A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to try two of the penultimate double IPA’s in the world head to head.
Pliny the Elder from Russian River was one of the first double IPA’s ever brewed back in 2000. It is brewed in limited supply in Santa Rosa, California and has a cult following. It remains to this day a favorite of many IPA lovers. Pliny ranks #5 on the Beer Advocate list of top 100 beers in the world.
Heady Topper is brewed on the opposite coast, in Waterbury, Vermont by The Alchemist. Heady Topper is the only beer they brew, is put in 16 ounce cans and is in even more limited supply than Pliny the Elder. Heady ranks #3 on the Beer Advocate list of top 100 beers in the world.
I was lucky enough to acquire both of these recently, and shared them with my friend Eric of BR Beer Scene. We both have tried each beer before, but never together in a head to head environment.
So, what did we think?
Pliny is a classic double IPA. The fresh Simcoe hops shine through in both the nose and the taste. Despite the heavy hop aroma and flavor, it’s balanced well by a strong malt presence. This is one of the best. Many have tried to duplicate it, but few have succeeded.
Heady, on the other hand, would never be mistaken for a balanced double IPA. The first thing that hits you is the rush of hop aroma. This is probably the best smelling beer I’ve ever experienced. The assault of hops continues as you drink it, and the purported 120 IBU’s are apparent. This one doesn’t have the same malt backbone as Pliny as it is a full on hop onslaught.
So, who wins? It’s a photo finish, with Heady Topper winning by a nose (pun intended). The hop aroma of Heady makes this a slight winner in the battle between these world class beers. But you really can’t go wrong with either.