Top Five Recommended Beer Styles Countdown: #2

If you’re just joining us, you’ve found yourself in the midst of my series on beer recommendations. Be sure to check out my previous posts:

This post is part of a mini-series – See all posts in this series


#2: IPAs & Pale Ales


Today we’ll be talking about IPAs: what they are, where they came from, and some common lingo. Let’s get right to it!

I’m well aware that IPAs are not exactly a “beginner” beer style. They usually tend to be hoppy, bitter, and often aggressively so. If you’re looking for something to help ease you into the world of IPAs, do yourself a favor and start with a beer simply labeled as a “Pale Ale” (not India Pale Ale!), which can be described as a toned-down version of the IPA.

IPA stands for India Pale Ale and was first developed by the British to supply the market in India. High temperatures in India meant bad brewing conditions, so the British needed to create a beer that was hearty enough to survive the long six-month journey at sea. In the 1780s, a brewer from London named George Hodgson started exporting his beer via Bow Brewery, located near the Middlesex-Essex border by the East India Docks. The strong hop profile in these beers primarily served as a preservative which kept the beer fresh during the voyage. Other breweries began imitating Hodgson’s beers, and eventually the IPA evolved into a weaker, lighter version we know today as pale ales.

Since then (especially so in very recent history), the IPA has gone through a true renaissance, returning to a profile of massive hop flavors and plenty of experimentation. There are several distinct qualifying terms you will see and hear regarding the style, such as Imperial (or Double) IPAs, Triple IPAs, Black IPAs, West Coast IPAs, New England/East Coast/Hazy IPAs, and even Brett IPAs.

So what do these names mean? A West Coast IPA tends to be the hop-forward, filtered, dry ale most people associate the style with. An East Coast IPA, however, tends to have a hazy appearance, pronounced fruit aromas and flavors, plus a balanced, more mellow hoppiness. Also, these geographical names are primarily to describe where it was first made popular—it’s less about where the beer was made, and more about how. A few minor (but fundamental) tweaks to the recipe can easily turn your West Coast IPA into an East Coast, or vice versa.

Next up, the black IPA, is exactly what it sounds like: dark in color. The hop profile remains intact, but the typical lighter malt is substituted for a darker, more roasted variety. The Brett IPA is another twist on the original, which uses a wild yeast called Brettanomyces to bring funky characteristics into the mix, similar to some Belgian beer styles.

When considering the ABV, IPAs are usually classified as “single” IPAs. When you see an IPA marked as “Imperial IPA,” “IIPA,” “Double IPA,” or “DIPA,” you can assume that it will be higher in alcohol content, although not actually double that of a single IPA. The same can be said for Triple IPAs, which are even stronger, though not necessarily three times that of a typical IPA.

When it comes to recommending an IPA, the best one is ultimately the freshest one! Hoppy beers are always best drank fresh because they will lose the flavors and aromas imparted by the hops over time. Do not age, cellar or otherwise forget about your IPAs! Naturally, your best bet is looking for IPAs on tap right at their source: your favorite local brewery! Alternatively, check for a date stamp on the bottles or cans you plan to buy on your next beer run. If it’s more than 90 days old, it may be a good idea to try something else!

Now that you know what to expect from the ever-popular IPA, go try some of my favorites!


May I suggest…

  • Tree House – Julius (East Coast)
  • Russian River – Blind Pig (West Coast)
  • Russian River – Pliny the Elder (West Coast Imperial)
  • Bottle Logic – Double Actuator (West Coast Imperial)
  • Monkish – Smarter Than Spock (East Coast)
  • Latitude – 33 Blood Orange IPA (West Coast)
  • Modern Times – Neverwhere (Brett)
  • Anything from Stone (who specializes in IPAs)

Hop heads: leave me a comment below with your favorite IPAs! Cheers!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I’ll reveal my number one recommended style! In the meantime, follow me on Instagram or subscribe below!

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Top Five Recommended Beer Styles Countdown: #3

Hello again beer lovers! Today’s post is all about Belgian beers and what makes them unique. If this is the first post you’ve read, I suggest reading the previous posts about Sours and Lagers!

This post is part of a mini-series – See all posts in this series

Belgian beers are actually what converted me into the world of craft beer. They have a distinctive “funkiness” to them that I really enjoy. I’ve even been lucky enough to travel to Belgium (aka the Beer Mecca) to experience their beers first-hand. This may not be everyone’s favorite style, but I certainly enjoy it!


