Rush River Brewing Company
I have to admit I'm looking forward to the malty beers of fall. However, before I give in to the temptation of the Oktoberfests and pumpkin brews, there's the unofficial hop season. This generally runs from now through early October, as brewers find inspiration in the harvesting of local hops. This quest for bitterness fueled my recent road trip to Rush River Brewing in River Falls.
Rush River has been shipping beer to Madison for a couple of years now. Its assertive Double Bubble, an Imperial India Pale Ale, was originally a late summer seasonal, but its popularity led brewmaster Dan Chang to make it part of his year-round lineup. It's a beer that hop lovers can sink their taste buds into, especially over the long Labor Day weekend and the warm days that linger.
What is it? Double Bubble Imperial India Pale Ale from Rush River Brewing Company of River Falls, Wisconsin.
Style: The Double, or Imperial, India Pale Ale is commonly gold- to reddish-amber in color, with medium- to full-bodied mouthfeel. It has a strong hop profile featuring resiny and citrus tones. Technically, there should be some robust maltiness and sweetness in the background, adding complexity to the flavor profile. The finish will have some alcoholic warmth, and the style can be quite strong, ranging from 7.5% to 10% ABV. The Imperial IPA is an American creation, evolving from the hop lovers' quest for bitterness.
Background: Double Bubble gets its bitter character from Cascade, Centennial and Ahtanum hops. The beer also has a distinctive smooth and full-bodied mouthfeel. That's due in part to large additions of honey -- Chang adds an amount roughly equal to three pounds per keg of beer. The honey provides some additional flavor and sweetness, and even contributes dryness to the finish.
Chang gets the honey from the Wolf Honey Farm of Baldwin. The flavor can change slightly from batch to batch, depending on the honey used; sometimes it's clover honey and sometimes buckwheat. But those differences are subtle. The additional sugars from the honey can be fermented into alcohol, offering some warmth in the background and finish. Double Bubble ends up around 9% ABV. It sells in six-packs for around $11.
- Aroma: A firm hoppy-floral aroma. There is assertiveness to the nose.
- Appearance: Clear golden color with a soft, tan head. When served very cold you'll notice a chill haze.
- Texture: Full bodied and bubbly. Some softness to the mouthfeel.
- Taste: Bitter, resiny-hoppiness. A light malty background with just a hint of roastedness.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Bitter, with a light dryness.
Glassware: While there is enough hoppy character in the nose and flavor of the Double Bubble to stand up to the traditional bar pint, I'm a fan of the schooner-style mug for the Double IPA. The heavy glass insulates the beer, allowing it to slowly warm, accentuating the spicy tones and honey character.
Pairs well with: The assertive bitterness of an Imperial IPA is great for spicy Cajun or Indian dishes. For late summer and early autumn weekends, the spicy complexity of Double Bubble makes for a great complement to char-grilled ribs and steaks on the backyard barbecue.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Double Bubble is an Imperial IPA with wonderful resiny bitterness. But it's the honey that adds flavor depth, with a light sweetness, additional body, and alcohol. For hop-heads looking for bitter intensity, Double Bubble seems more in line with an assertive IPA. However, its full and round mouthfeel, combined with its alcoholic strength, put it into the "Imperial" category. Try this beer a little warmer than refrigerator temperatures, around 40 degrees or even higher, if you really want to appreciate the complex blend of hops and honey.