to the brew’s malt bill. It’s a quality that dials down the bitterness (that’s just about lurking) and makes 85 Triple IPA insanely drinkable. It’s complex, juicy and scarily easy to drink! From DIPAs to TIPAs, I’m not sure there’s a UK brewery that consistently delivers high-ABV, hoppy beers better than Brew by Numbers.
With Brew York, you always know they’ll take on a challenge. You can also be pretty certain they’ll serve up on-trend brews, so it was hardly a surprise to see them brewing a triple IPA as soon as it looked like it may be flavour of the season. Brew York is the brewery that brought us delights like Tonkoko – a coconut and tonka bean stout – and Extra Brownie Pints – an absolute chocolate slab of an imperial monster. To put it mildly, the brewery has the darker stuff nailed. But lighter stuff always receives more scrutiny; it’s tough to hide suspect subtleties in lighter beers. With their new triple, however, Brew York have not only cracked the of-the-moment style but have gone and scored bonus points by using of-the-moment yeast kveik while doing so. Brew York’s TIPA couldn’t be more on-trend if it tried (which, thinking about it, it probably did). Go Big & Stay at Home uses the famous Norwegian yeast strain that imparts an added earthiness and spice to the beer that could be overpowering – but isn’t – and leaves Go Big & Stay at Home slightly drier than other beers of its style. The tweak balances brilliantly the booziness of the TIPA and compliments the slight hop-burn you get from the 10.5% ABV. It’s certainly a combination that works. If you’re looking for a beer that throws together everything new that 2020 brewing has to offer, then this is pretty much it… all in one glass.
Polly’s doesn’t really brew a bad beer. The team also knows plenty about getting the best out of the hops they use. Still, until the latter part of 2020, Polly’s had been serving up soupy IPAs and pale ales only. Obviously keen to join this year’s hop-race with a triple of their own, Polly’s have now brewed not one but two TIPAs in the space of a few months. The result has been nothing short of phenomenal, with a lot of people calling their fist triple – Spur – the beer of the year. Spurred on by this acclaim (sorry), the team set about brewing their sophomore TIPA to quell the calls of those clamouring for more. The result is Patternist. Just like Spur, Patternist has a supercharged hop bill responsible for the bucketloads of flavour on show here. Apparently, Polly’s poured over 60kg of El Dorado and Simcoe hops into Patternist (I’m told that’s a LOT for one Polly’s brew). The hefty hop helping makes this beer – despite its 10% booze levels – pure unadulterated juice! There’s next to zero bitterness in the body and the hit on the tongue is straight up mango, passionfruit and papaya. It’s a joy to behold, and it may be my personal favourite of the three.
Beers of the TIPA strength, of course, have long been the drink of choice for certain park bench gentlemen. But natural brewing evolution has escorted us to a wonderful place, where 10% beers are no longer something to be endured rather than enjoyed while wincing in Belgian-beer-house bravado contests.
Stand alone, hefty TIPAs are genuine beer of the year contenders and any brewery worth their salt should be adding one to their catalogue – assuming they’re up to the challenge of brewing something drinkable despite such high alcohol content. Enjoy TIPAs responsibly. And whatever you do if you sample them, don’t go pouring these three back to back to test my tasting notes – it might be the end of you!
Craft Metropolis is an online beer shop and taproom stocking Triple IPAs, amongst brews of a more sessionable strength!