#3: Belgian Ales


The Belgian beer genre can be a bit complicated, so stick with me here. There are several varieties, including dubbels, tripels (or trippels), quadruples, and more. Some breweries—most of which are in Belgium—can also be qualified as Trappist, but in order for a beer to be labeled as such, it must meet the following criteria set forth by the International Trappist Association:

  • The beer must be brewed within the monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision
  • The business practices of the brewery must reflect a monastic way of life and be recognized as having only secondary importance
  • The brewery is not for profit: its income can be used to cover living expenses and maintenance costs, with the balance being donated to charity for social work or otherwise to help those in need

There are currently only 11 breweries on earth that produce certified Trappist ales, so when you see a beer with the Authentic Trappist Product mark, you can guarantee its authenticity and compliance with the rules above.

As far as the individual styles go, there is much hearsay about how dubbels, tripels and quadrupels earned their names, but think of it loosely as an indication of strength. To easily mark the beers, Trappist Monasteries would mark the beer with a series of X’s to indicate strength – X for a weaker beer, XX for a moderately strong beer, and XXX for the strongest beer. Alternatively, some historians believe that the names could have come from the corresponding ABVs, roughly 3%, 6% and 9% (yes, technically Belgian singles do exist, but it’s a relatively unpopular style). Either way, let’s not focus on the naming convention. Just know that it generally indicates the strength of the beer, but the styles themselves are very different, so let’s talk about what to expect when you see these names.

The dubbel was first brewed by Westmalle in 1856, and by 1926, they had changed the original recipe and released Dubbel Bruin, a beer which after much success, was imitated by other breweries around the world. A dubbel is typically a deep reddish-brown color, and fairly strong in alcohol content (approximately 6-8%). Classically brewed with caramelized beet sugar, these beers have rich, complex flavors of malty sweetness and can include hints of dried fruit, clove and banana-like spices. They’re smooth, chocolatey and caramel-like and contain minimal hoppiness.

Now you might be expecting a tripel to be a stronger, darker version of a dubbel, but that’s not exactly the case. Like the dubbel, Westmalle pioneered the modern tripel that we have come to know and love today. Tripels can be closely compared to Belgian Golden Strong Ales, and usually have a beautiful golden hue, with an ABV ranging from about 7.5 – 9.5% (although some can exceed 10%). The high alcohol content is usually well hidden, making these beers surprisingly easy to drink. Similarly to the dubbel, tripels are brewed with beet sugar, but without the caramelization. The sugar raises the ABV, but keeps the pale golden color from the lightly kilned malt. Flavors and aromas may include a citrus or banana-like fruitiness, or a clove-like or peppery spice.

Last but not least is the quadrupel, sometimes also referred to as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, plus some additionally being classified as a Grand Cru. Stronger and heavier than the styles above, quadrupels are essentially a ramped up version of a dubbel. With higher ABVs averaging around 10-12%, quadrupels are packed with rich flavors characterized by their spicy, ripe fruit flavors like plum, fig and raisin. The hoppiness is nicely balanced by the malty sweetness, revealing hints of molasses with an underlying bread-like flavor.

No matter which Belgian style you choose, keep in mind that most are traditionally bottle conditioned, meaning the yeast is very much present in the bottle, so remember to pour carefully!

May I suggest…

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Dubbels:

  • Westmalle – Dubbel
  • La Trappe – Dubbel
  • Chimay – Premiere
  • Affligem – Dubbel
  • Russian River – Benediction
  • Lost Abbey – Lost and Found Abbey Ale

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Tripels (Belgian Strong Golden Ales):

  • Westmalle – Tripel
  • La Trappe – Tripel
  • Bernardus – Tripel
  • Chimay – Cinq Cents
  • Affligem – Tripel
  • Huyghe – Delirium Tremens
  • Duvel Moortgat – Duvel
  • Unibroue – La Fin du Monde
  • Victory – Golden Monkey
  • North Coast – Pranqster
  • Russian River – Damnation

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Quadrupels (Belgian Strong Dark Ales):

  • Brouwerij De Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren – Trappist Westvleteren 12
  • Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy – Trappistes Rochefort 10
  • St Bernardus – Abt 12
  • Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven – La Trappe Quadrupel
  • Brouwerij Van Steenberge – Gulden Draak 9000 Quadruple
  • Chimay – Grande Reserve
  • Lost Abbey – Judgment Day
  • Russian River – Salvation

Authentic Trappist Beer

Leave a comment below to let me know which Belgian beers are your favorite!

I’ll be back tomorrow to reveal pick #2. So you don’t miss out, follow me on Instagram or subscribe below!