What's A Triple IPA?

Eno Sarris, September 25, 2013

Green Flash Green Bullet is out, and I've seen people drinking it on the East Coast. We should see it on Northern California in time for Christmas, maybe.

Nerdy distribution jokes aside, the beer is billed as a triple IPA. At 100 IBU and 10% ABV, though, it would sit comfortably next to most double IPAs. What makes it a triple?

The first India Pale Ale was extra hopped in order to make the journey to India and still taste like an English Pale Ale when it arrived. Adding "Imperial" to the title was a thing that happened here in America, and as you can see on our leaderboards, and Imperial IPA is also known as Double IPA. At this point, the common understanding of the word Imperial is that the beer has more alcohol -- and perhaps more hops -- than your typical beer of the same style.

And so, if we're looking for Triple IPAs, we're looking for the hoppiest and bitterest beers out there. By using the leaderboard sort for all the different pale ale styles that might be relevant to this search, we can hopefully avoid any classification issues. Then we cut all beers under 10% ABV off the list to focus on the strongest pale ales. And then with a little bit of elbow and query work, we can add IBU to the available information.

Beer Brewery St ABV IBU BAR
Hopslam Ale Bell's Brewery, Inc. MI 10.0 70 14.4
Pliny the Younger Russian River Brewing Company CA 10.8 90 14.1
Stone RuinTen IPA Stone Brewing Co. CA 10.8 110 10.4
120 Minute IPA Dogfish Head Craft Brewery DE 18.0 120 9.3
Exponential Hoppiness Alpine Beer Company (CA) CA 10.5 90 7.7
Knuckle Sandwich Bootlegger's Brewery CA 10.0 90 7.1
Simtra Triple IPA Knee Deep Brewing Company CA 11.0 131 6.5
Permanent Funeral Three Floyds Brewing Company IN 10.5 100 6.4
Hoptimum Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. CA 10.4 100 6.2
Hopocalypse Triple IPA (Black Label) Drake's Brewing Company CA 12.5 100 6.1
Notorious IPA3 Boneyard Beer Company OR 13.5 80 5.8
Maharaja Avery Brewing Company CO 10.3 102 5.7
Burton Baton Dogfish Head Craft Brewery DE 10.0 70 5.7
The Oracle Bell's Brewery, Inc. MI 10.0 90 5.3
Devil Dancer (2013) Founders Brewing Company MI 12.0 112 4.8
Double Crooked Tree IPA Dark Horse Brewing Co. MI 12 98 4.7
Devil Dancer Founders Brewing Company MI 12 98 4.0
Brother Benjamin Greenbush Brewing Company MI 10.1 114 3.9
E3 Elevation Triple IPA Renegade Brewing Company CO 11.2 100 3.8
# 500 Nøgne Ø 10 100 3.5

There, at the bottom, is some evidence that Green Bullet's claim to being a Triple IPA is not without precendent. Renegade calls their E3 Elevantion IPA a triple, and it's only slightly stronger, and it has the same bitterness level as measured by IBU. On the other hand, Boneyard's Triple IPA is significantly stronger, if not as bitter. But no, it's fine. Pliny the Younger might be the most recognizable Triple IPA, and it's right there with Green Bullet.

On the other hand, if 10 ABV and 90-100 IBU is the benchmark for Triple IPAs, we've pretty much only got two beers on this top 20 that *aren't* potentional Triple IPAs. And yet only five of them self-identify as triples. And there aren't many more beyond the top 20 that do, either, at least not in their name. And 120 Minute from Dogfish Head? The strongest, second-bitterest beer on this leaderboard? No mention of being a Triple IPA on the home page.

Maybe it's just marketing. There's no style label for Triple IPA on sites of repute... yet. But between a marketing gimmick and an accepted style is probably just a chasm of time. The more we drink Triple IPAs, the more we'll want to compare them like-to-like. And it does seem like there are more Triple IPAs every day.

So I leave you with a question. What makes a Triple IPA? Do they deserve their own style, and therefore their own benchmarks and attributes?