Whereas a decade ago you’d be hard pressed to find many Ontario brewers putting out high-alcohol, heavily hopped products, it seems we almost have an embarrassment of Imperial IPAs coming out of the province right now.
For those who may not know, an “Imperial” IPA (also known as a ‘Double’ IPA) is the logical extension of the revived IPA style. Given that the craft scene interpreted the IPA as a stronger, highly hopped beer, it only makes sense that there be beers which take the extra step. Some of the originals like Russian River’s Pliny the Elder and Stone’s Ruination are still kicking around and well worth a look. While there are no hard and fast rules, most companies will label an IPA as Imperial or Double once it is above 7.5%. IBUs can vary but generally exceed 80 and regularly hit triple digits. Some companies even put out self-styled “Triple IPAs” such as Founders’ Devil Dancer and Russian River’s Pliny the Younger. While these beers tend to dominate the upper echelon of most online rating sites’ top 100 lists, they are not for everyone: expect strong flavours, extreme bitterness and big booze hits.
Here are some of the more recent additions:
Great Lakes Brewing RoboHop Imperial IPA: 9.5% ABV / >100IBUs
Great Lakes has just recently announced that this beer is coming back in canned form. Assuming it’s the same recipe as last time, expect a fairly classic interpretation of the style with sweet sticky malt juxtaposed with citrus and pine. The booze is not hidden, rather it adds to the extreme nature of the beer and gives it an almost manic, hyperbolic quality.
Flying Monkeys Brewing Shoulders of Giants Imperial IPA: 10% ABV
Coming in big 750ml bottles , this Imperial goes for more tropical fruit notes than the classic west-coast pine / citrus palette. Although technically released by the brewery at the end of February, plans are to distribute through the LCBO as well. Flying monkeys has put out other Imperial hop-bombs out before including Green Man Imperial Lager, Matador (A cedar aged IPA) and Imperial Red on Red in collaboration with Central City.
Nickel Brook Immodest Imperial IPA: 9% ABV / 85 IBUs
Like it’s sibling, Malevolent (an Imperial Black Ale), Nickel Brook is reviving it’s former one-off bottled offering as a can. While still a monster, this one backs off a little from the other two and gives you a bit more room to appreciate some of the great interplay of grainy malt and dank (re: Simcoe) hops.
If you can’t make it out to the breweries to get these beers, here are some Ontario Made Imperial IPAs available through the LCBO right now:
Muskoka Brewery Twice as Mad Tom (Double) IPA: 8.4% / 71 IBUs.
Definitely one of the more subtle IIPAs on the market but in no way shy or retiring, this beer is more about a complex aroma rather than tongue-blistering bitterness. 5 varieties of hops are used which gives the full range of expected flavours from canned pineapple and tropical fruit to resinous pine. See my review for more info.
Black Oak Brewing 10 Bitter Years: Black Oak 10 Bitter Years Imperial IPA: 8%ABV / 83 IBUs (ratebeer est.)
I’ve mentioned this beer before but it bears mentioning again. The use of oats adds a different dimension and an unexpected roasty bitterness to this beer.